The First Crusade (HIH1505)

15 credits

This module is based on the study of sources and texts relating to the First Crusade which took place between 1096 and 1099, prompted by the preaching of Pope Urban II at Clermont-Ferrand in November, 1095. Western pilgrims, equipped with a fiery faith and the weapons of war, travelled across Europe to the Levant to wrest Christianity’s holy sites from Muslim occupation. We will examine how historians, modern and medieval, viewed the nature, motivation and purpose of the First Crusade and how evidence has been used to construct arguments about the nature of this complex conflict of interests and ideologies. We will also consider the impact of the conflict on Christian, Muslim and Jewish and writers. 

The primary aim of this module is to help you develop your critical faculties as a historian – to be sceptical of the documentary evidence on which historical arguments are based and more thorough in your appraisal of such arguments.

Even though the First Crusade took place over 900 years ago, the contemporary material available to historians is both rich and varied, though surviving texts were usually written in Latin, Old French, Arabic or Attic Greek and are often difficult to understand. We will look at examples of these texts and will be studying modern English translations that are available. Whether translations of medieval sources affect their meaning to any great extent is an issue that we may need to consider.

As we focus on the First Crusade and its aftermath, examples of the questions we will be addressing are:

What is meant by Crusade?
How were the events of 1096-99 perceived by Muslims and Jews?
Why did the Crusade begin?
Was it an unprincipled land grab or the result of a complex religious mind-set? 

A challenge of medieval history is using contemporary sources to understand how and why events took place and also to understand the ideologies, motivations and values of the protagonists. Our quest will take us well beyond the historical narrative.