Fighting for the Cross

Crusading to the Holy Land

Norman Housley

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In a series of massive military undertakings that stretched from 1095 to 1291, Christendom’s armies won, defended, and lost the sacred sites of the Holy Land. Many books have been written about the Crusades, but until now none has described in detail what is was like to take part in medieval Europe’s most ambitious wars. This vividly written book draws on extensive research and on a wealth of surviving contemporary accounts to recreate the full experience of crusading, from the elation of taking up the cross to the difficult adjustments at home when the war was over.


Distinguished historian Norman Housley explores the staggering logistical challenges of raising, equipping, and transporting thousands of Christian combatants from Europe to the East as well as the complications that non-combatant pilgrims presented. He describes the ordinary crusader’s prolonged years of difficult military tasks, risk of starvation and disease, trial of religious faith, death of friends, and the specter of heavy debt or stolen homelands upon arriving home. Creating an unprecedented sense of immediacy, Housley brings to light the extent of crusaders’ sacrifices and the religious commitment that enabled them to endure.

Norman Housley is professor of history and Head of the School of Historical Studies, University of Leicester. He is a world authority on the Middle Ages and on the Crusades in particular. He lives in Leicester, UK.

"Housley's refreshing approach provides a level of interest, originality and sophistication way above the vast majority of narrative texts. This accessible and fluently written book gives a real insight into the complex and often contradictory emotions and processes of crusading; he conveys a sense of journey that pulls the reader along to great effect."—Jonathan Phillips, Royal Holloway, University of London, author of The Second Crusade

"Exaltation, depression, victory and defeat, Housley's Fighting for the Cross vividly portrays the whole experience of crusading to Jerusalem." - John France, University of Swansea

"Drawing on the fruits of over thirty years' study of the crusades, Norman Housley offers a vivid and credible reconstruction of the changing experiences and perceptions of crusaders and their families over more than two centuries of endeavour." - Malcolm Barber, University of Reading

"This imaginative thematic treatment draws on all the crusades to portray them coherently as a centuries-long institution of 'armed pilgrimage,' with its own religious ideology, economic imperatives, social dynamics and folkways. . . . This rich, multifaceted study imparts a deeper understanding of why and how medieval Christendom went to war."—Publishers Weekly

"Accessible to a general audience. . . . A study that succeeds in providing us with a better understanding of what the experience of crusading entailed."—Vincent Ryan, America

“… a generation of British, American and Israeli historians have taken over a subject [Medieval studies] that was once the preserve of French writers, and transformed it. One of these historians is Norman Housley … [He] makes skilful use of all [his] material. His main point … is made with verve and learning … [an] excellent book.”


Jonathan Sumption, Literary Review, February 2009

“Norman Housley … sweeps aside old conceptions and modern hesitations to show us historical realities. With ample erudition and an equally welcome light touch, he tells, as never before, what crusading was like … With an eye for the odd striking human detail, Housley makes good use of a great body of source material … and there is a good and generous selection of coloured and black-and-white illustrations … [Fighting for the Cross] will appeal equally to historians and those who visit the Holy Land, whether on tour or in spirit.” - Christopher Smith, Methodist Recorder

"In a clear, sober, yet empathetic manner Housley illuminates the experience of the medieval crusader. It is a beautifully written and exhaustively researched work."—Thomas F. Madden, American Historical Review

"What is especially welcome in Housley's presentation of medieval crusading is how he criticizes the all too common misconceptions on this subject. "Not much could be further from the truth," he declares, "than the idea that crusade preaching exemplified the power that was wielded by the medieval Church." Rather, the impulse for each crusade came as much from below as from above, and as much from the faith of the laity as from the persuasion of the clergy. Only, once the crusade was underway, it soon got out of hand, owing to the many unforeseen difficulties encountered by the crusaders."—Peter Milward S.J., Religion and the Arts

‘Housley writes beautifully; he effortlessly commands both primary and secondary literature; and he drizzles the text with evocative details…Fighting for the Cross is a highly enjoyable, stimulating, and informative read for scholars and students of the crusades.' — Hussein Anwar Fancy, Journal of Comparative Studies in Society & History Vol 52/1, 2010

"Housley fully explores an area rarely covered at great length—what it meant to take the cross and go on crusade—in a thorough and engaging way. . . . Highly recommended." —M. M. Johnson, Choice

“Distinctive and compellingly contemporary . . . fascinating.”

—Timothy Renick, Christian Century

"Housley demonstrates an effortless familiarity with a wide variety of primary sources, iconography, and secondary literature. . . . It essentially represents the state of crusade studies in the twenty-first century. . . . Fighting for the Cross will both inform and entertain students and the general public. At the same time the work is deeply grounded in the source material and current secondary literature about crusading. The fact that it covers so many topics concisely, but well, is what makes the book particularly valuable."--Laurence W. Marvin, Canadian Journal of History

". . . it does a fantastic job of drawing readers into the medieval world and describing the crusades in light of that world. . . . for anyone seeking to understand the events and ethos of the crusading enterprise in the Holy Land, Fighting for the Cross is highly recommended."—Adam S. Francisco, Concordia Theological Quarterly
ISBN: 9780300118889
Publication Date: November 11, 2008
376 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
40 b/w + 20 color illus,