“As I write these words, it is nearly time to light the lamps; my pen moves slowly over the paper and I feel myself almost too drowsy to write as the words escape me. I have to use foreign names and I am compelled to describe in detail a mass of events which occurred in rapid succession; the result is that the main body of the history and the continuous narrative are bound to become disjointed because of interruptions. Ah well, “’tis no cause for anger” to those at least who read my work with good will. Let us go on.”
Anna Comnena, Alexiad 13.6, trans. by E.R.A. Sewter
Provided here are the responses of 34 medieval historians who were asked to provide a list of the top ten “most important” books on the crusades. Many of them are leading scholars in the field. Hopefully, it will be a useful resource for both students and interested readers. For more information, please see the Crusade Book List Project and to see each historian’s list click on their name below (or you can scroll and browse through them below). Please hit the back button to return to the contributor’s list. Also, check back in the future for additional contributions that will be added over time. This will be an ongoing project.
Because some level of merit historically had been attached to Christian warfare under limited and less defined circumstances, it was not particularly hard for clerical promoters of the First Crusade to convince Christian knights that fighting in defense of fellow Christians on God’s behalf was a virtuous act. Indeed, as Riley-Smith has demonstrated, the charters of knights participating in the First Crusade sometimes explicitly referenced the desire to aid eastern Christians suffering under Islamic rule as one of their motivations for participating. A charter of two brothers, for example, written shortly before they embarked on the First Crusade, notes that they were going on the crusade, in part, “…to wipe out the defilement of the pagans and the immoderate madness through which innumerable Christians have already been oppressed, made captive and killed with barbaric fury.” In this case, Muslims were depicted as barbarians without reason and self control, dominated by rage, which of course was in contrast to what clerics were now asking knights to do, namely refrain from indiscriminate violence as they put their military skills to use in defense of fellow Christians. Continue reading →
I first met Professor Paul Jentz at the World History Association annual conference in Savannah, Georgia in 2015. Alfred J. Andrea and I were serving as co-series editors of the newly formed Myths of History Series for Hackett Publishing, and Al wanted us to meet as he had been very impressed with Paul in his previous dealings through the WHA and elsewhere. Paul had a unique charm and cerebral wittiness that made him every bit as likable as Al had suggested. More significantly, he understood and appreciated the goals of the Myths of History Series well, which focuses on producing works that dispel popular historical myths and are geared toward use in the college or university classroom.
After meeting and speaking with Paul in Savannah, we came away very impressed and, after some follow up emails, Paul submitted a book proposal that resulted in a book contract. Later in the process, as Paul began to submit chapters, we were especially happy with the quality and clarity of Paul’s writing. Indeed, as I read through the rough drafts of various chapters, I was, at times, finding myself dispelled of myths about Native American history that I had previously embraced on some level. Our appreciation for Paul’s work was confirmed when Hackett sent the manuscript to important outside readers, including Colin G. Calloway at Dartmouth College and Andrae Marak at Governors State University, who noted the following: Continue reading →
Alfred J. Andrea and I (as series editors) encourage any teaching historians who have an idea for a new book in the series to contact us to discuss it. Please email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Hackett Publishing.
Alan V. Murray on Seven Myths of the Crusades
“There has long been a great need for a book like this one, and it deserves a wide dissemination among the interested reading public and journalists as well as students and professional historians….anyone intending to make judgmental pronouncements on the aims and character of crusading would do well to read it and reflect carefully before rushing into print.”
—Alan V. Murray, University of Leeds
Here is a brief clip (5:50) from my longer interview with Dr. David Sheffler that considers public engagement and commentary as a historian. It explains how I began to provide public commentary and the reason I began blogging. It also considers how social media is influencing the way many people view the past.
The following five and a half minute clip is part of a longer interview I did with Dr. David Sheffler, Chair of the History Department at the University of North Florida. In this clip we discuss the excellent history program at UNF (which offers both Bachelors and Masters degrees in history ) and how well it prepared me for my later doctoral studies at the University of Florida.
I genuinely think that UNF’s history program offers a wonderful opportunity for students to study the past in an environment that both demands rigor and gives one the opportunity to interact with extraordinarily well qualified professors and historians. This clip briefly considers study abroad opportunities, preparation for doctoral programs, graduate teaching assistantships, and the educational background and qualifications of the professors.
The department is a real gem for those interested in studying history in north Florida.
On the inside of the dustcover of his mammoth 768-page biography of the famed British historian Sir Steven Runciman, author Minoo Dinshaw notes:
“In his enormously long life, Steven Runciman managed not just to be a great historian of the Crusades and Byzantium, but Grand Orator of the Orthodox Church, a member of the Order of the Whirling Dervishes, [and] Greek Astronomer Royal and Laird of Eigg. His friendships, curiosities and intrigues entangled him in a huge array of different artistic movements, civil wars, Cold War betrayals and, above all, the rediscovery of the history of the Eastern Mediterranean. He was as happy living in a remote part of the Inner Hebrides as in the heart of Istanbul. He was obsessed with historical truth, but also with tarot, second sight, ghosts, and the uncanny.”