Osprey Publications produces history books covering a broad span of historical events in differing levels of depth; this is one of the books with depth and focus. It focuses on the Second Crusade (Hattin 1187), and examines it from a top-down, and a bottom-up point of view. This battle returned control of Jerusalem to the Muslims and sparked the Third Crusade (lead by Richard the Lionhearted).
The first part of the book discusses the opposing leaders and armies, the military plans and campaigns, and the after-effects of the battle. The second part of the book digs into the opposing armies themselves, from the level of the soldier-what he thought, why he fought, how he trained, what he wore for protection and carried for weaponry, how he fit into his culture and was regarded by it. Outside of this look from the soldier's point of view, the book does not go extensively into the culture, peoples, and religions of the time-the reader should bring that knowledge with him.
The brief conclusion of the book alludes to the effects of the Crusades evident in our day, but this is not the point of the book. A tripartite appendix gives further content regarding traveling to the site of the battle, the location of remaining artifacts or sites of departure for the European crusaders.
The book contains a good number of pictures of art, artifacts, and geography. The maps enliven the textual descriptions of terrain and campaigns. Several tables provide relevant timelines for the events of the Second Crusade, for the events of the Crusades in toto and for the world at large.
Any reader of this book should bring to it a broad picture of the history of the times, the overall history of the Crusades and the peoples and religions involved in them. As with any period of history, it is helpful to read books from more than one point of view, this is especially true of the period of the Crusades. Current scholarship is providing new insights into the Crusades; students who read their last history of the Crusades 30 years ago could benefit by a brush with current writings about this part of the story of Western civilization.
This book is appropriate for a college-age or adult history buff whom wants to dig deeper into the Second Crusade or into the mind and life of a soldier of the times. A high school student or advanced junior high student could use the book for reference, but probably not as a "required reading" text for this period of history. The writing itself is accessible to a good and willing reader of high-school age. The book is 208 pages long.