Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Terry Jones, Anthony Smee, Steve Purbrick, Marcello Marascalchi, Robin Sebastian
Directors: Alan Ereira, David Wallace
Genres: Television, Educational, Documentary, Military & War
One of historys most epic adventures the crusades began as a holy mission to liberate jerusalem and became the largest mass migration in european history. When they ended 200 years later the crusades had created a mytholog... more »
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Politically correct, funny, and informative.
Sergio Flores | Orange, CA United States | 09/02/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This documentary is so funny, it is almost cruel. After all, the Crusades were very serious affairs (God, country, heathens, invasions, and so on), so what is Terry Jones of "Monty Python" fame doing here, leading the new barbarians of the West in a Quest for the Greater Glory of God and a little bit of plunder? Well, he, and the whole BBC-A&E production team, are taking us to a journey Eastward, retracing the steps of the medieval pilgrim-soldiers, ignorant peasants and nobles alike who invaded Levant because they were religious zealots, greedy, and unscrupulous. Does this sound a bit one-sided? It is, and that is the only problem with this very entertaining and educational documentary: in their attempt to be fair to the Arab/Moslem side, the producers have ended up taking sides, which is not very susprising since the historical bulk comes from the late Sir Steven Runciman, one of the most respected and most widely read historians of the Crusades, whose bias against the "Franks" and for the Byzantines, is evident once one reads his great "History of the Crusades." Jonathan Riley-Smith attempts to balance the story with his commentaries, and it is no secret that his sympathies are with the Crusaders, but the program is structured in such a way that not even Riley-Smith's input saves it from being tilted. Terry Jones is simply outstanding with his British (Welsh) accent and deadpan humor as the perfect guide in this tour.
The Crusades were far more complicated than the simplistic Bad Guys (ignorant Europeans/Christians) against the Good Guys (enlightened Arabs/Moslems) picture would make us believe. Historical perspective helps us see the Crusades as a chapter in the (sometimes quite deadly) embrace of two world religions. Long periods of peace are punctuated by terrible periods of war and invasion. The Moslems got the ball rolling when they invaded the Christian lands of North Africa, Spain, and the Bizantine Empire. It took a while for the Christians to counterattack (just as it took a --shorter-- while for the Moslems to react to the Crusaders). When the Christians finally went on the offensive, their timing was not the best, and their choice of tactics was very questionable. Christendom was extremely intolerant back then, so everybody who was not a Christian, and many who were the "wrong" kind of Christian, were immediately suspect and dealt with mercilessly. What the program fails to mention is that Europe always had voices of dissent, and not all Crusaders were murdering barbarians, as not all Popes were conniving greedy zealots. The program also fails to provide the true historical setting of the Crusades: after the Crusaders were defeated, the Moslem world advanced into Europe from the East and South, and it remained in Western Europe (Iberian Peninsula) until the late 15th century. It was not until the late 17th century that the Ottoman Turks retreated from the siege of Vienna. The Crusades were a chapter in this stormy relationship of European Christianity and Islam. The producers of the documentary would have served their viewers better by being less politically correct. The slef-flagellation is appropiate and even funny in the hands of Terry Jones, but sometimes too much of a good thing is just too much.
Still, "Crusades" is an excellent program, mostly because I am sure it will interest people who otherwise would have never bothered with medieval history or the Crusades in particular. This documentary is the perfect place to start a healthy interest in history. I also recommend (in book format) Steven Runciman's "History of the Crusades" 3 volumes (try to get the Folio Society Edition: the prints are in color and the binding is superb); "The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades," and "The Atlas of the Crusades," both edited by Riley-Smith; "The Cross and the Crescent," by Malcolm Billings; "The Dream and the Tomb," by Robert Payne; "The Oxford Illustrated History of Medieval Europe," edited by George Holmes; and "The Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages," edited by Norman F. Cantor. For an interesting thesis that I find flawed, check Karen Armstrong's "Holy War." For a magnificent history of Islam, nothing better than "Islam: Art and Architecture," edited by Hattstein and Delius. And anything written by Professor Bernard Lewis on Islam, the Arabs, the Turks, the Jews, or the Middle East in general, is uniformly good."
Narrowly focused but still pretty good
Center Man | Norwich, CT United States | 02/24/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
""Crusades" does the basics well, better than most other television programs, while garnishing the outline with little, fascinating details. Still, you'll have to go to the library for a wider perspective. For starters, this series is top heavy; the first two episodes cover the First Crusade, the third races through the Second Crusade to get to Richard and Saladin, and the final episode concerns itself mainly with the Fourth Crusade, leaving the final 100 years of the Kingdom Acre 15-20 minutes of time. Jones approaches his subject from what might be called a neo-European perspective, looking at the era mostly as two centuries of western interference in the Middle East. That's not necessarily a bad thing: in fact, it's perfect when Jones details Crusader horrors, giving them an immediate, in-our-streets quality. But the approach loses its footing when Jones explains the ambitions, the background and the people of the wars.This leads to a few minor but irritating lapses. Jones sees the pope's political ambition as the sole spark of the First Crusade; you'd never know Christians and Muslims had fought each other in Spain for nearly 400 years by 1095. A statement by Saladin that his people had always been in possession of Palestine goes unchallenged (it's not like Jews lived there for 5,000 years or anything). The biggest sins are errors of ommission. There's virtually nothing about the internal government of the Crusader states, the feudalization of Palestine or the fact they actually got along with their Muslim neighbors when their French and German brethren weren't leading cavalry charges across the sands. Worse, the Byzantine Empire is used solely to bookend the first and fourth crusades. The Emperor Manuel breathed new life into the Kingdom Jerusalem with his diplomacy and warfare in the 1160s, and hastened its collapse with his overreach in the 1170s. None of this warrants comment.That's ultimately the weakness of this series -- the history mostly serves Jones' hypothesis that Christian extremism created Muslim extremism, a reasonable if simplistic conclusion from the era. It's more a failing of the medium, though; 200 minutes isn't nearly enough time for a subject like this. A thorough exploration would require a multi-hour, Ken Burns timeframe. But "Crusades" is visually inventive, and Jones is a cheerful and well-informed host who smartly uses the landscape and architecture of the Middle East to make his points. As a primer, it works."
DVD Quality ?
History Buff | Aalst, Oost-Vl Belgium | 05/27/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"For those who wish to buy this dvd-box ,
don't expect superior picture and sound quality because it looks like they have been copied from the VHS-tapes.
You can clearly see the overal vagueness and in the darker scenes where dvd's usually shine brighter than tapes ,you've got no improvement at all.
Also , u have to turn the sound up quite a bit to understand anything that is said and even then it's not great.
The only plus points to buying the dvd are the navigation menu ,less space than the tapes and no tape wear ,no rewinds."
A Very Different Look at the Crusades
medievalcrusadesbabe | Ohio USA | 02/04/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This book is the companion to the very popular A&E TV special that ran back in 1995.
Terry Jones, to his credit, has several books, including "Chaucer's Knight: The Portrait of a Medieval Mercenary" and some children's books. His television work also includes "The Complete and Utter History of Britain". Alan Ereira is a producer of many historical documentaries for the BBC.
Terry Jones is probably best known for his work with "Monty Python" but this work, while sometimes humorous, is not "Monty Python and the Holy Grail".
Terry Jones presents us with the book companion to an A&E documentary on the Crusades (DVD available) that covered the time period from the First Crusade (1099 CE) to it's final ending at the fall of Acre to the Mameluk's in 1291 CE.
Terry Jones tongue in cheek style of presenting the history dominates both the DVD and the book. No one is left unscathed, Crusaders or Moslems. Terry Jones points out the obvious wanton waste of lives, the continued stupidity of historians to paint a gilded picture of the Crusaders and their cause, and brings to light some very good historical references. He also, unfortunately, got a few "tiny bits" wrong. But for the most part, it is historically accurate.
Terry Jones is an entertainer, and because of this, the DVD tends to be more of a theatrical production than the book. The book, however, is a very valuable reference for those interested in the Crusades. Again, while being entertaining, it takes what has been dealt with in other works as very cut and dry and makes it a very interesting read. The book is chock full of pictures from manuscripts and photos of places that are important to the history. Also included are some maps to help you track the progress.
The book is well written, following a chronological history of the Crusaders through the Holy Land. It is easy to follow, it is interesting in its content, and does not fail to hold the attention of the reader. There are many "gee, I didn't know that" moments. There are also Terry Jones' biting satirical remarks. The approach is from a historical and not a Christian viewpoint, while still maintaining the fervor and the cause for event. The Moslems are treated with respect when they deserve it, and the Christians are called upon to answer for some of their deeds. This is what made the DVD and the book different; we see things from the viewpoint of someone who challenges us not to look at the Crusades as a respected institution.
The book includes the battle, the intrigues, all the court dramas and interesting "side line" notes. It does not wash over the blood and guts of the Crusades. Yet, Terry Jones manages to approach this all with intelligence and common sense.
Depending on your own personal view of the Crusades, this book can be beneficial in opening up a whole new look at the Crusades. I would recommend it for college level students and over who will find it a very interesting read, challenging some of the more accepted renderings of the Crusade story. And if you can find a copy of the DVD to go along with it, give that a watch, as it provides you with Terry himself relating the story which is as entertaining as it is thought provoking. Medievalcrusadesbabe"