15 “Most Important” Books on the Crusades

The following list of books is based on a survey of 33 academic historians who were asked to provide an annotated list of what they saw as the ten “most important” books on the crusades. More information about the project can be seen here. Based on the same data, I also provide a ranking of the most influential historians based on how many mentions their books received from the historians, which can be viewed here.

It is interesting to note that while the lists of “most important” books and “most important” historians are very similar, there are some significant differences. The late Cambridge historian Jonathan Riley-Smith, for example, easily ranked first on the historians’ list because his various works had 31 mentions (more than twice as many mentions as the next historian on the list, Oxford scholar Christopher Tyerman with 14 mentions). Yet here Riley-Smith’s book The First Crusade and the Idea of Crusading is only tied for first place with Carol Hillenbrand’s classic work The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives. This is because several of Riley-Smith’s books were listed by the participating historians to reach his total of 31 mentions, but his most mentioned individual book received only 13 mentions. Hillenbrand only had 13 total mentions, but all of them were to the same book, thus her single work tied Riley-Smith’s most mentioned work.

*All books listed below are linked to their Amazon pages. If you study the crusades it would be useful to have these on your shelf.


1. Carol Hillenbrand, The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives (1999).

Jonathan Riley-Smith, The First Crusade and the Idea of Crusading (1986).

(Tie-13 mentions each)


2. Carl Erdmann, The Origin of the Idea of Crusade (1977)-Originally Die Enstehung des Kreuzzugsgedankens (1935).

Steven Runciman, A History of the Crusades. 3 vols. (1951-1954).

*Most historians who listed Runciman note that it was due to the popular influence of his work and not due to the quality of his scholarship, which many find problematic.

(Tie- 11 mentions each)


3. Jonathan Riley-Smith, The First Crusaders, 1095-1131 (1997).

R.C. Smail, Crusading Warfare 1097-1193 (1956, 2nd edition 1995).

Kenneth M. Setton, ed., A History of the Crusades, 2nd ed., 6 vols. (1969-89).

John France, Victory in the East: A Military History of the First Crusade (1994)

(Tie- 7 mentions each)


4. Norman Housley, The Later Crusades, 1274-1580: From Lyons to Alcazar (1992).

Christopher Tyerman, God’s War: A New History of the Crusades (2006).

(Tie- 6 mentions each)


5. Paul Alphandéry & Alphonse Dupront, La Chrétienté et l’idée de croisade (1954, 1959).

Benjamin Z. Kedar, Crusade and Mission: European Approaches towards the Muslims (1984).

Denys Pringle, The Churches of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem: A Corpus (1993- 2009).

Joshua Prawer, Histoire du Royaume Latin de Jérusalem (1969-71).

(Tie- 5 mentions each)


Honorable Mentions: The following books all received 4 mentions each.

Paul Cobb, The Race for Paradise: an Islamic History of the Crusades (2014).

Susan B. Edgington and Sarah Lambert, eds. Gendering the Crusades (2002).

Norman Housley, Contesting the Crusades (2006).

Christopher MacEvitt, The Crusades and the Christian World of the East: Rough Tolerance (2007).

Hans Eberhard Mayer ed. In collaboration with Jean Richard, Die Urkunden der lateinischen Könige von Jerusalem (2010).

Joseph Michaud, Histoire des croisades, 4 vol. (1862).

James M. Powell, Anatomy of a Crusade, 1213-1221 (1986).

Queller, Donald E., and Thomas F. Madden. The Fourth Crusade: The Conquest of Constantinople. 2d ed. (1997).

* As with the ranking of the historians, the overall ranking of individual books provided above is based on the opinions of 33 medieval historians who had submitted their lists as of October 21, 2017. In cases where historians submitted two lists, one for the impact of books on the field and another for personal impact (see Cecilia Gaposchkin’s contribution), I only included those considering the impact on the field. If someone submitted more than 10 choices (See Andrew D. Buck’s list), I only used the first 10 choices. If anyone notices any counting errors, please email me at aholt@fscj.edu to make me aware.