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THE CRUSADES, unlike any other work, clarifies much that has been obscure about this often discussed but still enigmatic movement. Here is an immensely exciting romance, in the highest sense, which has at the same time an unsparingly realistic approach to the Middle Ages. With subtlety and exceptional sensitivity, Zoe Oldenbourg analyzes the complicated currents and ideas which motivated the Crusades. Although she gives due prominence to economic and social factors, she regards them as distinctly secondary. Not unemployment or poverty, but the desperate expression of a warrior cult, the very real possibility of progressively suicidal wars among Western Europeans, let the Pope and leading nobles to seek an outside enemy. The Crusades were not Christian wars, although they aroused deep religious emotions, but the last macabre expression of a pagan death-wish. The nationalism we know today has its roots in this highly ambiguous war.
Zoe Oldenbourg's knowledge of her period is masterly. Her emphasis on the victimization of the poor and the relative safety of the rich, her understanding of the roots of true Christianity, her perceptive comparison of Eastern and Western versions of Christianity, her entire historical approach, give the Crusades a new and relevant dimension. But the story--sheerly as story--is incomparable. This is a book for the thousands who have enjoyed Zoe Oldenbourg's novels and previous historical works. It is a history of the Crusades for all who would understand and relive the past.