The Crusades: Knights of the Cross and Crescent (Who are all these people?)

Few major events in history are more often misconstrued than the (roughly) two centuries of the wars of the Crusades. On the one side, traditionalists claim the mantle of religious righteousness or social liberation of the oppressed as the justification of these wars. Revisionists see in them all the evils that can possibly be attributed to Western religious and social practices: intolerance, violence, racism and colonialism. In the simplest view, a bunch of armored fanatics show up in the Holy Land, and after a few crashing battles with the local folks, are driven out. Rather than accepting the (more or less sophisticated) folktale versions of these events, this seminar will attempt to put some of these issues into perspective.

We will concern ourselves with the following questions: How did the Crusades arise? Who participated, and with what religious or secular motivations? Who resisted, and how much? Were they any more barbaric or unjust than any of the other wars of the time? And were they really such a big deal, considering that the entire struggle spanning two centuries was over a miniscule strip of semi-desert? Did anyone win?

Also, we will look at all the groups involved; besides the Franks, there were of course the local Christian, Muslim and Jewish populations, Byzantines, Armenians, Arabs, Kurds, Coptic Christians, Seljuk Turks, Venetians, Circassian slave soldiers, Mongols, Assassins and religious sects galore, not to mention local warlords and rulers scheming in their own interests (as was everyone else). So let us gather in this crowded bazaar of human history; you never know who you will bump into.

Suggested Reading:
Thomas F. Madden, The Concise History of the Crusades (Critical Issues in World and International History)
Thomas Asbridge, The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land

Only for the Brave: Steven Runciman, A History of the Crusades (3 vols)

  • Group Leader(s): GEORGE MESZOLY
  • Days: Wednesdays
  • Times: 10 a.m. - noon
  • Start Date: 10/16/2019
  • End Date: 11/20/2019
  • Sessions: 6
  • Exceptions: none
  • Venue: Hampshire House
  • Teaching Style: Seminar
  • Weekly Preparation: 1 hour
  • Biography:

    George Meszoly is a graduate of Harvard College in linguistics and Far Eastern languages and of Columbia University in linguistics and Uralic languages.

  • Address: 84 Beacon Street, 3rd floor