- The Second Crusade Extending the Frontiers of Christendom
Yale University Press, New Haven CT, 2007.
Octavo; hardcover, with gilt spine titling; 364pp., with maps and 8pp. of monochrome plates. Very minor wear; previous owner's bookplate to the front pastedown. Dustwrapper. Near fine. "The vast military expedition that left Europe for the Holy Land in the summer of 1147 has been the Cinderella among crusades, historiographically speaking. The first crusade, 50 years earlier, stormed dramatically into Muslim-held Jerusalem and, against towering odds, established a Christian kingdom there. The third crusade, almost 50 years later, became famous for Richard the Lionheart's struggle with Saladin for control of the holy city. And the fourth crusade, which followed after only a decade, achieved lasting infamy when its goal of recapturing Jerusalem was summarily discarded in favour of the sacking of Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine empire and the greatest Christian city in the world. By contrast, the second crusade - two years in the making, and led by the two greatest kings of western Europe - was a damp squib, glossed over by embarrassed contemporaries, and largely ignored by historians ever since. But of course the participants themselves had no idea that their extraordinary efforts would end in humiliating retreat. And this mismatch between expectation and achievement forms a compelling theme of Jonathan Phillips's absorbing book, the first detailed account of this 'forgotten' crusade to be published since the 19th century. The campaign of 1145-49 was conceived in explicit relation to the spectacular and unprecedented success of the first crusade a generation earlier. The crusaders - thousands of soldiers and pilgrims from France, Germany, Flanders, England and Italy - set out to march in their fathers' footsteps, to win glory in this world and salvation in the next just as their predecessors had done. Crucially, however, they did so with a sense of anticipation and entitlement quite unlike the self-consciously pioneering expedition of 1096-99. The confidence that God was with them, engendered by that improbable triumph half a century earlier, helped to bring together a remarkably ambitious campaign, aiming not only to recapture the city of Edessa (the fall of which, in December 1144, triggered the call to crusade), but, as Phillips emphasises, to 'extend the frontiers of Christendom'. .....Phillips's book is beautifully produced - it's a rare pleasure these days to handle such satisfyingly substantial pages - and, unsurprisingly for a university press, it's also a heavyweight in academic terms. It will be required reading for anyone with more than a passing interest in crusading history, for the breadth and depth of its analysis and its reassessment not only of key moments of military and political decision-making, but of the contribution of Pope Eugenius III to the preaching of the crusade (alongside the well-recognised charisma of Bernard of Clairvaux). Phillips also, he says, has more general readers in mind - although that won't, perhaps, be immediately apparent to anyone unfamiliar with his sprawling cast of kings, nobles, churchmen and historians, or whose Latin isn't quite up to dealing with untranslated snippets from contemporary sources. But, if the early chapters demand sustained concentration, the central narrative of the crusade itself is gripping. Phillips conveys a powerful sense of the massive investment of time, money, belief and, ultimately, lives which the expedition demanded; of the less than glorious leadership of Conrad and Louis (the latter more monk than man, according to his formidable wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, who accompanied him on the campaign); of the profound tensions between the rival Christian powers of western Europe, the Byzantine empire and the Latin kingdoms of the east; and of the abruptness of the crusade's collapse after the failure at Damascus. The book is thought-provoking about questions of identity and the fraught interaction between religious and political imperatives. There are no easy parallels between present and past, and Phillips is too fine a historian to suggest them; but one of the achievements of this subtle book is that, in learning about a lost world, we think harder about our own." - Helen Castor
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