Robert Irwin

Onward Christian Administrators

How to Plan a Crusade: Reason and Religious War in the Middle Ages

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Anyone who has put launching a crusade on their bucket list should read this book first. Having read it, they may well give up on the idea, for there is more to crusading than one might have imagined: propaganda, recruitment, finance, logistics, health and safety, supplies and strategy. In the film King Richard and the Crusaders, released in 1954, Virginia Mayo, playing Lady Edith Plantagenet, got to mouth the immortal line, ‘War! War! That’s all you ever think about, Dick Plantagenet!’ Well, there was a lot to think about, and in fact Richard I comes out surprisingly well in Christopher Tyerman’s expansive and penetrating account of the complexities of going on crusade. Richard’s expedition in the 1190s was exceptionally well funded, through the sale of offices, the extortion of money from Jews and, later, money taken from the king of Sicily, as well as plunder from Cyprus. Richard set up a forward mustering point at Messina. The sailings of his ships were carefully coordinated and he arrived at Acre in June 1191 on schedule. His ships carried siege engines and a prefabricated castle. Their cargoes also included foodstuffs, hay, horseshoes, nails, crossbow bolts and much else. Richard’s wealth enabled him to bail out and draw into his service other crusaders who had exhausted their resources in Palestine. Louis IX’s crusade of 1248–54

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