Crusades & Medieval History

Modern Scholars on the Casualty Rates for Participants of the First Crusade

Provided here are various casualty estimates given by modern scholars for the participants of the First Crusade.


Death Estimates for the Crusades

A round up of various death estimates given between 1874 and 2012 for the crusades.


Writing Crusade History: An Interview with Dr. Laurence W. Marvin

An interview with Prof. Laurence W Marvin, a leading scholar on the Albigensian Crusade.


The Situation for Eastern Christians in the 1090s prior to the First Crusade.

A consideration of the state of Byzantine security in relation to the Turks in the years immediately prior to the calling of the First crusade.


The First Crusade as a Defensive War? Four Historians Respond.

Brief summaries of the arguments of four participants in a panel discussion held on Friday, April 6, at the annual meeting (held in Louisville, Ky.) of the Society for Military History. The panel considered the question, “Was the First Crusade an Offensive or Defensive War?”


Crusading as a Form of Pilgrimage

Brief overview of why historians have come to understand crusading as a form of pilgrimage.


Blogging as a Crusade Historian

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.


Crusade Historians and Steven Runciman

An overview of how various crusade historians have recently (in 2017) accessed the impact of Sir Steven Runciman’s work on understandings of the crusades.


15 “Most Important” Books on the Crusades

A breakdown and overall ranking of the submissions of 32 medieval historians on the “most important” books on the crusades.


Reflections on the State of Medieval Studies: An Interview with Dr. Jane Chance

Here the eminent scholar of medieval literature gives her views on the current state of medieval studies and her take on a recent controversy in the field.


Don’t Teach Osama bin Laden’s Version of History

Provides an analysis of Islamist and white supremacist violence and how both groups appropriate the Middle Ages for their own purposes.


The Third Crusade and the Siege of Acre: An Interview with Dr. John D. Hosler

My interview with medieval military historian John D. Hosler considering his new book on the Third Crusade that will be coming out with Yale University Press soon. This fall John is leaving his tenured full professor position at Morgan State to join the faculty of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth.


The Most Influential Crusade Historians

Based on data from the Historians Rank the ‘Most Important’ Books on the crusades, I list the most influential crusade historians. This will be updated as additional information comes in.


Historians Rank the “Most Important” Books on the Crusades

This post includes brief contributions by several medieval historians who provide their thoughts on the “most important” books on the crusades.


Saladin’s Legacy: Some Thoughts

A brief consideration of some of the more controversial events in Saladin’s career and reign, suggesting modern romanticized views of Saladin are overstated.


Medieval Historians and their Military Service

Provides brief summaries of the military careers of various historians of the middle ages, sometimes highlighting how those experiences shaped their approaches to history.


The First Crusade as a “Defensive War”: A Response to Prof. Gabriele (Originally Posted 6/6/2017)

A brief response to an article by historian Matthew Gabriele published in the Washington Post. It considers the positions of historians on the topic of whether or not the crusading movement originated in the framework of a defensive war.


The Modern Muslim Memory of the Crusades (Originally Posted 3/2/2017)

The post provides an overview of current scholarship on the issue of how modern Muslims remember the medieval crusades through the filter of Edward Peters and Mona Hammad’s essay on the same topic in Seven Myths of the Crusades, but also cites the work of Jonathan Riley-Smith, Paul Crawford, Thomas Madden, and Carole Hillenbrand.


Pope Gregory VII on the Plight of Eastern Christians Prior to the First Crusade (Originally Posted 11/14/2016)  

Provides some brief selections from a few of Pope Gregory VII’s letters written after the defeat of the Byzantines at Manzikert in 1071. The selections highlight Gregory’s efforts to raise military support for eastern Christians nearly two decades before the calling of the First Crusade.


Pope Innocent III : Reprimand of Peter, a Papal Legate, for the Sack of Constantinople- July 1204 (Originally Posted 10/28/2016)

A partial English translation of Pope Innocent III’s letter reprimanding a papal legate after the sack of Constantinople in 1204 by crusaders. It is provided beside the full Latin text taken from the Patrologia Latina.


Byzantine Recruitment of Western Warriors before the First Crusade: Peter Frankopan’s Call from the East (Originally Posted 10/26/2016)

A brief consideration of some interesting points made by Dr. Peter Frankopan on Byzantine efforts to win western military support prior to the First Crusade as provided in chapter six of his book The First Crusade: The Call from the East.

The State of Crusade Studies: An Interview with Dr. Helen J. Nicholson (Originally Posted 7/18/2016)

A profile of the great crusade historian Helen J. Nicholson, considering her excellent career and the current state of crusade studies.


Gregory VII: Call for a “Crusade”, 1074 (Originally Posted 7/12/2016)

Some may find this useful for a quick reference to a source. The introductory text also gives some sense of the correspondence taking place between the Byzantines and Latin Christians prior to the calling of the First Crusade.


Criticism of Crusading After the Second Crusade (Originally Posted 7/6/2016)

What follows is a brief essay/collection of quotations from Christian sources considering criticism of crusading in the wake of the failure of the Second Crusade. The success of the First Crusade had stifled such criticism, but the failure of the Second Crusade, led by Europe’s most important monarchs, led to soul searching about the cause of the failure, as well as finger pointing. This was originally written in 2005 for an old crusades website I used to run (e.g. “crusades-encyclopedia) while I was an ambitious M.A. graduate student at the University of North Florida. The website is no longer online, but I plan to resurrect it, in a more polished form, at some point in the future. But for now, this may be useful for those searching the web for information on this topic or as a link to supplementary reading for a crusades course, so I include it here in its original form.


Marcus Bull on the Religious Appeal of Crusading (Originally Posted 6/12/2016)

A brief follow up to my recent post on Jonathan Riley-Smith. UNC-Chapel Hill Professor Marcus Bull has also made important similar arguments concerning the motivations of the first crusaders based on his use of crusade charters as sources.Jonathan Riley-Smith on the Motivations of the First Crusaders


Jonathan Riley-Smith on the Motivations of the First Crusaders (Originally Posted 6/8/2016)

This essay considers retired Cambridge historian Jonathan Riley-Smith’s influence on the field of crusade studies and his scholarship on the motivations of the first crusaders.


Crusade Historians and Karen Armstrong (Originally Posted 6/1/2016)

A brief consideration of the work of popular author Karen Armstrong and the influence of her efforts on understandings of the crusades. It highlights some of the general concerns crusade historians have expressed over her work, particularly her book Holy War: The Crusades and Their Impact on Today’s World.


Apology for the Fourth Crusade (Originally Posted 5/26/2016)

A brief consideration of the impact of the Fourth Crusade on Catholic and Orthodox relation and the “apology” of Pope John Paul II and its reception by Orthodox Christian leaders.


Defending Western Civilization: An Interview with Dr. Rachel Fulton Brown (Originally Posted 3/2/2016)

My interview with the great University of Chicago medieval historian Rachel Fulton Brown, who has recently been a source of controversy for her outspoken defense of Western Civilization and the provocative framework in which she presented her arguments.


The Continuing Importance of the Liberal Arts: An Interview with Dr. Cecilia Gaposchkin (Originally Posted 2/17/2016)

Dr. Cecilia Gaposchkin is a leading crusade historian at the prestigious Dartmouth College. Here, she argues on behalf of the continuing importance of the Liberal Arts as a field of study in the face of modern challenges to its relevance. She also briefly considers the impact of modern technology on crusade scholarship.


Seven Myths of the Crusades: An Interview (Originally Posted 10/15/2015)

Alfred J. Andrea and I recently had the opportunity to do an interview with focusing on our recent book Seven Myths of the Crusades (Hackett Publishing, 2015).


Professor Thomas Madden on the First Crusade, Jerusalem, and the “Rivers of Blood” (Originally Posted 10/7/2015)

St. Louis University historian Thomas Madden’s analysis of the oft-repeated claim that “rivers of blood” ran through the Temple Mount during the First Crusade.


Studying Medieval History and Fighting ISIS (Originally Posted 10/4/2016)

This post considers the usefulness of a background in medieval history as a foundation for understanding modern events in the Middle East.


Crusading Against Poor History: An Interview with Dr. Paul Crawford (Originally Posted 8/2/2015)

Professor Paul Crawford, of California University of Pennsylvania, a leading expert on the crusades and the military orders, gives his view of the current divide between scholarly and popular opinion on the crusades and the role of historians as public intellectuals.


The Most Dangerous Man in Medieval Studies: An Interview with Peter Konieczny (Originally Posted 7/19/2015)

Peter Konieczny, the founder of the popular, gives his insights on the importance of medievalists adapting to the online world.


The Future of Medieval History: An Interview with Dr. Alfred J. Andrea (Originally Posted 6/26/2015)

Dr. Andrea is Professor Emeritus of the Medieval History at the University of Vermont. He is the author, editor, or translator over eight books, including the best selling textbook The Human Record. Here he provides his insights on a number of issues concerning the study of medieval history by modern historians.


“Thou shalt not kill” vs. “Thou shalt not murder” (Originally Posted 3/17/2015)

An analysis of the proper translation of the commonly known biblical verse “thou shalt not kill,” which is often cited as a biblical refutation of the crusaders’ motives and actions (and why it doesn’t apply).


Historians on Susan Jacoby’s New York Times Essay on the First Crusade (Originally Posted 2/16/2015)

A post highlighting the negative reactions of historians to a New York Times article by Susan Jacoby on the First Crusade.


The Spanish Inquisition, Drones, and the Obama Administration (Originally Posted 2/12/2015)

A brief post comparing the numbers killed during the centuries long Spanish Inquisition and the greater numbers of those killed by U.S. drones during President Obama’s time in office.


President Obama, ISIS, and the Crusades (Originally Posted 2/11/2015) 

A post highlighting a guest column I wrote for the Florida Times Union after President Obama’s controversial comments comparing ISIS to the Crusades.


Medieval Warfare, The First Crusade, and Rape: Lessons for the Present? (Originally Posted 1/6/2015)

This is one of the most viewed posts on this site. It provides the text for a paper I gave in 2015 for the Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association in New York City. It argues that while many have assumed the rape of captured women was a regular feature of the First Crusade, there is no evidence to substantiate the claim and what evidence we do have suggests the opposite, that the First Crusade was exceptional in that the crusaders seem to have avoided the otherwise widespread practice.


ISIS and Medievalism: An Interview with Dr. Sharan Newman (Originally Posted 1/5/2015)

Dr. Sharan Newman is an accomplished author and historian. Her research on the middle ages, particularly the crusading era and conflicts between medieval Christians and Muslims, has given her unique insights into the current “war on terror.” She shares those insights here.


An Interview with Dr. Florin Curta on Communism, Faith, and Academia (Originally Posted 12/25/2014)

Dr. Florin Curta is one of the leading medieval historians in the world. He was born and grew up in communist Romania where as a young man he experienced the hardships of life under communism and served as a paratrooper in Romania’s communist army. Here he provides his unique insights into life under communist rule as a devout Orthodox Christian.


The Medieval Origins of a Modern Phrase- “Kill’em all. Let God sort’em out.” (Originally Posted 12/1/2014)

A post explaining the medieval origins of the phrase, “Kill’em all. Let God sort’em out.” It originates with a medieval text describing the supposed aftermath of a battle during the Albigensian (Cathar) Crusade.


The Prophet Muhammad’s Eighty-Six Military Campaigns (Originally Posted 11/22/2014)

A brief post considering the extent of Muhammad’s military career, highlighting how scholar David Cook argues there are 86 campaigns (based on evidence from the Qur’an and Hadith) that he either sanctioned or participated in directly. The essay also compares Muhammad with Jesus in terms of militarism.


Obama as the “Dog of Rome”- ISIS and Crusading Rhetoric (Originally Posted 11/16/2014)

A post considering the rhetoric of ISIS and the use of the term “crusader” to describe westerners.


ISIS and the Medieval Spoils System: The Fate of Captured Women (Originally Posted 11/16/2014)

A brief post considering the institutionalization of slavery within the lands controlled by ISIS and a historic parallel found in a crusading era text.


St. Bernard of Clairvaux and the U.S. Marines Corps (Originally Posted 11/15/2014)

A brief essay explaining why I think Bernard might have appreciated modern Marines.