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Publisher's Summary

What were the forces that led to one of history's most protracted and legendary periods of conflict? How did they affect the three great civilizations that participated in them? And, ultimately, why did they end and what did they accomplish?

In these 36 lectures, you'll look at the "big picture" of the Crusades as an ongoing period of conflict involving Western Christendom (we would now call it Western Europe), the Byzantine Empire, and the Muslim world. From this perspective, you'll study the complex but absorbing causes of the Crusades, which include the many political, cultural, and economic changes in Western Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. You'll examine the Crusades in terms of the specific military campaigns-the eight "canonical" Crusades that took place from 1095-1291-proclaimed to retake Jerusalem and the Holy Land from Muslim hands and return them to Christendom. You'll consider the immediate circumstances-the leaders, purposes, key battles, and degrees of success or failure-surrounding these often-monumental expeditions.

You'll also explore a wide variety of misperceptions and long-debated questions about the Crusades:

  • Did the popes preach the Crusades as a way to increase their personal power and authority?
  • Why did the members of the Fourth Crusade decide to sack Constantinople, turning the Crusades from Christian against "infidel" to Christian against Christian?
Taken together, these historically rich lectures are an opportunity to appreciate fully how Western Civilization changed in many profound ways during the Crusading era.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2003 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2003 The Great Courses

What listeners say about The Era of the Crusades

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A facinating listen

Really fantastic. A captivating performance from a good authority with well researched sources. A brilliant piece for anyoen interested in medieval history, and a key turning point in the history of Europe.

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App will not work

After enjoying the old app for many titles I am very disappointed in the new one. It is difficult to open, cannot find a timer.

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Wow ! brilliant ! absolutely brilliant !

What a comprehensive look at the crusades! Not just the battles, sieges and incursions, but the broader context and implications for : European and Byzantine commerce; nobility, royal and Papal politics; Muslim factions and sects; the terrain of the battles and it's Kingdoms; description of the military technology used such as catapults, the gallies; figures as Richard the Lionheart, Saladin, Pope Innocent III, Basil II, Baldwin IV ... WHAT A FASCINATING JOURNEY AND STORY it's been through this whole series ! ... The lecturer clearly knows this topic inside out and back to front, and often gave fascinating stories and anecdotes all through it which maintained my interest e.g. a Muslim Sulton victorious over an ill-conceived Crusade attack being embarrassed for his huge haul of European prisoners of war, releasing them from capture for a ransom. e.g. s Byzantine empress married and widower 3 times eventually marrying a nobleman who truly loved her only for him to suddenly die from a freak accident of stupidity by falling backwards off a ledge. Fascinating anecdotes litter the lectures. Highly recommend if you really want to get a decent handle on what the crusades were all about !

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  • Tad Davis
  • 31-08-2013

Fascinating background

Kenneth Harl’s series of lectures forms a good basic introduction to the Crusades. Seven of them are covered in detail, from the first, with Raymond of Toulouse and Bohemond of Sicily, through the seventh, with Louis IX of France leading a disastrous invasion of Egypt. The battles are described at a high level but with enough detail to be coherent.

But there's a great deal more in here than just the Crusades: as the title suggests, there's also quite a bit about the Era as well. One area where this is especially true is the coverage of Byzantium. Harl provides several lessons’ worth of the history of this eastern half of the Roman Empire and the leaders who pushed its boundaries even further east and north. There are times when he makes Constantinople sound like King’s Landing in The Game of Thrones. Basil the Bulgar-Slayer figures prominently in his account of Byzantine history.

There's also quite a bit about society and technology: the rise of the merchant class, the switch from “two-field” to “three-field” agriculture, the switch from “shell building” to “frame building” in the shipyards, and the development of armored warfare, giant battle horses, and regiments of archers.

Some things I expected to hear are skimmed over in Harl’s lectures. There wasn't much here about the “people’s crusade” and the slaughter of Jews that followed; nor much about the leaders of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. (I have to admit that much of my interest in this aspect of the story stems from the film The Kingdom of Heaven.)

But there's much here that's new and surprising and it's well worth the listen. Harl delivers his material with energy and enthusiasm. Unfortunately he sometimes slips into a “you’re not gonna believe THIS” tone, but mostly he's speaking clearly and engagingly about a subject in which he is obviously an expert - which of course is what you'd want from a Great Course.

I do wish the producers of the Great Courses would ditch the canned applause at the beginning and end of every lesson. The material IS good - we don't need an “applause track” to reinforce the point.

29 people found this helpful

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  • Mike
  • 26-05-2014

How the Crusades Changed Three Great Civilizations

Any additional comments?

This lecture series is an excellent overview of the crusades. The lecturer, Professor Kenneth W. Harl, is an excellent teacher and I can highly recommended anything produced by him. If you are a lover of history he offers traditional history teaching at its best.

This series covers the era of the crusades from their origins to the ending of the era of the "canonical" crusades after the 8th crusade of King Louis of France in North Africa. One strength of this lecture series is that the author does a great job looking at the crusades from the perspectives of all of the three great civilizations involved, Western Europe, the Byzantine (Or East Roman) Empire, and Islamic Civilization. This series gives you and incredible sense of how all three civilizations interacted during this era and were influenced and changed by the crusades.

I had a few small disappointments in this series. The author does a very thorough job covering the first four of the eight canonical crusades and their surrounding events. He only really gives an overview by comparison of the last four crusades. As far as other crusading movements, he does give some treatment on the "children's crusades" and the crusade against the Cathars/The Albigensian crusade in Southern France but other crusading events such as the Reconquista of Spain and the conquests of the Germanic peoples and Teutonic knights in Northeastern Europe are given very little if any real treatment. I also think he could have drawn out some of the longterm implications of the crusades a little better. So this series will not offer the comprehensive overview that some might want, but for anyone interested in the topic it will definitely offer an amazing supplement in helping you understand this era in world history. He pulls out details and sides to the topic that probably many other authors miss.

Overall I highly recommend this for anyone interested in the topic. Enjoy your travels in "outremer"!

5 people found this helpful

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  • Evangeline
  • 11-02-2016

Very detailed and informative

What made the experience of listening to The Era of the Crusades the most enjoyable?

I enjoyed how detailed and thorough the information was.

What did you like best about this story?

I truly had a complete understanding about the era as well as the Crusades.

What aspect of Professor Kenneth W. Harl’s performance would you have changed?

Uh I uh would uh have uh changed uh the way uh he uh presented uh the lecture.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

No, neither. But I was irritated because many times throughout when he came to an important point or fact he trailed off.

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  • Yasser
  • 03-05-2015

I wish he went into a little bit more details

I wish he went into a little bit more details about the battles that happened in the crusades but other than that it's a really great course full of information

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  • Scott Carter
  • 04-02-2015

Good content

A lot of "um" and "uh" could get a bit distracting. But the content was great and speaker was passionate.

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  • Marc
  • 14-11-2016

Erms, ers, ahhs and ems interrupted by content

Any additional comments?

This is the second course I could not make my way through thanks to the "presentation" of the professor. The constant "erms", "ers", "ah", "hmm", the repeated beginning of some sentence or thought, only to then correct what the narrator just said - or sometimes even forgetting what he did say, leaving contradicting statements hovering in the air - literally made me scream out: "GET TO THE POINT".
I managed about 50% of the course, then had to give up. Although I am quite familiar with the topic in general, I was hoping for some better knowledge about detail, political context and maybe even religious (historic) development. To some degree these points do shine through, so the course *IS* about what would have interested me. But the presentation is, in my eyes, highly unprofessional, unconcentrated and out-of-touch with the audience, even if that audience is invisible to the tutor.

I do understand that Mr Harl, as it is pointed out in the beginning of the recording, has achieved prices for "excellence of teaching". I am absolutely sure that he must have a great "life presence", because, for the life of me, his narration can not be the grounds on which the awards were given.

That said, I also have my problems with the content of this course. Just like with another subject I heard Mr Harl lecture about (Vikings), my impression was that he did not really *understand* what he was talking about, but put all his expertise on naming dozens, if not hundreds of characters, most of which had no relation to the topic he was just talking about (or at least he did not explain their importance for the respective detail). In a way, some parts of the course felt like:
"Mrs Adam, who was the daughter of Duke Dunctington, the brother in law of King Casimir, who was known to be the later grandfather of Sir Edward Binepass, and the brother, no, sister, actually the father of the son of Mrs Kunigunde Schwafasel, met Mr Betamax, the son of Charles the unimportant, and had nothing to say to him."

Thanks - but, no thanks. This course did NOT help me understanding the reasons, the contexts or the (long lasting) results of the crusades.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Andi Barnett
  • 29-05-2020

Great Information, Narration Needs Work

The professor is very knowledgeable and passionate about the subject. He has some pet words that really create distractions. I almost quit listening and asked to return it after the first lecture because he says "Ahhh, Uhmmm, Ah well" every few words which made it quite difficult to follow. However I really wanted to learn the information so I stuck with it and after lecture 6 I got used to it. He's such a well educated and intelligent man, but his need to fill silence keeps his oratory skills from reflecting confidence in his knowledge. It would be much better if he simply paused to gather his thoughts. I hope he practices and learns to do less "ahem, AhhAhh, uhmmm" because I'd really like to hear more of his courses spoken clearly.

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  • Carol
  • 04-12-2019

Well-written.

The information is interesting and concise. Text is well-written. This is somewhat overshadowed by the presenter's vocal tics (ah and um at every pause).

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  • David O'Donovan
  • 06-01-2019

Very learned but hard going

Prof Harl is very learned and knowledgeable but frankly I found this particular course a hard slog at times. Nonetheless it is jam packed with much information of the 10th-13th centuries of which I really had previously known very little. It is worth listening to if you have the stamina.

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  • James
  • 10-06-2018

Educational

I learned a great deal, but would have liked more information on the lives of commoners. His voice is not pleasant.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Omar Khan
  • 11-03-2018

Returned

i love the great courses stories but this one isn't that good. Bad pronunciations of cities and key people (for example nur ad din zanji) , but I can live with that, the main problem is that the story is told in a very scattered and incoherent way.

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  • c
  • 08-11-2017

could have been much better

spoken way too quickly with too much information to really absorb. could have been much better if it had slowed down a bit

1 person found this helpful

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  • Maskull
  • 21-07-2020

Wonderful

This is a masterpiece. It comprises so much more than the title implies. It is an insightful, eye-wateringly intelligent and profound study of three centuries of Western European and Near Eastern history told in an infectiously enthusiastic and vivid manner by a gentleman who is clearly a very gifted educator. It is phenomenal value for money.

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  • C. Caughey
  • 15-01-2020

Perfect!

My first Great Course. Real surprise by how much I enjoyed this. I am 66 now and dropped out of college without finishing my degree. I lead a very adventurous life. Now that I am in calm waters I spend most of my time in study . Kenneth W. Harl is excellent. Well done Sir!

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  • Mr
  • 23-05-2019

Outstanding

another tour de force from Professor Harl. Intelligent, comprehensive and comprehensible. I wish younger me could have spent a semester or two with him.

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  • Manish
  • 24-08-2018

The Crusades

Great set of lectures. The best part it puts the crusades in the context of European politics and Eastern events such as the Mongol Empire.

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  • Mr. Luke R. Hamill
  • 04-10-2016

Fascinating

Thoroughly recommend this to everyone interested in how we got to where we are today.

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  • Janne
  • 12-09-2016

The lecture format really works.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the lecture format really works as an audiobook. Especially when the content is good and the lecturer definitely knows what he's doing.

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  • mr
  • 12-12-2014

Okay, a little mediocre

Not a bad overview, I would had liked a lot more detail. As an introduction or as a refresher good, detailed analysis I personaly would look (and have bought how the crusades changed the world) else where. The crusades podcast is genuinely better for details and anecdotes,

1 person found this helpful

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