The best books on the medieval crusades by world-class historians who write with clarity and you in mind

Alfred Andrea Author Of Seven Myths of the Crusades
By Alfred Andrea

Who am I?

I was fated to become a crusade historian. Research for my doctoral dissertation on medieval relations between the Churches of Rome and Constantinople inevitably led me to the Fourth Crusade. I was hooked, and for the past fifty-plus years the crusades have been a passion—I hope a healthy one.  Although I have published two books on the Fourth Crusade, my crusading interests have now gone global, and I am currently studying sixteenth-century crusading in the eastern Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean, Ethiopia, and the Americas. Perhaps someday I shall turn to more modern crusades. Sad to say, the crusades are still with us.

I wrote...

Seven Myths of the Crusades

By Alfred Andrea (editor), Andrew Holt (editor),

Book cover of Seven Myths of the Crusades

What is my book about?

Many popular but wrongheaded notions about the medieval crusades are so frequently repeated that they are commonly perceived to be indisputable. This little book, authored by ten specialists on the crusades, deconstructs in detail seven of the more wide-spread misconceptions regarding the crusades. They include myths surrounding the Templars and the Children’s Crusade and the interlocked beliefs that the crusades were an unprovoked attack on peaceful Islam and the roots of today’s assaults on the West by radical Islamicists can be traced directly back to the crusades. Several reviewers have declared that the book’s twenty-five page introduction is the best available and clearest explanation of the major issues and problems surrounding our understanding of the crusades.  

The books I picked & why

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The Crusades

By Helen Nicholson,

Book cover of The Crusades

Why this book?

There are numerous excellent books of every length (one runs more than 900 pages) that survey the crusades across the centuries and in their multiple theaters of operation. And several books are more recent, but this little book of fewer than two hundred pages is a gem. Written in clear prose and incorporating biographies of important individuals, key documents, and a glossary, it is tailor-made for students and general readers, and its price is modest. 

The World of the Crusades

By Christopher Tyerman,

Book cover of The World of the Crusades

Why this book?

This lavishly illustrated book focuses on the crusades’ material objects: sculptures, paintings, manuscripts, architecture, coinage, and even jewelry. As historical evidence, artifacts are as important as documents, and these carefully chosen items provide privileged insights into the largely-shared crusader worldview and sense of mission. They further illuminate the complex relationships that developed between crusaders and the many foreign cultures with which they came into contact.  

The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives

By Carole Hillenbrand,

Book cover of The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives

Why this book?

Hillenbrand does for counter-crusading Islam what Tyerman does for crusading Latin Christianity. This book is chock full of images of objects illustrating the rich variety of cultures embraced by medieval Islam. But beyond that, it is the single best book in English on Islam in the Age of the Crusades. Topics covered in detail, but always in a reader-friendly style, range from Muslim ethnic and religious stereotypes of Westerners to the evolution of jihad as a principle and a reality before and during the crusading era. No serious student of the crusades should overlook this important contribution to crusade studies.   

The Atlas of the Crusades

By Jonathan Riley-Smith,

Book cover of The Atlas of the Crusades

Why this book?

A solid grasp of crusading geography is essential for anyone who wishes to understand these complex holy wars, and this book is unsurpassed in providing such information in a clear and comprehensible manner. Its many maps and charts, each beautifully drawn and accompanied by insightful commentary and, in most cases, relevant illustrations and excerpts from primary sources, make this an indispensable resource that belongs in every crusade historian’s library. If you can find a used copy of this out-of-print treasure, buy it without hesitation. Be careful, there is another so-called atlas of the crusades out there by someone who is not a crusade historian, and it is filled with numerous errors.   

The Fourth Crusade: The Conquest of Constantinople

By Donald E. Queller, Thomas F. Madden,

Book cover of The Fourth Crusade: The Conquest of Constantinople

Why this book?

Study of the ins and outs, the steps and missteps of a particular crusade allow us to move from the general to the particular and to view closeup the choices and actions of participants who lacked our 20-20 hindsight. No crusade was more beset by unforeseen circumstances and miscalculations than the Fourth Crusade (1202-04), which left Venice headed for an amphibious assault on Muslim-held Egypt but wound up capturing Christian Constantinople not once but twice and establishing the Latin Empire of Constantinople (1204-61). This classic in-depth but never dull book puts a human face on that crusade and brings alive its numerous twists and turns. History is intrinsically exciting, and Queller and Madden’s enthusiasm does full justice to that fact. 

5 book lists we think you will like!

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

5,810 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 Islam.

The Crusades Explore 39 books about the Crusades
The Middle Ages Explore 243 books about the Middle Ages
Islam Explore 62 books about Islam

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Hattin, Frankish Rural Settlement in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, and The Concise History of the Crusades if you like this list.