Historical Dictionary of the Crusades

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Historical Dictionary of the Crusades. By Corliss K. Slack. [Historical Dictionaries of War, Revolution, and Civil Unrest, No. 25.] (Lanham, Maryland, and Oxford: The Scarecrow Press. 2003. Pp. xxiv, 273. $65.00.)

This volume joins a crowded field of new reference books on the crusades, most notably Alfred J. Andrea's excellent Encyclopedia of the Crusades (Greenwood, 2003) and the multi-volume Encyclopedia of the Crusades edited by Alan Murray and forthcoming from ABC-Clio. The present dictionary has the advantage of being concise and appears to be pitched at an undergraduate audience. It has other strengths as well. There are good entries on many primary sources for the crusades as well as on the military technology and strategies used during the campaigns. Yet elsewhere it does not seem as well grounded in recent crusade scholarship. This is particularly true when it comes to the purpose of the crusades and the motivations of the crusaders. Historians like Jonathan Riley-Smith and Giles Constable have shown us the enormous importance of medieval religious piety for understanding the movement. Yet there is none of that here. Instead, right from the preface the crusades are portrayed as "a contest for economic and military supremacy that was often expressed in religious terminology" (p. xii). Why it should be expressed in that way is not made clear. Nor is it explained why one would want artificially to strip religion out of the intensely religious exercise of crusading. Be that as it may, this statement and others like it ignore decades of modern crusade historiography.

Equally surprising is the focus here on the "traditional" crusades-those major campaigns aimed at the conquest or defense of Jerusalem between 1095 and 1291. …