Chronicles of the Crusades

by Margaret R. B. Shaw (Translator)

Other authorsGeoffroi de Villehardouin (Author), sire de Jean Joinville (Author)
Hardcover, 1985




New York : Dorset Press, 1985.


The individual narratives brought together here reveal insight into the two hundred year struggle for possession of Jerusalem, in the words of two soldiers who participated first-hand in the bloody campaigns. Geffroy de Villehardouin (1150-1212?) was an appointed marshal of Champagne, France, whose "Conquest of Constantinople" recounts the controversial Fourth Crusade of 1204, against Eastern Christians in the Latin empire of Constantinople. Jean de Joinville (1224-1317) inherited the office of seneschal of Champagne at a young age, and wrote "Life of Saint Louis" after having accompanied King Louis IX on his first crusade and later living as a friend in his court. These accounts, originally composed in Old French, are considered to be some of the most accurate portrayals of the Crusades, and give fascinating insight into the religious and political fervor that sparked centuries of brutal battles and the struggle for holy conquest. -- P. 4 of cover.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member mattries37315
Originally I skimmed through this book almost a decade ago in preparation for my Senior History Oral Exam and only focused on the overall theme questions listed in my study guide at the time. However this past week while actually reading Chronicles of the Crusades and found thanks to the excellent translation, a easy read and very informative on its subject matters. Of the two chroniclers, I found Jean de Joinville the easier to read because of his style of writing. Most likely the spread and evolution of romantic literature influenced Joinville's style of being more down-to-earth and slightly easier to read when compared to Geoffrey of Villehardouin, who was more matter-of-fact and somewhat "stiff." However, just because Geoffrey's style is a little "stiffer" doesn't mean it's not easy to read nor informative about the establish and early years of the Latin Empire of Constantinople. If you're interested about first-hand accounts of the Crusades, specifically the 4th and 7th, this is the book for you.… (more)
LibraryThing member DinadansFriend
This book covers three crusades. The first is the Fourth, the one that sacked two Christian cities, one the capital of The Roman empire, and where the Author came away with a reward. The second half of the book is a biography of Louis I
X of France, and covers his two crusades, which were not great successes. The books were written in the 1200's and the translation is quite readable. Read twice.… (more)
LibraryThing member dylkit
I much preferred Joinville's warmly human account to Villehardouin's war-correspondent style. Though I can see how he would not be everyone's cup of tea - he wanders off the thread of his story at times and there is some repetition. Those interested in the details of military maneuvers and diplomatic wrangling would most likely prefer Villehardouin.

I developed a soft spot for Joinville reading the book's introduction - the translator writes that both accounts were most likely dictated as reading or writing was not considered necessary to a knight's education. It is not known if Villehardouin could write, but "three short documents in a childish scrawl, with the statement 'this was written by me'.. attest Joinville's pride in a rare achievement."

Joinville is interested in everything - there is a lovely description of a fossil. He is clearly devoted to Louis IX, the king who would later be canonised, but is not afraid to disagree with him at times. He disapproves of the king's emotional neglect of his wife and children.(Sadly, the queen can never take comfort in the platitude "he's no saint but...") Joinville also convinces the king to prolong his stay instead of returning to France as he is worried about those who will be left behind, unable to afford to get back to France. There is a touching scene where Joinville leans with his arms through a grating, anxiously waiting for the king to make a decision. Examples given to emphasise the king's piety may seem a bit odd to modern sensibilities - a man who murders three robbers in a vigilante attack is given a place in the king's retinue (he's a good shot..) while someone caught swearing is subjected to facial mutilation. Much as this is a hagiography, the king comes across as a bit of a ninny - he is rather easily influenced, and finally fatally conned into going off on a last crusade by his brother(Joinville wisely stayed home for that one).
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LibraryThing member Lukerik
De Villehardouin's work is a shocking record of the incompetently prosecuted fourth crusade. The planning is virtually non-existent, the leadership is distinctly lacking, the aims of the expedition are unclear and they end up invading another Christian nation and directly causing the death of thousands of innocent civilians. You really feel for the poor Greeks. De Villehardouin keeps criticising people who either abandon the crusade or fail to turn up. Obviously they saw there were problems from the start. The author appears to be oblivious as to how much he's actually revealing. The unlikely hero of the piece turns out to be King Johanitza, who, despite his penchant for flaying prisoners alive, has the sole virtue of waging war competently.

De Joinville's work claims to be a biography of Louis IX and it is bracketed with a bit about him, but what this really is is de Joinville's memoirs of the seventh crusade. There's a clear narrative with some well realised battle scenes. Thoroughly enjoyable and a great window into the Medieval mind. Misguided as de Joinville may be you can't help feeling for him.
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LibraryThing member janerawoof
Eyewitness account of the 4th Crusade by French nobleman Geoffrey de Villehardouin, Marshal of Champagne and Roumania [Byzantine Empire]. He was one of the major players in those events. His account begins in the late 1100s with the call to Crusade, taking us through the Sack of Constantinople, and through later ineptly fought battles and skirmishes involving other cities in that area, ending in 1207. His opponents were Greeks and the Wallachian king, Johannitza--not Saracens. It ended abruptly with the death of Marquis Boniface of Montferrat.

He seemed completely honest [by his lights] and leaves us a logical, reasonable recitation of the facts. He did no bragging about himself; in fact he wrote about himself in 3rd person and gave no more importance to himself than to anyone else. It was interesting to read an account by a crusader who thought it perfectly acceptable to turn on another Christian city so violently. Most discussions of the 4th Crusade bring out how horrible and unfair it was. Style was simple but somewhat stilted. The repetitious vocabulary could have been the fault of the particular translation. But the text was limpid and flowed along. It lacked any descriptive flourishes and bored me with interminable names of the noblemen and their titles. Three Byzantine emperors named Alexius confused me; it took me awhile to figure out exactly who he was writing about any time Alexius was mentioned. This is a valuable primary source on this historical period. It is not meant for entertainment or enjoyment.
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