I received this advanced review copy from the promotional company working for the History Channel. I must admit that they sent me a very nice package and a bonus disk. This is an eight sided box, like a two pound box for candy - lovely print job. The two disks are contained in a book inside the box, along with a CD disk of photos - some from the production, others are historical pictures of either the key players or events/places. A very nice package, though it will not fit on your DVD shelf. Also, one of the pages in my book was stapled in upside down. Still, a nice presentation. Not sure if this product will be the same when released.
Apart from this, the work itself is very interesting. I sat through the entire production and was never bored or antsy. Actually, I found myself marveling at what the History Channel has done here.
The program covers the First Crusade on the first disk. There is an examination of the causes of the initial conflict, examining cultural issues, Religious issues, European social and political unrest, Church influences, financial issues and points of conflict in the Moslem and Byzantine world. While Religion is acknowledged as the primary cause of the conflict, they also do not ignore key issues that lead to these conflicts. There is also discussion of Urban's "selling of the Crusades". Very well put together and an in depth examination of the events leading up to the First Crusade.
Included also are maps of the areas, modern day images of the cities today as well as places that have survived, and those that have not.
There is a lot of information to sift through here. While the story is carefully laid out and well developed in order of events, the program purposefully comes across as a story woven by an expert story teller. Even the added discussions by such noted scholars as Dr. Thomas Asbridge, Tariq Ali, Prof. John France and Dr. Taef el-Azhari, to name a few, comes across as additional parts of the storytelling.
There are the usual added "tidbits" thrown in by the History Channel, like uncovered bits of text to give clarification to some accounts and the discovery of a location of a famous battle that up to now had been unknown.
Emphasis appears to be on key battles, as these are reenacted for the viewer. These are provided by Lion Television, and are nice additions to the material. They keep the viewer interested as this material could get rather dry if not for points of interest like this.
The second disk covers the Second and Third Crusades. Again, social and political climates are discussed and examined. Again, the story is covered in a "timeline" of events from the vantage point of the chroniclers.
We are presented with the fall of Edessa, the calling of the Second Crusade, the rise of Nur-el-Din, the battle for Damascus, Egypt and Sal-al-Din and the arrival of Richard the Lionheart in the Holy Land for the Third Crusade.
Again, key battles are reenacted, strategies discussed, failures noted and by the end of the film we are looking at a very good wrap up of the entire program.
Conflict, social upheaval, cultural differences, battle strategies, religious zealots and the lust for war and violence all comes through as the story of the Crusades unfolds in this production. We see the heroes, and the vile nature of the event itself. Nothing is left glossed over. There is some romanticism here, as the chroniclers tended to be very bias towards their benefactors, but on the other hand, we also see the social and political issues that were key to the events that took place. And while not shown, there is discussion of the atrocities and barbarism that was prevalent during these events.
This is a good overview of the events that took place starting 1099 and which continued for about 200 years. There are some events that are more examined than others, and some key figures that are discussed in some detail. It was, however, very entertaining, factual and well worth, I felt, the time I spent watching it. medievalcrusadesbabe