With all the waffle going on in America these days about politics, religion, and warfare, it’s refreshing to see the BBC take a new look at the mediaeval crusades themselves. The new series, presented by Dr. Thomas Asbridge, fills the gap in the history of Christianity left by Diarmaid MacCullogh’s magisterial 6 episode program A History of Christianity first broadcast in 2009.
That alone is enough to endear it to mediaevalists, although the program does have its shortcomings. It skimps on the involvement on Byzantium in the First Crusade, for example, and prefers readily attributable sources to those that are equally contemporary, if anonymous. Perhaps most disappointingly from my perspective, however, the program completely ignores the alleged appearance of the saints George, Demetrius, and Mercurius at the crucial battle of Antioch.
Non-mediaevalists, however, won’t notice the omissions–nor should they. As a piece of television that confronts, and seeks to understand, such a notorious episode in mediaeval history, The Crusades deserves to be enjoyed, discussed, and (ever so gently) critiqued.