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The Crusades: the thrill of a priceless manuscript

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Thomas Asbridge Thomas Asbridge | 10:35 UK time, Tuesday, 24 January 2012

I first fell in love with crusading history as a schoolboy and continue to be fascinated by these medieval holy wars. In many ways, they have become my life's work.

For me, the Crusades, the wars fought between Christians and Muslims for possession of the Holy Land between 1095 and 1291, have it all - the power to thrill and shock through tales of epic adventure, appalling brutality and intense human drama; and the capacity to ignite and sustain curiosity in the way they impact upon 'big history' themes like the clash of civilisations and the causes of religious violence.

Statue of Sultan Saladin in Kerak, Jordan

The statue of Sultan Saladin in Kerak, Jordan

After the publication of my recent general history of the Crusades, I was approached by an independent production company with a view to developing a television series based on my work.

The Crusades, a three-part series was then commissioned by BBC Two, and I embarked upon an intense filming schedule that took me through Turkey, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, France, Italy and the UK over three months, writing and presenting the programme, and working with a brilliant production team.

It's been an extraordinary experience - from the grand spectacle of sailing down the Nile to the intimacy of handling tiny copper coins minted by crusaders - and an immense privilege.

One of the undoubted highlights was gaining access to the Aqsa Mosque archive in the heart of Jerusalem's Old City, to view a priceless, 800-year-old manuscript written by one of the closest advisors to the mighty Muslim Sultan Saladin, the man who re-conquered Jerusalem for Islam.

As far as I know, we were the first Western film crew allowed inside this library just yards from one of Islam's most revered holy sites, and it took months of delicate negotiation to secure permission. The manuscript didn't disappoint.

Its text lays bare Saladin's agony in July 1192, during the Third Crusade, when he decided to abandon Jerusalem to the Christians.

After years of campaigning, both he and his troops were shattered by exhaustion and Muslim morale was faltering.

Under these conditions, and with the crusaders camped just 12 miles away, Saladin judged that he had no hope of holding the Holy City once an attack began. That day he was said to have shed tears of grief as he led his people in prayer.

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Richard the Lionheart and Saladin

The manuscript also shows Richard the Lionheart - leader of the Third Crusade - to have been no brutish hothead, but a canny and agile negotiator.

During a flurry of diplomatic exchanges, King Richard proposed an extraordinary marriage alliance between his sister Joan and Saladin's brother al-Adil.

This union would form the basis of a peace agreement in which 'the sultan should give to al-Adil all the coastal lands that he held and make him king of Palestine', with Jerusalem to serve 'as the seat of the royal couple's realm'.

With a flourish of seeming magnanimity, the Lionheart proclaimed that the acceptance of this deal would bring the crusade to an immediate end and prompt his return to the West.

Richard probably had little or no intention of ever following through with this deal. Instead, his aim seems to have been to sow seeds of doubt and distrust within the Muslim camp by playing upon Saladin's fear that his brother al-Adil might seek to usurp power for himself.

I was primed for these revelations, having spent years poring over printed versions of this account.

What I didn't realise was that this manuscript had had something of a secret life. Up until the early 20th Century, the Aqsa archive actually had served as a public lending library.

Amazing as it now sounds, from the later Middle Ages onwards, citizens of Jerusalem had been taking this Life Of Saladin home to read; and over the years some had even left their mark on its pages, inscribing comments ranging from 'Praise be to Allah' to 'It's raining today'.

For me, the experience of actually holding a manuscript written by a man who knew the great Sultan Saladin, who witnessed the Third Crusade first-hand, was simply electrifying.

I couldn't help wondering what all those other readers across the centuries had felt and thought as they held this same work.

Dr Thomas Asbridge is the presenter of The Crusades.

The Crusades continues on BBC Two and BBC HD on Wednesdays at 9.30pm. For further programme times please see the episode guide.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Mmnnn, very odd this subject matter. It seem's that were all still at it so many year's later. Maybe if Mohammed and Jesus returned we could all have bet's to see who would come out on top.

  • Comment number 2.

    Clearly this programme is biased and is in favour of the Christians. He refers to muslims as 'wicked enemies' and calls Saladin 'ruthless' while constantly praising Richard. Richard was the one who ruthlessly killed 3000 muslims who were prisoners and there isn't one reference that proves Saladin as being 'ruthless'. Muslims clearly won the crusades and the narrator of this programme is manipulate things to make it as the christians won.

  • Comment number 3.

    Good to see your on the TV now Dr Asbridge! Was great to study under you in QMUL.

    Bri - If they both came back then Muslim's would not be taking sides - they revere Jesus as a Prophet of God. Still, whatever takes your fancy.

  • Comment number 4.

    Episode 2: Saladin's writer said that the man told Jerusalem that if he captures the city he will butcher them all.....that was the anchor point of the whole episode to diminish Saladin's reputation. If you see what he did later in Jerusalem or Tyre you wouldn't be counting on this.
    You should be thankful Richard didn't conquer Jerusalem, or we all know what he would have unleashed over the place. All you are worried about is "this was a chance for us to have ruled 800 years before we actually did." Preposterous!

  • Comment number 5.

    I like this series, however, I do not think you present the real reasone behind this war. You describe crusaders as victims who just fellow their faith, but this far way from the fact they were invaders and Muslims had to defend their land.

  • Comment number 6.

    This program is absolutely unkind to Salah Aldin and to the people of the middle east of whom they were forced to fight and defend their land from a foreign aggressors. The Europeans have abused religion in order to take land and kill others in the name of god. This is not about the crusade in the middle east but look to what happen to the Australian Aborigines, Indigenous people of the Americas, New Zealand and the list goes on! Your actions make the victims hate you and it is only a matter of time they get their revenge and history teach us!!! May god bless Palestine and the middle east!!!

  • Comment number 7.

    Nah, some commentators have a different view of what was said.. Neither Salah el Din, nor Richard won anything. Certainly not Jerusalem.. As someone who has spent much of his adult life in the Middle East (Ethiopia Saudi, Somalia, Egypt and Yemen) I would say this is a fair, accurate narrative of a fascinating period in our history. Enjoy it, I am...

  • Comment number 8.

    I've long been fascinated by this extraordinary period in history and enjoyed the first 2 episodes, which were generally excellent. But I find myself agreeing somewhat with Moodhi, bluestreak and Adam above, in the sense that (to my surprise) the programme is unfair to Saladin, - specifically & most of all when it compares him to Richard. Richard behaved like a savage when he butchered helpless prisoners after Acre, who were expected to be released once the negotiations were concluded. In superb contrast Saladin merely threatened to storm and destroy the Christian defenders of Jerusalem. He did not do it. Even the threat itself was prompted (as the programme makes clear) by the desire to appear a determined Jihadist. Yet when the time came, Saladin showed great mercy and tolerance. So it's entirely unfair- and more than a little unfortunate- to draw any "two great men" comparisons between a butcher like Richard (who also bled his country dry in taxes) and an honorable, compassionate warrior like Saladin. It's not a contrast we christian europeans can ever be proud of, I'm afraid. Dr Asbridge hints at the disparity, but never makes explicit the amazing moral contrast between Saladin and Richard. (perhaps a little nervous of attacking one of the great icons of British & royal history?) Apart from that I loved the series. ESpecially wonderful to see all these amazing places (makes me want to go to the Middle-east even more) and to see the amazing medieval illuminated and simple written manuscripts. Incredible the Aqsa Mosque manuscript was part of a general lending library collection... unbelievable ! And wonderful it has survived so intact.

  • Comment number 9.

    I was looking forward to this series but the presenter is so biased, it has made it very unwatchable, which is very unfortunate. Salah-Ud-Din was continuously referred to as a jihadi and Richard as the Lionheart. I believe both were great leaders. Throughout the programmes so far, the presenter has found excuses for the brutality of the crusaders and and brushed over them. Whereas he has commented in detail about the killing the Muslims did. I expect better from the BBC. The most appalling and despicable person that has been shown on the series so far has been Pope Urban but again the presenter went into detail to try and justify and excuse his dispekable behavior. The pope basically told a bunch of lies to get the Crhstian world into a religious frenzy so safeguard his papacy. One example of the presenters shameful bias is when he fleetingly mentions the massacre of Jews in Europe by the crusaders on the way to the Holy Lands, where he did not find it necessary to explain what actually happened. The only negative thing he could find about Salahuddin was a mention of the surrender terms in Imad-uddin's diary. Again this is unjustifiably magnified because the exact same thing could have been said about the Crusaders who threatened to destroy Islamic shrines and kill thousands of people within the city borders. What is the difference in what Salahuddin said and what the Crusaders threatened to do in return. and the shadow of this one statement by Imad-ud-Din is used throughout the programme to cast doubt on Salah-ud din's reputation. The presenter does not go into or talk about what kind of ruler he was throughout his rule of Palestine. At the end of the episode King Richard was idolised being laid to rest at the feet of his father. The last thing the presenter has to say about Salah-ud-Dinn is that he sows doubts in viewers minds about the motives of Salah-ud-Din's reasons for fighting the crusaders and re-capturing the Holy Lands. The presenter himself said when Salah-ud-Din was contemplating leaving the Holy Land during his final prayer at the Al-Aqsa Mosque tears were streaming down his face does that not show his feeling towards the Holy Lands. Also in the first episode the when the Crusaders march into Jerusalem the presenter declares the Holy Lands have been Liberated, can I ask him what and who have been liberated. Also a point to mention is all the Muslim accounts and chronicles of the Crusades, the Crusaders were always referred to as the Franks, as Europeans and never as Christians. The Muslims saw these invaders as Europeans and not through religious eyes. I hope the final episode is more balanced.

  • Comment number 10.

    Looked forward to watching the series as Dr Asbridge was my tutor on the Crusades in my first year at St Andrews. I remember his enthusiasm for the subject and it certainly rubbed off on us who took the course. Ive thoroughly enjoyed the first two episodes and looking forward to the third. I disagree with some of the previous comments about the commentary being anti-Muslim, i think Dr Asbridge has looked at it from both sides of the conflict and of the surviving primary sources

  • Comment number 11.

    I struggled through the inaccuracies of Episode 1 (tell us all again what Urban said) and tuned in to Episode 2 with some trepidation. The massacre of Acre got one line but how many muslims could a trebuchet kill? Why no mention of Barbarosa? Philip of France worth a few words? Templars, Hospitalers? No? Let's just mindlessly attribute thoughts and words to Richard and Salah-al-din shall we? This isn't history; this is one man's fantasy. Beautifully filmed but abject nonsense from start to finish. I won't waste my time with Episode 3. It's a genuine shame.

  • Comment number 12.

    what kind of history have you been teaching I wonder now

  • Comment number 13.

    Historians endeavour to depict the conflict between Islam and the Christian world as beginning with the First Crusade, but this is like using the Normandy landings as the start of the Second World War, without considering the Blitzkrieg, or the occupation of Europe. From the inception of their religion Muslims had used the sword to subjugate nonbelievers, as mandated in their Qu’ran; the first time in history men had fought for an ideology. We are used to hearing the term ‘Muslim countries’, but they hadn’t always been so. For hundreds of years before the time of Islam the territories that were fought over in the Crusades were the heart of the Christian world, and many Christians still lived there. The Jihad that had conquered Syria, Palestine, Egypt, North Africa, Spain and parts of Southern France and parts of Italy would never have been halted without military force from the Christians who lived there. The successful expeditions into Spain and Sicily by Frankish and Norman knights should be highlighted in this context. To understand the speech by Pope Urban as the main origin of the Crusades is only partial history. Although ultimately a failure, the crusades for the holy land can be seen as delaying the fall of the Byzantine Empire, and thus the Muslim advance into Europe. As late as 1683 a Muslim army was defeated at the gates of Vienna. The Crusades were over but the perpetual Jihad was not.

  • Comment number 14.

    Neither spilt blood or settled dust gives right to ownership, for we are all but tenants in the eyes of God. The truth men seek lays deep in the Shires given safe passage of Caerleon, navigating the Great Severn north to a 12th Century Monastery!

    HighGlory - Thy Will Be Done

  • Comment number 15.

    I appreciate this is a populist summary of the crusades and I have to say Dr Ashbridge is an excellent guide. I also appreciate that it all had to be shoehorned into 3 episodes but this leaves Dr Ashbridge with an insurmountable problem of time.

    Episode 1 did a great job of the first crusade but episode 2 managed to make no mention of the military orders or the second crusade. Surely the latter omission is going to confuse the casual viewer when he talks about "The lionheart" (could he not call him King Richard?) on the third crusade having never mentioned the second one? It also means that Frederick Barbarossa never gets a mention either and his death on the way to the third crusade is an important turning point.

    Also by the looks of things the final episode is going to skip the 4th crusade. However I reserve judgement until it airs. What is really disappointing is the series needed a bit more time and a bit more money. While Dr Ashbridge does an excellent job of making the events seem urgent and real but could they have not spent a little money on some stock footage of a few knights and Turkish horse archers? A couple of animated maps? It was all looking a little threadbare when the battle of Dorylaem was visually interpreted as 2 guys on horses and a history lecturer walking through a corn field- excuse me!

    As for time, why not make it a longer series and do it justice? The evolution of the crusader concept is an important one- the Albigensian crusade, the Northern Crusades with Teutonic knights and the "Reconquista" (I appreciate it was no such thing). The crusades were neither exclusive to the middle east nor did they end with the fall of Acre.

  • Comment number 16.

    This documentary clearly shows how people can manipulate information to serve their own agenda. In one hand the presenter portraits Saladin as a ruthless man even though there was no evidence to verify that, whereas he portraits Richard, with a clear evidence of his brutality as a hero. The truth is Europeans ( not christens) were invaders and people in the middle east were fighting to protect their land

  • Comment number 17.

    I find the critical comments on here quite comical. This is an attempt to paint, in broad brush strokes, what happened over a certain period in history. If an individual wishes to look deeper into the subject and develop their own view of what happened, they can.

    For me it is informative and brilliantly presented and I thank Dr Asbridge and the production team for an excellent and enjoyable piece of programming.

  • Comment number 18.

    Amazing footage's and some interesting insights, however for those who like many have studied or watched other documentaries about these magnificent characters will feel a bit of let down and i can see why some feel its a bit one sided (to richard lionheart). Im pretty sure BBC has done this before with live action and balance account and there is always Hollywood take on this for those who are more interested in Richard side of the story , but this does make a good alternative to wish you was here programs.

    p.s
    did not know about that manuscript that was open to the public for many years.

  • Comment number 19.

    These days the documentaries are becoming more and more of background music, visual effectsless, rhetoric and less about actual sciences. That reflects how intelligent the audience is. I bet these documentaries will be ranked substandard if you take away the magic of studio software from it...hardly any art left on TV in the UK. Seeing that it was broadcast at prime time, it's understandable the program is entertainment rather than factual. It was better if they had disclosed this key to viewers to avoid confusion...;)

    I think we are left with the good old option of going to libraries and meeting scholars ourselves if any substance is to be found. After all history is a science, and all sciences are boring to the mind of this century.

  • Comment number 20.

    I would like to congratulate Dr Asbridge on an excellent series so far. Obviously it has been necessary to simplify things for a general audience, and to make omissions while focussing on selected specific issues. However I don't detect any bias in favour of the Christians, nor an attempt to blacken Saladin's reputation. In fact one of the omissions was mention of the mass-beheading, on Saladin's orders, of 300 or so Templar and Hospitaller prisoners after the battle of Hattin...

  • Comment number 21.

    Well, I am enjoying this series. It's interesting and I am surprised to see that some of these old manuscripts have survived so long and are being well looked after in libraries round the world.
    When I was a child, I saw a serial on B.B.C of Walter Scott's "The Talisman". I remember that Richard The lionheart was actually helped and treated for a medical condition by Saladin who was pictured as a wise, fair leader. Has anyone read that book?
    Looks like both rulers had their own characteristics otherwise we would not remember them today. Although I understand that in war and conflict, atrocities can be committed by both sides.

  • Comment number 22.

    Let's all go and have a nice cup of tea, then we can talk about this problem. Oh, and do'nt forget about a nice piece of cake. Sewiously though i find life difficult enough withought bothering what belief system somebody believe's in. The Aboriginie's, Amazonian's, Native American's etc seemed quite content with the abundance of life well before religion and doctrine came along. Every human culture has their basic human, moral value's if left in check. If people actually read the Bible and Koran, it seem's to me that it set's out decent standard's for living. God, do i need that as an alcoholic. Losing my wife and three kid's, father died whilst in jail, homelessness, self harming etc etc ...what a palaver and all that caper...I would Love the chance to ask my son and daughter's for a kiss and a cuddle rather than go off fighting for an unelected King or Queen and hammering the hell out of some other poor b@::{} who probablly has'nt got much say in the matter, only to imprint that his violence is worthy of his beliefe........i believe that their are alien's out there and that all human being's are deficient in their thought processe's and illogical action's, so therefore shall i use my freind's ray gun to EXTERMINATE, EXTERMINATE you all. Now get off your high horse's and battle man to man with thought and logic, and give a few bob to anybody who is down and out, because you may be there one day my son...not neccessarily in this world , but the Next...HA HA HA ooh God i'm at it again, please forgive me, anyway guy's and gal's have one on me, and may the good spirit's bless you and your kin, God Bless Bri... cheer's dude's...

  • Comment number 23.

    Sorry to bug you guy's again, it's just that when in prison the word going round the block (pardon the pun !), was that what go'es round come's round. Now you do'nt have to be a Theologian, Academic or Soothsay'er to dig the simple truth of the equation, i.e. 1+1=2, 1+ -1=1 and -1 +1 =0, so come on dude's you do'nt need God to dig the truth, caus he will not reveal it in a concious state to human being's unless he give's you the Grace to understand. If not then the wherewithall of God's wisdom will reveal your wrongdoing's within your concience, and as within the major religion's on Earth the warning's are there as a guide for us. As one who has suffered greatly through my own self interested, isolated incurtion's into the neverworld, i hope that you take heed through not just one who has suffered through his abonination's (whoop's, not sure whether that is spelt right, sorry Teacher, Brother, Father, Mother or Whoever (poor kid's))...Yeah after all of that intense thought proccess, i actually lost my train of thought, thank God, because i was rather getting out of it, if you know what i mean ! Yeah, so it was o.k. for the Monty Python team to play around with great and absurd idea's, not knowing at the time that they would them become the recipient's of their own jest...Actually the last statement was not true, it was the Demon drink, the truth probablly lie's nearer the truth, sorry about that...Anyway dude's, it was nice to talk to you, i'll check out this site later as yo seem like a very interesting group of guy's...cul8tr...Bri...

  • Comment number 24.

    I objected strongly to the reference to the "genius of Urban" in making it so that if you went on the crusade killing people then your sins were forgiven and you got an eternity in Heaven. I have heard this same phrase used somewhere else I recall. I hardly see this as being genius to claim this! It seems instead a diabolical distortion of the truth, and an example of the kind of theology that is purely manmade, rather than being any great spiritual truth, and is used to manipulate people into fulfilling someone's violent ambitions. If people begin thinking that they can do such violence in the name of God then where would it end. We still live with some of the fallout of the crusades so would it not be better to point out how false their motivation was, and see it for what it was. Peace be to this house. Tim Mathews

  • Comment number 25.

    I'm most intrigued that the last few posts made by commentators with Islamic usernames seem to think the programme is biased in favour of Chrisendom, as I myself was feeling it was in fact biased toward Islamists.
    Of course obtaining a balanced view is always difficult, and people will always find criticism with any view that does not give a completely positive focus on their own perspective.
    However the first episode made no mention of the reasons for the first Crusade and that Islamists had already conducted their own 'crusade' against Chrisendom for 459 yrs [since their first jihad into Byzantine territory just 4yrs after Mohammeds death], prior to that time when Pope Urban finaly said enough is enough. In fact Dr. Ashbridge simply says the reasons for the first Crusade was to do with the 'idea of otherness', which is 'hardly a fresh crime', completely ignoring the fact that just 86yrs earlier to Pope Urbans decree, the most holy site within all Chrisendom [the Holy Sepulchre built by Constantine] had been completely destroyed, to its foundations, by Islamists and that since the Sunni Seljuck Turks had conquered Palestine from the Shiite Fatamids in 1073, Christians and Christian pilgrims to Palestine were being persecuted with even greater intensity, thus Chrisendom had no choice but to finally say enough is enough - yet none of this was mentioned.
    The second programme appeared to be more balanced. However I did feel that certain subtle words and expressions were used to make 'Europeans' appear more 'barbarien' than the Arab-Tuks, even though it was most definitley the Islamists who yet again first began their 'crusade/jihad' against the 90yr old kingdom of Jerusalem [which of course was originally Christian Byzantine territory], sparking the beginning of the third Crusade.

  • Comment number 26.

    I have just watched the first two episodes on iplayer. I have no great knowledge of the crusades having previously merely read Geoffrey Hindley's short history nor do I have any religious leanings. From this viewpoint I thought it a very well balanced series. It is important to realise there are as many versions of history as there are historians. I agree that this series is a good starting point for further reading.

  • Comment number 27.

    Regardless of the bias noted in many comments here, the style of the series is a testament to dumbing down. If this was going to be taken seriously it would need to avoid the ludicrous presentation - Asbridge all-too readily thrusts himself into the foreground exclaiming, splattering the screen with anxious looks, Fiona Bruce-style expressions of concern and juvenile story-telling. All the time the poorly chosen and over-emphatic musical score gets further in the way of the narrative as do the ridiculous interpolations of modern day Middle Eastern street scenes. Compare this fatuous "popular entertainment" with the urbane engagement with ideas, culture, history and politics displayed by KennethnClark in "Civilisation". I expect we may get the opportunity to vote certain Crusders out of the series...

  • Comment number 28.

    Really enjoyed this - hoping to start teaching this at A Level soon. A great topic and an unbelievable ( no pun intended) period in all our history.

    Will this series be released on DVD?

  • Comment number 29.

    Some mentioned that, this land was A Christian land before Islam, this is true. But please read the history of this land carefully. Before Christianity, who did dominate ?and how long did the Byzantine territory last?. It is silly to say this is Christian land originally!! Because it was not all of it's history like that. What I mean, since the Prophet Jesus pace upon him has come, it was Christian land but since The Prophet Muhammad pace upon him had come and prayed in this land, it is part of Islam land. Since that time no one have right to start war by the name of God just to satisfy their intreats. From this respective , the crusades were not to return back the Christian land but to steal lands no more they had.

  • Comment number 30.

    I was looking forward to this documentary series, but feel that is is flawed in many ways. How on earth did Frederick I Barbarossa and Philip II of France failed to get a look in? Where the the military orders? Shocking omissions. The only conclusion I can draw is to make Richard look like the great hero and leader of the Third Crusade.

    Richard here is painting in a very flattering light and his brutality is often overlooked. I agree with others that Salah al-Din is portrayed in a much less complementary way. But nevertheless history has recorded Salah al-Din as the great and noble man that he was, such as in Stanley Lane-Poole's wonderful account (which actually considers the Arabic sources). Your blatantly biased account will quickly fall by the wayside to be forgotten.

    It is great to see that most people here haven't lost their critical faculties. Thankfully, I teach English and History at a grammar school. I'll be showing my boys just how great Salah al-Din was and just how savage the Crusaders were.

  • Comment number 31.

    One sided? Biased? Omissions? For goodness sake, the man has three hours to speak about the WHOLE of the crusades. It's funny how comments threads draw strong one sided opinions isn't it?

    I stumbled across this show with little knowledge of (or interest in) this part of history (or in fact ANY part of history), but was drawn in by Dr Asbridge's enthusiasm and ability to make it interesting and accessible. I'm sure it's not the WHOLE story of the Crusades (how could it be), but I've stuck with it, enjoyed it and learned a few things. If I want to know more, I'll read a books or take a course.

    For what it's worth (it seems unlikely that many of the people commenting will be swayed by anything I say), I've enjoyed Dr Asbridge's takes on some of the scenarios that were part of the story of the Crusades. In particular, in the first episode when he put forward new evidence to suggest that the Crusaders were actually all but defeated and begging for free passage out of Antioch, which challenges the traditional notion that they were rallied by the discovery of the holy lance and were suddenly fired up for battle against an overwhelming opposition. As a realist, the original theory/assumption seems highly unlikely to me (mind you, these religious types can get pretty wound up about stuff - see above) and it's nice to see that research has indicated a more believable theory. It was also fantastic to see the amazing places that these things happened all those years ago.

    In the second episode I learned that Saladin was not some mindless warlord (which I had assumed was the case since not listening very hard to my history teacher back in secondary school), but a hugely successful leader, who united the Muslim world to fight the nasty invaders. I'm not very well versed in Muslim politics, but I'm guessing the difference in opinion between the Shia and Sunni Muslims is somewhat less than trivial and anyone who can unite people of such strong belief has to be a pretty impressive chap in my book. In short, I seem to have come out of episode 2 AGAINST the percieved bias - and I'm a white male anglo-saxon!

    Also contrary to (seemingly) popular opinion, I picked up on the fact that King Richard WAS INDEED a right git - what with the butchering captive Muslims "to make a point". I certainly don't remember THAT from school (or indeed every Robin Hood movie I've ever seen). I suppose I could go along with the "overuse of the word Lionheart" argument, though - it did seem a bit of a friendly way to describe the guy after mentioning the barbarism/executions/general nastiness, but I suppose it's better than just saying King Richard this, King Richard that.

    With regard to the "Saladin would kill everyone in Jerusalem if they didn't agree to him occupying the city" thing (episode 2, in contrast to the popular notion that he went in all peaceful-like), I suspect this is what is getting people all riled up and shouting accusations of bias. I **THINK** (and bear in mind that I'm no expert - I'm just passing on a mixture of my observations, assumptions and the little research I have done) that this played a bigger part in the show than Richard's atrocities mostly because Asbridge's research had lead to this revelation - he probably wanted to include his own work in the programme (like with the Antioch/holy lance/begging for freedom thing in episode 1). It's my opinion that if anything the bias is toward Asbridge's own work, rather than for or against one side or the other, which doesn't seem too unreasonable given a) he's done the research and b) it's his show....

    Anyway, that's my two pence worth. It will be interesting to see what the 3rd episode brings, I'll certainly be watching - and for someone who spends most of his evenings in front of the PC, killing zombies, aliens and anything else that moves, that's saying something.

  • Comment number 32.

    Richard the Lion Heart is shown as a great strategist and general in the series. As such he would inevitably made use of scouts and informers to be be able to predict his enemies moves. Despite this it is suggested that Richard had no idea that Saladin was about to abandon Jerusalem after his defeat at Arsuf. I would like to hear Professor Ashbridge's explanation of this conundrum.

  • Comment number 33.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 34.

    I admire the series but wondered at the beginning why the destruction of the Holy Sepulchre in 1009 was not mentioned as a trigger for the crusading movement. Obviously the virulent anti-Christian caliph's work had been partly undone by 1089 but it had sown the seed.

  • Comment number 35.

    Also, the Byzantine context is almost entirely missing. In a sense the Crusaders didn't still steal Jerusalem from Islam at all. They stole it from Emperor Alexius I. Palestine was an old Byzantine province and it was the Emperor who asked the west for help to get it back. Had it been restored to its previous owner, Outremer could have been re-connected by land to the rest of the Empire and stood a much better chance of survival against the tests to come.

  • Comment number 36.

    In the closing minutes of episode three Dr. Asbridge states that "The notion that the struggle for the Holy Land has a direct bearing on the modern world is misguided".

    This is not supported by the facts and unfortunately Dr. Ashbridge chooses to omit or ignore these facts when they detract from his thesis.

    The fourth crusade is entirely ignored, the narrative skipping from the third crusade to the fifth crusade.

    Some of the results of the fourth crusade were the sack of Constainople, the fall of the Byzantine empire, the great schism between the Eastern and Western Christian Churches, the puppet Latin Empire and the creation of Bulgaria along with other Southern Slavic states. The consequences of the fourth crusade undeniably affected Europe, its history and culture, until the present day. For example, as a direct consequence of the fourth crusade many European countries use Cyrillic and not a Latin alphabet.

    The Crusader ideology was used to condone the genocide of the pagan Prus by the Teutonic knights and their incursions into Poland, a Christian country.

    A more palatble and honest thesis is "The ruthless exploitation of the crusade as a vehicle for political and territorial gain and how this has transformed Europe".

  • Comment number 37.

    It is a shame that the 4th Crusade was missed out completely. Yet in some ways it was the most important and significant in terms of today's Europe. The Christian Catholic Crusaders sacked the greatest Christian Capital City that ever existed ... the Great Constantinople...killing and raping their own Eastern Orthodox Christian brethren...and weakening it to such a state that it was easily conquered by Fatih Sultan Mehmed..allowing the Muslims to occupy European lands...And now Turkey a Muslim nation in Europe with its capital established in Istanbul. If the purpose of the Crusades was to defeat the Muslims then this is perhaps the biggest symbol of its absolute failure. I also disagree with Dr. Asbridge's claim that the crusades have no bearing on the modern world. That is patently false. The state of Israel is virtually a mirror of the Crusader "Kingdom of Jerusalem". And the sending of warships to threaten Iran, led by the Crusader nations of the Holy Roman Empire (France, Germany, Italy) assisted by the English is history repeating itself.

  • Comment number 38.

    I too have been fascinated by the las 1000 years of history and it's ultimate conclusion in the Middle East cauldron of the 20th and now 21st centuries.
    Although I think worse is to come the most recent low point was the oportunistic Israeli invasion of Gaza during the U.S. presidential vacuum ( Bush/Obama)

    I was so incensed I wrote a protest ballad and made a rather amaturish video, which given some poetic and musical licence is regarded by quites a few as a history of Palastine set to music. Watch if you will

    PALASTINE http://youtu.be/fEHsNym1RCc

  • Comment number 39.

    In response to my earlier comment, I was hoping that the final episode was more balanced. I have to congratulate the Professor as I found this final episode very informative and thought provoking. I just wished the previous two episodes were as informative. I was interested in the material being presented throughout and finally I completely agree with his conclusion and summary, I hope we can all live in peace with each other.

  • Comment number 40.

    as far as I know, I missed nothing, but between the first and second programmes, you went from the first crusade to the third. What happened during the second?

  • Comment number 41.

    I accept that Richard the LionHeart was a very good commander. As such he must hve made use of the best information via spies etc. as to Saladin's intentions. How come then that he was not aware that Saladin was about to abandon Jerusalem as he stood with his army just 12 miles away? A Question perhaps for Professor Asbridge.

 

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