During the Middle Ages the titanic clash between the Christian and Muslim worlds that centred on Palestine and lasted for some 200 years was one of the most unforgettable episodes in western history. For the crusaders the prize was the possession of Jerusalem and the Holy Land, which for hundreds of years had shimmered in the minds of European Christians as the most sacred place on earth. For the Muslims, on the other hand, the crusaders were not only the infidel, but a coarse, violent brigade of invaders - undoubtedly courageous and virile - lacking the refinements of civilization. The Crusades captures the excitement and drama of the battles, sieges, gruelling marches and surprise ambushes. It unravels the webs of politics and ever-shifting alliances between the crusaders and Muslims; and it conjures up the heroes and villains, and what life was really like for the thousands of Franks for whom Outremer was not so much a foreign land as a home. With maps to pinpoint the routes and places and a back-section glossary of the leading personalities and a chronology of events, The Crusades is a one-volume guide to the wars that became a legend.