“These are labors of the night, for we have borrowed the hours owed to sleep and spent the better part of them on our writing. Another man, it is true, might have used his watch better, but I felt an obligation to my mind, which took delight in the task.”
Pope Pius II (c. 1462)
The Crusade Book Lists Project began with an idea for a relatively simple blog post in which I intended to reach out to only a small number of medieval historians with whom I regularly communicate. I asked them for their opinion of the “ten most important books on the crusades” and naturally this resulted in a number of follow up questions.
They asked me to define “important”? Did I mean primary or secondary sources? Did I mean modern secondary works or older works? Important to them personally or important in defining the field? Works that influenced scholars or those that had popular influence? My response was simple. “It’s up to you. Just be sure to provide a few lines explaining your rationale for the works you include on your list.”
In hindsight, I may have provided a bit more guidance, but doing it this way also resulted in a number of interesting insights. One of the historians I reached out to early on in this project was the great Dartmouth College medieval historian Cecilia Gaposchkin. Cecilia had previously been kind enough to do an interview with me for my blog and found the idea of a top ten list interesting. She suggested I might reach beyond my immediate circle and contact some other historians who may be interested in the project. I followed her advice and, even though I reached out to them in the middle of the summer, I soon found myself communicating with many of the most influential voices in the field about the project. I explained that I will publish each list exactly as they have sent it to me (aside from minor formatting), and then I will also eventually provide an additional overall list in which I collate their responses to rank the top ten overall books based on those with the most mentions by the historians who have responded. Many historians agreed to submit lists for the project and those contributors (and many of their lists) can be seen at the link directly below.
See also: The Most Influential Crusade Historians
I have also reached out (by email) to a number of other historians and hopefully some of them will consider including their lists in the project at some point in the future. This will be an ongoing project as I will also be contacting other established scholars I have not yet reached out to and hope they will participate as well. I also invite submissions from established medieval historians who have published on the crusades.
I also extend my deep appreciation to those historians who were generous enough to share their insights here, freely and without a paywall, for the benefit of those seeking more information about key works on the crusades. It’s my hope that it will be a useful resource for both students and interested readers. It should also be a source of interest for other scholars who are curious about their colleagues’ choices, as many of the contributors will often find their own works included among these lists.
July 26, 2017