Tag Archives: Seven Myths of the Crusades

The Modern Muslim Memory of the Crusades

Above Image: Cover of issue 4 of the Islamic State’s glossy English language propaganda magazine. Many of its issues contain references to the crusades or explicit crusading rhetoric.

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In 2015 I had the pleasure of co-editing (w/Alfred J. Andrea) the book Seven Myths of the Crusades (Hackett, 2015). It includes seven essays by prominent crusade historians dealing with various popular modern “myths” related to the medieval crusading movement. While recently preparing for an upcoming talk at Georgia Southern University, titled “The Modern Politics of Medieval Crusading,” I was carefully rereading the various chapters of Seven Myths, and thought it worthwhile to briefly highlight one of them here.

One of the historians who agreed to contribute to our project was the distinguished American medievalist Edward Peters, the former Henry Charles Lea Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania (now Professor Emeritus). Over the course of his career, his work on medieval inquisitions has been highly influential and his translations of crusade texts have been used in college or university classrooms for nearly two decades. Consequently, when Ed agreed to contribute a chapter to Seven Myths, co-authored with his talented former doctoral student Mona Hammad (Associate Professor of Medieval History at the University of Jordan), Al and I were elated. The combination of the two authors was ideal in light of the topic they considered in their essay, titled “Islam and the Crusades: A Nine Hundred-Year-Long Grievance?”

The subject of their essay is a potentially controversial one, particularly as it argues that much of the Islamic world’s modern memory of the medieval crusades, a memory which frames the crusades as a largely unprovoked Christian attack on the Muslim world, serving as a constant source of division and mistrust today, was only developed in the 19th and 20th centuries during an age of western imperialism that influenced its construction.  Moreover, Ed and Mona’s essay emphasizes that it was essentially the modern imperialist west that taught the modern Muslim world to hate the crusades, as there had been relatively little concern about them expressed in texts by Muslim authors in the centuries prior.

Having a well known and highly respected medievalist like Ed, as well as Mona, who is fluent in Arabic and lives and works in Jordan, seemed like (and proved to be) an ideal pairing for the chapter. Anyone seriously interested in the topic should, of course, consult their work, but here I want to highlight only a few key parts of their otherwise much lengthier and more engaging essay. Continue reading

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Seven Myths of the Crusades: An Interview

Alfred J. Andrea and I recently had the opportunity to do an interview with Medievalists.net focusing on our recent book Seven Myths of the Crusades (Hackett Publishing, 2015). The book has been well received so far, with a number of nice endorsements from leading crusade historians (which can be viewed here).

Medievalists.net provided some excellent questions that allowed Al and I to provide some in depth responses considering a number of important issues.

One of the questions asked why we chose to write the book. My partial response is below.

“I do want to address your question, however, as to why we wanted to create another book on the crusades, specifically taking the approach of countering modern popular crusade myths. We and the contributors all agreed that the prevalence of the myths that we address in this book are repeated so regularly in all media, especially popular films and literature, as well as in political speeches and commentary, that it was worthwhile to pull together a book, written and edited by scholars, that targets general readers and undergraduates. The goal is to explain to the reader why scholars tend to see the issues covered in the chapters quite differently than popular accounts often suggest. We wanted to give readers a sense of the complexity of each of the historical issues dealt within the chapters and why historians often disagree with common popular, often unnuanced interpretations of historical events. It is a topic that crusade historians discuss among themselves quite often, occasionally publishing articles in popular publications and on the web to make such a point to just such an audience. So the essays we have collected here do not represent new or cutting-edge scholarship. Rather, our goal is to communicate current scholarship to undergraduates and a general reading public. Moreover, we want to make that scholarship accessible, affordable, and engaging in a way that many academic books are not.”

Please read the full interview here.

Crusading Against Poor History: An Interview with Dr. Paul Crawford

In 1940, the eminent crusade historian John L. La Monte complained of how, with the possible exception of Renaissance Florence, “no field” of historical research “has been the subject of so much worthless historical trash” as the medieval crusades. Over the last fifteen years, since I first began to study the medieval crusading movement as an undergraduate, I have increasingly come to appreciate the dim view of La Monte, as many crusade historians have continued to have very similar concerns about much of what has been published on the subject in the seventy-five years since La Monte first made his claim.

Consequently, when historian Alfred J. Andrea and I began to consider the idea of a book on modern popular myths of the medieval crusades, we were not surprised by the widespread interest we found among crusade historians in the project. Indeed, since 2008, when Al and I first discussed the topic at a crusade history conference in St. Louis, a number of crusade historians have had serious questions about the project, expressed curiosity over which of the many possible myths we might address, and often also expressed an interest in contributing to the project. Thus, it is not surprising that our final effort, Seven Myths of the Crusades, to be published in September 2015 by Hackett Publishing, involves the collective efforts of ten professional medieval historians who all teach, research, and write about the crusades. One of those historians is the widely respected and well-known Dr. Paul Crawford of California University of Pennsylvania.

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The Future of Medieval History: An Interview with Dr. Alfred J. Andrea

“Retired” scholar Alfred J. Andrea is easily one of the most active and dynamic historians I know. As an accomplished author, editor, and Professor Emeritus of Medieval History at the University of Vermont, you might think he would take it easy in his retirement. Yet those who know Al know better. The 73-year-old former U.S. Marine still looks the part, Continue reading