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Historians Rank the “Most Important” Books on the Crusades

 

“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.

See also: 15 “Most Important” Books on the Crusades

See also: The Most Influential Crusade Historians

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Guest Essay: A Colony by Any Other Name: The Latin States of Syria-Palestine

Above Image: Historian Alfred J. Andrea walking along the famous markets at Portobello Road in London.

The following essay is the text, slightly revised, of a brief talk given by historian Alfred J. Andrea at the International Medieval Congress at Leeds, U.K., on July 3rd, 2019. Dr. Andrea, Professor Emeritus of the University of Vermont and former President of the World History Association, gave these introductory comments as part of a panel considering crusade myths that also included historians Natasha R. Hodgson, Alan V. Murray, and Aphrodite Papayianni. Here Dr. Andrea provides a nuanced reassessment of the issues of colonialism and crusading. In keeping with current scholarly views of the crusades, Dr. Andrea agrees that comparisons of the crusader states with modern 19th and 20th century western colonial models are wrong. Yet, as a world historian, Dr. Andrea also points out that historically there have been many forms of colonialization worldwide.

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A Colony by Any Other Name: The Latin States of Syria-Palestine

Guest Essay by Alfred J. Andrea

Joshua Prawer famously argued in his 1972 study of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem that the economies, societies, and institutions of the states of the Latin East, and predominantly those of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, are understandable only if one realizes that they were colonies of Western Europe and especially so of Franco-Europe.[1] He further maintained that it was only with the crusades that colonialism became a major factor in world history, and in that sense  “the Crusader kingdom” was the first European colonial society.

Leaving aside for the moment Prawer’s argument that the states of the Latin East were Western Europe’s initial venture into global colonialism, the fact is that the states of the Latin East are viewed in the popular imagination as examples of early Western colonialism. In the words of Karen Armstrong, whose best-selling books have misguided many who seek to understand the crusades, “These soldiers of Christ established European colonies in the Middle East and began to dream of world domination.”[2]

In reaction to similar popular, often overstated and erroneously envisioned notions of crusader colonialism—a colonialism misrepresented in numerous media, including such films as The Kingdom of Heaven (2005)[3]—a significant number of eminent scholars have derided the very idea of a colonial Latin East as unadulterated myth.[4]  Thomas Madden, for example, referring to the four states that comprised the Latin East, argues that: Continue reading

“Effeminate Greeks” in the Crusading Era

Editor’s note: The following essay is reprinted from The World of the Crusades: A Daily Life Encyclopedia by Andrew Holt. Copyright © 2019 by ABC-CLIO, LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission of ABC-CLIO, LLC, Santa Barbara, CA. (Ordering information provided below).

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Effeminate Greeks

Antagonism between Greek- and Latin-speaking peoples can be traced back well before the Middle Ages, but historians have highlighted how the crusading era witnessed a significant deterioration in relations between the two, as best reflected in the often-hostile views between Eastern Byzantine Christians and Latin Christians from western Europe. While each side envisioned the other through stereotypes that were meant to diminish the other side culturally, one of the more curious charges made by Latin Christian authors against the Byzantines was that of the “effeminate Greek.” Continue reading

Archaeology and Modern Scholarship on the Crusades: An Interview with Dr. Adrian J. Boas

As president of the Society for the Study of the Crusades in the Latin East, the most influential and authoritative scholarly organization devoted to the study of medieval crusading, Israeli archaeologist Adrian J. Boas is at the forefront of efforts to promote better understandings of the crusading movement among both scholars and the public. He is an ideal leader for such an organization, as not only is he a leading scholar of the crusades, widely respected by other scholars, but he is also an excellent ambassador for the field, as he is accessible and active as a public scholar through his many invited lectures or participation in international conferences as well as through his highly regarded blog and social media presence. Continue reading

Death Estimates for the Crusades

*See also- Modern Scholars on the Casualty Rates for Participants of the First Crusade

Provided below are various death estimates for the crusades to the east roughly covering the period from 1095 to 1291. The extreme range of figures, from one million to nine million, suggests the futility of trying to pin down such a figure with any precision. Modern historians of the crusades tend not to make or trust such estimates, as they are skeptical of the ability of anyone to count the deaths of participants over such long periods of time (nearly 200 years) with any precision and weary of the methodological problems this entails.[1] Nevertheless, such figures are often cited by the media or online and these are likely their sources (presented from lowest to highest). Continue reading

Counting “Religious Wars” in the Encyclopedia of Wars

Over the last few years I have noticed a relatively common online tactic in refuting the argument that “religion is the cause of most wars or violence” is to cite Charles Phillips and Alan Axelrod Encyclopedia of Wars, a monumental three volume encyclopedia of ancient, medieval, and modern wars published in 2005. Online, one will find memes like the one below, that shows only a relatively small number of the 1,763 wars cataloged by Phillips and Axelrod, 123 to be precise, were considered “religious wars.” Continue reading

More Myths of the Crusades: A Panel Discussion at Leeds in 2019.

I’d encourage any interested readers of this blog attending the International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds in the summer of 2019 to consider attending the following round table discussion sponsored by the Northern Network for the Study of the Crusades.

More Myths of the Crusades: A Follow up to Seven Myths of the Crusade – A Round Table Discussion

The panel includes a range of junior and senior scholars who, as a follow up to the 2015 book Seven Myths of the Crusades, will be considering additional crusade myths.

The panelists include:

Among the topics that will be considered are the following: Continue reading