Post-classical history


Historically, the study of the Crusades has usually been marked by prejudice, bias, and judgmentalism. Very little surviving primary evidence is without inherent distortion. Later interpretations have consistently reflected the concerns of the historians rather than objective assessment of the phenomenon. Medieval observers represented the Crusades in a scriptural context as signifiers of divine providence. Since the sixteenth century, shifting religious, political, and intellectual fashions have determined very different presentations: confessional or philosophical disdain, romantic exoticism, assumptions of cultural conflict, colonial apologetics, imperialism, and nationalism. Some have always sought to frame the Crusades as a mirror of the modern age, reassuring or troubling in similarities or contrasts. Modern scholarship, while embracing a far wider range of sources, from canon law to archaeology, is no less prone to factionalism, the influence of politics, as in the Israeli school led by Joshua Prawer, or of conflicting metaphysical constructs of the past. On the contentious issue of definition, the ecclesiastical historian Giles Constable has characterized the competing interpreters as generalists, who locate the origins and nature of crusading in the long development of Christian holy war before 1095; popularists, who favor the idea that crusading emerged as an expression of popular piety; traditionalists who insist on the centrality of Jerusalem and the Holy Land to legitimate crusading; and pluralists, who concentrate on pious motivation, canon law, and papal authorization to include all conflicts enjoying the privileges of wars of the cross regardless of destination or purpose. Such academic disputes may appear arcane. Yet they matter if understanding of the past is to be liberated from oversimplified and misleading public history and the maw of modern polemic. Having previously wreaked so much havoc, the Crusades should not be recruited to the battlegrounds of the twenty-first century nor yet condescendingly condemned as one of Christianity’s legion of aberrations.


M. Barber, The New Knighthood (Cambridge, 1994)

C. Erdmann, The Origins of the Idea of Crusading, tr. Marshall W. Baldwin and Walter Goffart (Princeton, 1977) (the classic generalist text)

A. Forey, The Military Orders (London, 1992)

C. Hillenbrand, The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives (Edinburgh, 1999)

N. Housley, The Later Crusades (Oxford, 1992) (pluralist)

H. E. Mayer, The Crusades, 2nd edn. (Oxford, 1988) (traditionalist)

J. Riley-Smith, The Crusades: A Short History (London, 1987) (pluralist)

J. Riley-Smith (ed.), The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades (Oxford, 1995)

J. Riley-Smith, What Were the Crusades?, 3rd edn. (London, 2002) (pluralist)

S. Runciman, A History of the Crusades (Cambridge, 1951–54) (traditionalist, once described as “the last great medieval chronicle”)

C. Tyerman, The Invention of the Crusades (London, 1998)


N. Housley, Religious Warfare in Europe 1400-1536 (Oxford, 2002)

J. Muldoon, Popes, Lawyers and Infidels (Liverpool, 1979)

F. H. Russell, The Just War in the Middle Ages (Cambridge, 1975)


R. Barlett, The Making of Europe (London, 1993)

E. Christiansen, The Northern Crusades, 2nd edn. (London, 1997)

D. Lomax, The Reconquest of Spain (London, 1978)

J. Prawer, The Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem (London, 1972)

R. C. Smail, Crusading Warfare (Cambridge, 1956)


J. Brundage, Canon Law and the Crusader (Madison, 1969)

P. Cole, The Preaching of the Cross to the Holy Land 1095—1270 (Cambridge, Mass., 1991)

S. Lloyd, English Society and the Crusade 1216-1307 (Oxford, 1988)

C. Tyerman, England and the Crusades 1095—1588 (Chicago, 1988)


M. Benvenisti, Sacred Landscape: The Buried History of the Holy Land since 1948 (London, 2000)

P. Partner, God of Battles: Holy Wars of Christianity and Islam (London, 1997)

E. Said, Orientalism (London, 1979)

E. Siberry, The New Crusaders (Aldershot, 2000)

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