Reconquest and Crusade in Medieval Spain by Joseph F. O’Callaghan

I’m fairly well-versed on the Crusades. The thing is, most volumes on that era don’t cover the Spanish side of the story because the Reconquista begins centuries before the Crusades “officially” begin. This book seemed to be the perfect companion to fill in that gap.

And it might be… once I get another book to tell me who’s who and explain why they’re important. I also apparently need to find an historical map to keep up with where these unknown characters travel. The author is a noted historian and has written several books on this topic, which was part of the appeal for me. But he’s apparently forgotten that overviews are supposed to be introductions. Instead of a narrative history with people at the center of causes and effects, this book is that dreaded textbook of names and dates that mean nothing if you don’t already have that information in hand.

Based on what little I could follow (because I know something about El Cid… thank you, Charleton Heston), this book isn’t designed for the audio format at all. It pretty much demands that you at least have your Wiki-scholar skills and Google Fu well-honed. But if I wanted to go that route, I wouldn’t have picked up this book.

The narrator is clear enough, which is good when dealing with rapid-fire onslaughts of foreign names, but he butchers some of the French names and reads a bit mechanically for my tastes.

All in all, not exactly the best possible combination for a book like this.  I may reassess this one down the road, after I come to learn more about Spanish history, especially the events before and during the Reconquista.  Maybe then I’ll be ready for this book.  For now… perhaps it’s my own fault that it’s over my head.  Then again, maybe it’s just written to impress the author’s colleagues.  Either way, it didn’t work for me.

2 stars

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