The best books on crusading warfare

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m just a guy who once obsessed over Forgotten Realms novels as a kid and, now, teaches history to military officers at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. In between, I got married, earned a PhD at the University of Delaware, and spent 12 years teaching in Baltimore. I’m very interested in cross-cultural warfare—as the crusades are a window into not only western and eastern warfare but also facets of cultural, literary, political, religious, and social history, studying them is endlessly fascinating and infinitely rewarding. My next book, Jerusalem Falls: Seven Centuries of War and Peace, continues my interest in the subject.


I wrote...

The Siege of Acre, 1189-1191: Saladin, Richard the Lionheart, and the Battle That Decided the Third Crusade

By John D. Hosler,

Book cover of The Siege of Acre, 1189-1191: Saladin, Richard the Lionheart, and the Battle That Decided the Third Crusade

What is my book about?

The two-year-long siege of Acre (1189–1191) was the most significant military engagement of the Third Crusade, attracting armies from across Europe, Syria, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Maghreb. Drawing on a balanced selection of Christian and Muslim sources, historian John D. Hosler has written the first book-length account of this hard-won victory for the Crusaders, when England’s Richard the Lionheart and King Philip Augustus of France joined forces to defeat the Egyptian Sultan Saladin. Hosler’s lively and engrossing narrative integrates military, political, and religious themes and developments, offers new perspectives on the generals, and provides a full analysis of the tactical, strategic, organizational, and technological aspects on both sides of the conflict. It is the epic story of a monumental confrontation that was the centerpiece of a Holy War.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Logistics of Warfare in the Age of the Crusades

John D. Hosler Why did I love this book?

If, as Napoleon once quipped, an army indeed marches on its stomach, then surely military historians should work from a firm understanding of logistics and sustainment. Conceived during a 2002 workshop on the subject held in Sydney, Australia, this volume includes fourteen substantive chapters authored by some of the foremost historians in the field, as well as one specialist in game theory! The covered subjects are impressive in scope: provisioning, finance, rates of march, supply and resupply, cartography, roads, and communications (for both Christian armies and their Muslim foes), with due attention given not only to land warfare but also naval affairs. Fourteen maps, seven figures, and sixteen data tables complete what is currently the best available book on medieval logistics.

By John H. Pryor (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Logistics of Warfare in the Age of the Crusades as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How were the Crusades made possible? There have been studies of ancient, medieval and early modern warfare, as well as work on the finances and planning of Crusades, but this volume is the first specifically to address the logistics of Crusading. Building on previous work, it brings together experts from the fields of medieval Western, Byzantine and Middle Eastern studies to examine how the marches and voyages were actually made. Questions of manpower, types and means of transportation by land and sea, supplies, financial resources, roads and natural land routes, sea lanes and natural sailing routes - all these topics…


Book cover of Victory in the East: A Military History of the First Crusade

John D. Hosler Why did I love this book?

The subtitle gives it away—this is my (and, I’m guessing, most other medieval military historians’) go-to book for that most famous of crusades. France masterfully combines a captivating narrative with abundant historical detail, keen tactical/operational/strategic analyses, and expert interpretation. Each chapter is a delight, but not to be missed is France’s discussion of medieval generalship, his close study of army sizes, and especially the three full chapters on the fighting in and around Antioch in 1097-1098—which still constitute the best scholarly treatment of the events there. Despite a rash of newer works on the First Crusade over the last three decades, this remains the standard treatment for those interested in the war’s martial contours.

By John France,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Victory in the East as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The success of the First Crusade, and its capture of Jerusalem in 1099, has been conventionally explained in terms of its ideological and political motivation. This book looks at the First Crusade primarily as a military campaign and asks why it was so successful. Modern writing about the crusade has tended to emphasise the moral dimension and the development of the idea of the crusade, but its fate was ultimately decided on the field of battle. Victory in the East looks at the nature of war at the end of the eleventh century and the military experience of all the…


Book cover of The Crusader States and their Neighbours: A Military History, 1099-1187

John D. Hosler Why did I love this book?

Morton is quickly making a name for himself in military history circles, and this book won the 2022 Verbruggen Prize for best medieval military history book (awarded by De Re Militari: the Society for Medieval Military History). On the heels of his successful 2018 book on the Battle of the Field of Blood in 1119, here Morton examines the size, structure, and deployment of military forces in the four Crusader States. Along the way, he sketches a military narrative of Levantine events from the end of the First Crusade through Saladin’s triumph at the Battle of Hattin. Concluding with two thought-provoking chapters on the interpretation of battles and cross-cultural exchanges between Christian and Muslim combatants, this book updates the subfield of crusading warfare in interesting ways.

By Nicholas Morton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Crusader States and their Neighbours as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Crusader States and their Neighbours explores the military history of the Medieval Near East, piecing together the fault lines of conflict which entangled this much-contested region.

This was an area where ethnic, religious, dynastic, and commercial interests collided and the causes of war could be numerous. Conflicts persisted for decades and were fought out between many groups including Kurds, Turks, Armenians, Arabs, and the Crusaders themselves.

Nicholas Morton recreates this world, exploring how each faction sought to advance its own interests by any means possible, adapting its warcraft to better respond to the threats posed by their rivals.

Strategies…


Book cover of The Occitan War: A Military and Political History of the Albigensian Crusade, 1209–1218

John D. Hosler Why did I love this book?

Not all crusades were concerned with Jerusalem. This book is the best military account of crusading within Christendom: the war against the so-called Cathar heretics in Languedoc (today, southern France). Launched by Pope Innocent III in the early thirteenth century, the crusade drew in an assortment of European elites, including Simon de Montfort and King Peter II of Aragon, who fought battles, raided territories, and dealt with heretic insurgents in a struggle over both territorial rights and confessional orthodoxy. Marvin’s operational and tactical analysis of the campaigns during the crusade provides a needed complement to more conventional social and religious approaches to the subject of heresy.

By Laurence W. Marvin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Occitan War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1209 Simon of Montfort led a war against the Cathars of Languedoc after Pope Innocent III preached a crusade condemning them as heretics. The suppression of heresy became a pretext for a vicious war that remains largely unstudied as a military conflict. Laurence Marvin here examines the Albigensian Crusade as military and political history rather than religious history and traces these dimensions of the conflict through to Montfort's death in 1218. He shows how Montfort experienced military success in spite of a hostile populace, impossible military targets, armies that dissolved every forty days, and a pope who often failed…


Book cover of Crusading Warfare, 1097–1193

John D. Hosler Why did I love this book?

A classic. Originally published in 1956, it was one of the first retorts to the dominant strain of military history that emphasized decisive battle, as seen through the eyes of 19th-century theory. Instead, Smail advances the notion—now widely held—that medieval warfare deemphasized risky battles and instead utilized a range of effective operational approaches (raiding, ravaging, sieging, and skirmishing) in a coherent, positional fashion. Similarly in opposition to older approaches, Smail examines not only western warfare through the activities of crusader and crusader-state armies but also how Muslim forces were organized, sustained, and fought. While his sections on military organization, fortifications, and technology have been greatly updated by newer studies, this remains a standard text for anyone interested in the general subject.

By R. C. Smail,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Crusading Warfare, 1097–1193 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is a revised edition of R. C. Smail's classic account of the military achievements of the Crusaders in the context of a 'feudal society organized for war'. A new bibliographical introduction and an updated bibliography have been provided by Christopher Marshall, while the original plates section has been replaced by a series of new subjects. In covering the period 1097-1193, this edition also complements Dr Marshall's own Warfare in the Latin East, 1192-1291, also available in a paperback edition.


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Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

By Gabrielle Robinson,

Book cover of Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

Gabrielle Robinson Author Of Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Retired english professor

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What is my book about?

Gabrielle found her grandfather’s diaries after her mother’s death, only to discover that he had been a Nazi. Born in Berlin in 1942, she and her mother fled the city in 1945, but Api, the one surviving male member of her family, stayed behind to work as a doctor in a city 90% destroyed.

Gabrielle retraces Api’s steps in the Berlin of the 21st century, torn between her love for the man who gave her the happiest years of her childhood and trying to come to terms with his Nazi membership, German guilt, and political responsibility.

Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

By Gabrielle Robinson,

What is this book about?

"This is not a book I will forget any time soon."
Story Circle Book Reviews

Moving and provocative, Api's Berlin Diaries offers a personal perspective on the fall of Berlin 1945 and the far-reaching aftershocks of the Third Reich.

After her mother's death, Robinson was thrilled to find her beloved grandfather's war diaries-only to discover that he had been a Nazi.

The award-winning memoir shows Api, a doctor in Berlin, desperately trying to help the wounded in cellars without water or light. He himself was reduced to anxiety and despair, the daily diary his main refuge. As Robinson retraces Api's…


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Interested in the Crusades, the Middle Ages, and Southern France?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Crusades, the Middle Ages, and Southern France.

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