“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.
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.”
The following list of books is based on a survey of 33 academic historians who were asked to provide an annotated list of what they saw as the ten “most important” books on the crusades. More information about the project can be seen here. Based on the same data, I also provide a ranking of the most influential historians based on how many mentions their books received from the historians, which can be viewed here. Continue reading →
As a medievalist, I have long been familiar with the excellent reputation of the eminent scholar Jane Chance, the Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Professor Emerita in English at Rice University and a recipient of an honorary doctorate of letters from Purdue University in 2013. Although I am a historian and her work is in the discipline of medieval literature, we medievalists are often (although not always) aware of the work of scholars in other disciplines. Yet Jane, in particular, is a powerhouse in the field, having authored twenty-three books and over one hundred articles and reviews on Old and Middle English literature, medieval women and gender, and medievalism. She has also received Guggenheim and NEH Fellowships, membership at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, a Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio residency, and many book and article prizes for her various works.
In 2011 she began her well-earned retirement thirty-eight years after teaching her first English course at Rice University in 1973. Yet like many senior scholars, Jane saw her “retirement” as simply giving her more time to pursue her scholarship. Indeed, since her retirement she has produced four more books and served as a Visiting Scholar at the Institute for Medical Humanities at the University of Texas Medical Branch-Galveston. Very few scholars, even among the elite, could boast of such a successful career and speak with greater authority on the state of medieval studies.
Above Image: The northeast face of World Trade Center (south tower) after being struck by a plane in the south face on September 11, 2001. Source: Wiki Creative Commons.
A number of medievalists and their followers are commenting in articles and on social media about the appropriation of the Middle Ages by modern white supremacists or “Nazis.” Indeed, a significant number of scholars in the literary camp of medieval studies have rallied around the notion that those teaching courses on the Middle Ages need to actively and urgently challenge such narratives in the classroom. This seems to be particularly the case with a popular academic website called In the Middle, where several medieval scholars write or comment on related issues. One recent essay by Dorothy Kim, Assistant Professor of English at Vassar College, was widely shared on social media and has firmly emphasized such a goal, claiming that “objectivist neutrality” by scholars teaching in academic disciplines that focus on the Middle Ages no longer works “because it facilitates white supremacists/white nationalists/KKK/Nazis and their horrific deployment of the Middle Ages.” Professor Kim issues both a wake up call and a rallying cry for scholars to pro-actively work against white supremacist narratives in the classroom, noting that because professors are authorities teaching medieval subjects they are, “in fact, ideological arms dealers.” Her essay expresses concern over the violence associated with white supremacy, historical linkages between white supremacy and academia, and the responsibility of scholars to clearly signal to their students that they themselves are not white supremacists or some of their students will “absolutely question” if they can “speak in your class with safety.” The full text of Professor Kim’s essay can be read here. Continue reading →
Next month my friend and fellow medieval historian Dr. John D. Hosler will be doing the unthinkable for many academics in that he is giving up his tenured position as a full professor at Morgan State University, where he has taught for the last twelve years, in exchange for a position with the U.S. Army. To be clear, he is not joining the Army, in the traditional sense, but is instead taking what will undoubtedly be a fascinating position as an Associate Professor at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. As someone who cares deeply about those who serve in our military, wishing to see them receive the very best possible support, I could not be happier to know John will be acting in this role. Continue reading →
As seen in the video below, I recently had the chance to interview my colleague, Dr. Wesley Moody at Florida State College at Jacksonville, on the popular myths of the U.S. Civil War. Wes is an expert on the U.S. Civil War and has published his fourth book (forthcoming from Hackett Publishing) on the topic with a series I am co-editing with Dr. Alfred J. Andrea. The book includes the contributions of seven leading U.S. historians considering some of the most controversial issues related to U.S. Civil War history. We soberly discuss them here.
Special thanks to Professor Isaac Brown and his students at Florida State College at Jacksonville, particularly Lance Hunt, for their efforts in producing this. I hope we can make more of these on other key topics in the future.
“Readers of this book who thought they knew a lot about the U.S. Civil War will discover that much of what they ‘knew’ is wrong. For readers whose previous knowledge is sketchy but whose desire to learn is strong, the separation of myth from reality is an important step toward mastering the subject. The essays will generate lively discussion and new insights.”
—James M. McPherson, Professor Emeritus, Princeton University