The best books on the Crusades and Crusader States

Who am I?

I'm a retired diplomat and award-winning novelist with a PhD in history. I became fascinated by the crusades and the crusader states because few periods of history are so widely misunderstood or so profoundly misrepresented. While scholars have for decades meticulously uncovered the evidence of religious tolerance, peaceful coexistence, and sophisticated understanding of the Islamic opponent, the general public remains trapped in the cliches of “barbarism,” “bigotry” “apartheid” and “proto-colonialism”. The discrepancy between the evidence and the popular image motivated me to write books that show the real face of the crusader states as revealed by the scholarship of the last thirty years. In addition, I was commissioned by Pen & Sword to write a non-fiction introduction to the crusader states that will be released later this year.

I wrote...

Envoy of Jerusalem

By Helena P. Schrader,

Book cover of Envoy of Jerusalem

What is my book about?

Hollywood made him a blacksmith; Arab chronicles said he was “like a king.” He served a leper, but defied Richard the Lionheart. He fought Saladin to a standstill, yet retained his respect. Rather than dally with a princess, he married a dowager queen—and founded a dynasty. He was a warrior and a diplomat both: Balian d’Ibelin

As Envoy of Jerusalem opens, Balian has survived the devastating defeat of the Christians at the Battle of Hattin. He has walked away a free man after the surrender of Jerusalem, but he is a baron of nothing in a kingdom that no longer exists. Haunted by the tens of thousands of Christians now in Saracen captivity, he is determined to regain what has been lost. The arrival of a vast crusading army under the soon-to-be-legendary Richard the Lionheart offers hope—but also conflict, as natives and crusaders clash and French and English quarrel. Envoy of Jerusalem was the winner of seven literary awards including Best Biography 2017 from Book Excellence Awards and Best Christian Historical Fiction 2017 from Readers' Favorites.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Concise History of the Crusades

Why did I love this book?

This is the perfect “first book” for anyone interested in learning about the crusades without ideological bias or polemics.

In just 209 pages, Professor Thomas Madden has provided a cogent and comprehensive overview of the crusades. He writes in a fluid, accessible style rather than a turgid academic tone, yet his scholarship is impeccable. Madden opens with an explanation of the concept of crusading and proceeds to summarize the key events leading to and during the major crusades to the Holy Land. The book is chronological and ends with a chapter on the legacy of the crusades. Madden also provides notes and an extensive bibliography.

By Thomas F. Madden,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Concise History of the Crusades as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What is the relationship between the medieval crusades and the problems of the modern Middle East? Were the crusades the Christian equivalent of Muslim jihad? In this sweeping yet crisp history, Thomas F. Madden offers a brilliant and compelling narrative of the crusades and their contemporary relevance. Placing all of the major crusades within their medieval social, economic, religious, and intellectual environments, Madden explores the uniquely medieval world that led untold thousands to leave their homes, families, and friends to march in Christ's name to distant lands. From Palestine and Europe's farthest reaches, each crusade is recounted in a clear,…

Book cover of Hattin: Great Battles Series

Why did I love this book?

This is the perfect book for someone striving to understand the relevance of the crusades based on their place in the history of both the West and the Middle East. It is not a comprehensive history as is Madden’s work, but a compliment to Madden in that it shows how history has been harnessed to modern politics — usually incorrectly.

Despite its misleading title referring to Saladin’s defeat of the Christian army in July 1187, this book looks not so much at the events as the meaning of the crusades. In less than 170 pages, France explores the concepts of jihad and crusading, and describes the fateful battle of Hattin. He then goes on to analyze the immediate military and political consequences of the battle, and ends by examining how the myths surrounding this iconic battle have impacted national identity and foreign relations to the present day.

By John France,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

On 4 July 1187 the legendary Muslim leader Saladin destroyed the Crusader army of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem with a terrible slaughter at the battle of Hattin - and went on to restore the Holy City of Jerusalem to Islamic rule.

The carnage at Hattin was the culmination of almost a century of religious wars between Christian and Muslim in the Holy Land. It had enormous consequences for the whole medieval world because it produced an intensification of holy war between Islam and Europe for over another century - and in retrospect marked the beginning of the end for…

The World of the Crusades

By Christopher Tyerman,

Book cover of The World of the Crusades

Why did I love this book?

This is the perfect book for someone seriously interested in the crusades and looking for a reference with tips on additional sources.

Tyreman’s almost 500-page work is a treasure for readers looking for greater detail than Madden and France offer. Meticulously researched and documented, it is also enriched with a chronology, lists of rulers, and a glossary. In addition to a chronological treatment of the crusades, including the crusades in Western Europe and against fellow Christians, it provides short essays on a variety of aspects of the crusades — things like castles, interpreters, Jews, women, food and drink, medicine, manuscripts and art and much more. Last but not least, this is an illustrated history filled with color reprints of images from illuminated manuscripts, as well as photographs or etchings of places of relevance.

By Christopher Tyerman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The World of the Crusades as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A lively reimagining of how the distant medieval world of war functioned, drawing on the objects used and made by crusaders

Throughout the Middle Ages crusading was justified by religious ideology, but the resulting military campaigns were fueled by concrete objectives: land, resources, power, reputation. Crusaders amassed possessions of all sorts, from castles to reliquaries. Campaigns required material funds and equipment, while conquests produced bureaucracies, taxation, economic exploitation, and commercial regulation. Wealth sustained the Crusades while material objects, from weaponry and military technology to carpentry and shipping, conditioned them.

This lavishly illustrated volume considers the material trappings of crusading wars…

Book cover of Frankish Rural Settlement in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem

Why did I love this book?

This book is an absolute “must” for anyone seriously interested in understanding how the crusader states fit into and impacted the Middle East in the 12th and 13th centuries.

Hidden behind this dry title, is the most significant book about the crusader states of the last fifty years. This book by an Israeli archaeologist based on data mining and archaeological surveys completely discredited the theories on the social structures and demographics of the crusader states which had dominated crusade historiography since the Second World War. It started an avalanche of new research that has led to a generation of revisionist historians, whose works collectively have revolutionized our understanding of the Middle East in the era of the crusades.

By Ronnie Ellenblum,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Frankish Rural Settlement in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book is a study of the spatial distribution of Frankish settlement in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem at the time of the Crusades, and of the spatial and social interrelation between the Franks and the indigenous population. It is based on an unprecedented field study of more than two hundred Frankish rural sites and on a close re-examination of the historical sources. The division of the country between Christian and Muslim populations is explained by the far-reaching social process of nomadisation and sedentarisation which began with the Muslim conquest in the seventh century and which reached its zenith before…

Book cover of Muslims and Crusaders: Christianity's Wars in the Middle East, 1095-1382, from the Islamic Sources

Why did I love this book?

No one should claim to understand the crusades without having first read this book.

This work by a scholar of Islamic history is based entirely on Muslim sources, and as such provides a mirror image to the works which draw heavily on Latin, Greek, French and Italian sources. It is concise (119 pages), easy to read, and backed by a large document section as well as recommended reading for each chapter. For anyone who is not an Islamic scholar, the book is worth owning for the clear, succinct definitions of key Arabic terms such as iqta, qadi, and jihad itself. The guide to Arab names is invaluable. The book provides an overview of sources, describes the Muslim Middle East before the crusades and then describes Muslim reaction to the various Christian incursions into the Dar al-Islam as depicted in contemporary Arab and Turkish sources.

By Niall Christie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Muslims and Crusaders as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Muslims and Crusaders combines chronological narrative, discussion of important areas of scholarly enquiry and evidence from Islamic primary sources to give a well-rounded survey of Christianity's wars in the Middle East, 1095-1382.

Revised, expanded and updated to take account of the most recent scholarship, this second edition enables readers to achieve a broader and more complete perspective on the crusading period by presenting the crusades from the viewpoints of those against whom they were waged, the Muslim peoples of the Levant. The book introduces the reader to the most significant issues that affected Muslim responses to the European crusaders and…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Crusades, Islam, and the Middle Ages?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Crusades, Islam, and the Middle Ages.

The Crusades Explore 52 books about the Crusades
Islam Explore 117 books about Islam
The Middle Ages Explore 383 books about the Middle Ages