Holy Warriors: A Modern History of the Crusades by Jonathan Phillips - review by Robert Irwin

Robert Irwin

Onward Christian Soldiers

Holy Warriors: A Modern History of the Crusades


The Bodley Head 424pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

Holy Warriors has plenty of competition. There must be about a dozen general histories of the crusades in print and the standard is pretty high. Jonathan Phillips, Professor of Crusading History at Royal Holloway College, London University, has not written an academic textbook. As he explains in the introduction, he has aimed his book at the general reader and ‘chosen to bring to life a variety of figures and events outside of those well known to a general audience’. It is Phillips’s focus on the personalities and picturesque incidents, and his neglect of any attempt to slog year by year through the annals of the crusades, that distinguish this book from the others. 

The popularity of books about the crusades with both students and general readers is easy to explain. This area of history consists of one good story after another: the preaching of Urban II at Clermont to impassioned crowds, the discovery of the Holy Lance at Antioch, the storming

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