Books in Brief: January 2021

The Crusader Strategy: Defending the Holy Land, by Steve Tibble (Yale University Press; 376 pp., $35.00). If one gets his Crusades history from Karen Armstrong or the History Channel, one is likely to think that nasty and brutish Franks went off half-cocked to the Holy Land to rape, pillage, and enslave peaceful Muslims. This is an ignorant and irritating trope, and a pernicious falsehood that folks like former President Barack Obama still trot out in speeches. Steve Tibble corrects the record by scrutinizing the careful military strategies employed over the course of two centuries by the crusader states of Edessa, Antioch, Tripoli, and Jerusalem.

Tibble is the most interesting military historian of the Crusades writing today, and his most recent work is a follow-up to his 2018 book, The Crusader Armies: 1099-1187. While he does not break new ground, he helps readers see the old ground more profitably. He is an entertaining writer and his tone is often casual, but that does not come at the expense of scholarship or insightful use of historical sources.

This book fills the gap between Christopher Tyerman’s How to Plan a Crusade (2015) and Malcolm Barber’s The Crusader States (2012). Tyerman’s book is the gold standard on crusade planning and logistics. Barber’s is the best single volume on the history of the cultural, legal, political, and...

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