“The most significant contribution to rethinking the origins and course of the First Crusade for a generation.”
—Mark Whittow, Times Literary Supplement
“Filled with Byzantine intrigue, in every sense this book is important, compellingly revisionist and impressive. It refocuses the familiar western story through the eyes of the emperor of the east and fills in the missing piece of the puzzle of the Crusades.”
—Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of Jerusalem: The Biography
“Highly readable…its presentation of political machinations, compromises, and betrayals seems utterly convincing.”
—Michael Dirda, Washington Post
“A dazzling book, perfectly combining deep scholarship and easy readability. The most important addition to Crusading literature since Steven Runciman.”
—John Julius Norwich, author of Byzantium
“Fluent and dramatic…Frankopan rightly places the Emperor Alexios at the heart of the First Crusade, skillfully adding a dimension frequently missing from our understanding of this seminal event.”
—Jonathan Phillips, author of Holy Warriors
In 1096, an expedition of extraordinary scale and ambition set off from western Europe on a mass pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Three years later, after a journey that saw acute hardship, the most severe dangers, and thousands of casualties, the knights of the First Crusade found themselves storming the fortifications and capturing the Holy City. Against all odds, the expedition had returned Jerusalem to Christian hands.
In this groundbreaking book, Peter Frankopan paints a vivid picture of this infamous confrontation between Christianity and Islam. Basing his account on long-ignored eastern sources, he gives a provocative and highly original explanation of the world-changing events that followed. The Vatican’s victory cemented papal power, while Constantinople, the heart of the still-vital Byzantine Empire, never recovered. Frankopan’s revolutionary work shows how the taking of Jerusalem set the stage for western Europe’s dominance and shaped the modern world.
Highly readable… The First Crusade tells a complex story, but its presentation of political machinations, compromises, and betrayals seems utterly convincing. The harsh truths of realpolitik are, alas, with us always.
Frankopan’s reassessment of the first crusade through the prism of Byzantium is a useful corrective to the mass of western-centric crusade history… This book offers an accessible and convincing account of the crusade, which was both concocted and executed under the long shadow of Byzantium.
In his project to give fuller credit to those Byzantine and Turkish leaders who actually caused the First Crusade, Frankopan proves refreshingly undaunted by the prospect of scaling the citadel of almost a thousand years of scholarship. He is like the Byzantine warrior he describes who invented an ingenious flying bomb, ‘coating young birds with pine resin mixed with wax and sulphur before setting fire to them and despatching them back to their nests inside the walls of the city he was besieging.’ Scholarly and yet accessible, and unapologetically partisan, The First Crusade, as any vibrant history should, is bound to set a lot of feathers flying… All in all, The First Crusade is a persuasive and bracing work. Peter Frankopan is not yet well known, but he deserves to be. One trusts him to go on ploughing his own furrow and not join the brat-pack of historians.
Frankopan’s qualities as a historian and a writer are of a high order… It is pleasing to see [the Byzantine view of the First Crusade] updated with scholarship and flair.
The Crusades have been at the center of Western thought for 1,000 years, and have been the subject of too many books to count: For Crusades buffs, it sometimes feels like there is nothing new under the sun, and for beginners, it can be difficult to know where to start. Oxford historian Peter Frankopan has crafted a narrative and an argument that will appeal to both groups. In the popular imagination, the First Crusade begins with Pope Urban II’s stirring speech at the Council of Clermont in 1095. Frankopan reminds us there is another side to the story. The idea for the crusade, he writes, originated in the East, in a desperate yet strategic plea to the West issued by Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos, whose bold but misguided policies had placed his empire in grave danger. Much of the book is devoted to this often-overlooked Byzantine context, and it makes for a welcome rectification and lively reading. Frankopan’s most interesting contribution is the idea that Alexios ‘knew how to appeal to Westerners,’ and created the Jerusalem objective as a selling point.
Frankopan [writes] with tremendous literary verve… [The] cry to free Jerusalem has never been better expressed… Frankopan’s creative revisionism pierces the armor of medieval history with a new weapon: the call of the East.
That rare thing—a truly fresh interpretation of an old story.
Frankopan’s work will challenge scholars while interesting and entertaining general readers… The overall contribution of this engagingly written and well-researched book is substantial.
In a field near Clermont, France, on November 27, 1095, Pope Urban II issued a rousing call to arms, a march to Jerusalem to retake the Holy City from the infidel Muslims who for more than 20 years had been invading and conquering lands belonging to Christians. Four years later, European armies arrived in Jerusalem and drove out the Muslims, retaking the city for Christendom. Yet, as historian Frankopan, a fellow at Oxford, so forcefully reminds us in this cracking good story of political and religious intrigue, the real reason that Urban II rallied the forces that day was an urgent message from Alexios I Komnenos, emperor of Byzantium, whose political authority had begun to decline and whose empire was under attack on all sides by Muslim forces. Alexios called upon Urban, who sent troops immediately. Frankopan draws deeply upon the Alexiad, written several decades later by Komnenos’s daughter, Anna, and he presents a vivid portrait of a man whose early political ineptness created division in his empire, but whose boldness launched the Crusades and changed the shape of the medieval world by expanding the geographic, cultural, and political horizons of Europe.
Filled with Byzantine intrigue in every sense, this book is important, compellingly revisionist and impressive in its scholarly use of totally fresh sources. It refocuses the familiar western story through the eyes of the emperor of the east and fills in the missing piece of the puzzle of the Crusades.
A dazzling book, perfectly combining deep scholarship and easy readability. The most important addition to Crusading literature since Steven Runciman.
In this fluent and dramatic account, Peter Frankopan rightly places the Emperor Alexios at the heart of the First Crusade and in doing so skillfully adds a dimension frequently missing from our understanding of this seminal event. Frankopan illuminates the complex challenges that faced Alexios and deftly depicts the boldness and finesse needed to survive in the dangerous world of medieval Byzantium.
Peter Frankopan’s reassessment of the Byzantine contribution to the origins and course of the First Crusade offers a compelling and challenging balance to traditional accounts. Based on fresh interpretations of primary sources, lucidly written and forcefully argued, The First Crusade: The Call from the East will demand attention from scholars while providing an enjoyable and accessible narrative for the general reader.
- 296 pages
- 0-13/16 x 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Belknap Press
Sorry, there was an error adding the item to your shopping bag.
Sorry, your session has expired. Please refresh your browser's tab.