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
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. Nevertheless, such figures are often cited by the media or online and these are likely their sources (presented from lowest to highest). Continue reading
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
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.
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:
- Alan V. Murray– University of Leeds (panelist)
- Aphrodite Papayianni– Birbeck, University of London (panelist)
- Alfred J. Andrea– Emeritus, University of Vermont (panelist)
- Natasha R. Hodgson– Nottingham Trent University (panelist)
- Stephen Bennett– School of History, Queen Mary, University of London (panelist)
- Andrew Holt- Florida State College at Jacksonville (organizer and moderator)
Among the topics that will be considered are the following: Continue reading
“The more constrained the power of governments, the more power is diffused, checked, and balanced, the less it will aggress on others and commit democide. At the extremes of power, totalitarian communist governments slaughter their people by the tens of millions; in contrast, many democracies can barely bring themselves to execute even serial murderers.”
Prof. R.J. Rummel, Death By Government (New Brunswick and London: Transaction, 1994), 2. Continue reading
I recently had the chance to review Matthew White’s The Great Big Book of Horrible Things: The Definitive Chronicle of History’s 100 Worst Atrocities (New York & London: W.W. Norton, 2012). Including an introduction by Harvard’s Steven Pinker, it offers an impressive 669-page analysis of, according to the author, the “one hundred events with the largest man-made death tolls, regardless of who was involved or why they did it.” (p. XIV)
I found White’s book both engaging and interesting because I am considering the historic impact of religion on warfare for an essay I am currently working on. As a result, I am in the process of surveying multiple works like this in an attempt to systematically count how many past wars have been inspired primarily by religious motivations, which will be one component of the essay. Indeed, religion has often been criticized as a primary source of conflict, with among the most notable recent examples coming from the neuroscientist Sam Harris, a prominent critic of the historic impact of religion on ancient and modern societies. Indeed, in his 2004 book The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason (New York & London: W.W. Norton, 2004), Harris referred to religious faith as “the most prolific source of violence in our history.” (p. 27) Harris is certainly not alone in making such claims, as they have been repeated by many others, both historically and today.
Regardless of the prevalence of criticisms of religion and its role in historical human violence, White’s study of the one hundred worst atrocities in history would seem to provide a counter to such claims by Harris and others. This is because of the one hundred events White lists in his detailed study, he only lists eleven of them under the category of “Religious Conflict” (p. 544) and two more under the category of “Human Sacrifice,” (p. 548) for thirteen atrocities equaling only 13% of the total. I have included the “Human Sacrifice” category in this case with religious conflicts because, as White notes, “ritualized killing was performed in hopes of earning the favor of supernatural forces.”
His lists include the following: Continue reading