Thursday, November 13, 2008

Norman Housley's "Fighting for the Cross"

Norman Housley is professor of history and Head of the School of Historical Studies, University of Leicester. He is a world authority on the Middle Ages and on the Crusades in particular.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Fighting for the Cross: Crusading to the Holy Land, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Fighting for the Cross takes you to the anti-Jewish pogroms that happened in 1096 at places like Worms, Mainz and Cologne, right at the start of the First Crusade. Whether or not this passage indicates the book’s quality is for the reader to judge, but it certainly tells you a lot about what crusading meant for both participants and their contemporaries, Christian, Muslim and Jewish – and that’s what the book is all about. What did it mean to go on crusade, or to suffer at the hands of those that went? The ugliness of some crusading ideas, especially vendetta, is centre stage, but so too are the incredible demands that going on crusade posed – especially the financial ones, because there’s no doubt that the attacks on the Rhineland Jews came about in part because the crusaders wanted their wealth as a means of funding their journey to the Holy Land. ‘A day will surely arrive when my children will come and avenge my blood’. These words were attributed to Christ, and plate 11 in Fighting for the Cross shows the crusaders right at the end of their long journey, in July 1099, storming a Jerusalem at whose heart Christ is shown going through his Passion. It’s not a way of thinking or believing that we today find it easy to empathize with, but it’s endlessly fascinating. And nobody can doubt its historical significance.
Read an excerpt from Fighting for the Cross, and learn more about the book at the Yale University Press website.

Learn more about Norman Housley's teaching and research at his faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue