Crusades in the news.

Some interesting articles here on the crusades, pro and con as it were.

Houston Chronicle

The Examiner

The Independent

Debates over the nature of the crusades are some of the most mentally tiring of activities–with the possible exception of listening to crusades scholars debate the origins of the events themselves (cue an excellent and entertaining session on the first day of this past Zoo congress). The problem, as I see it, is two-fold. Firstly, the outrageous claims of those “not down with” the crusades are, by and large, wrong. The crusaders were not “monsters”, incapable of “normal” humanity, and so on. Massacre and brutal warfare was practiced by both sides, and was not a Christian monopoly. Attitudes towards Islam were far more complex than the outraged group portrays as well. Most of the fallacious claims have been exploded by excellent scholarship in the last couple decades. HOWEVER, secondly there is one major problem with the scholarship dedicated to correcting these mistakes, and that is the tendency to emphasize, for reasons unknown to me (but probably having something to do with current politics), the portrayal of the crusades as a series of “defensive” wars. To our own age, this conjures an image of counter-attacking an invading force, or parallels to that scenario. The crusades, in my opinion, were categorically NOT a defensive war, in that sense. To medieval minds, the right of controlling the holy places of one’s faith, as well as foreign powers’ oppressive behavior towards co-religionists, were sufficient conditions for a just war which they might define as “defensive”; but they were waged offensively, towards lands not currently (or even recently) under Christian control. Certainly recovery of lands formerly part of Christendom was a rationale, but it was hardly the only or, I would dare argue, the deciding one. And further, “Christendom” (as in the western part of Europe) was not under any sort of overt threat by 1095; after the Barbastro expedition and the Mahdia campaign, the “strategic” situation in the western and central Mediterranean was at least one of parity, threatening though Muslim military presence might have been at times. The view of “Christendom under threat” also assumes a closer Western affinity with Byzantium than I think can be proved from the sources. So, there are definite weaknesses in the “sympathetic” approach, which need to be borne in mind when reading Stark’s and Madden’s work. On the other hand, Fisk’s reference to “crusader grafitti” is vague, general, and hardly unique to Majorcan Christians. Offensive English grafitti existed concerning the French in the Hundred Years War…

Well, what’s life without some argument and discussion?

Of gunpowder, clay pots, and chaos

These links courtesy of Kelly DeVries, who, along with Steve Walton and others, had waaaaay too much fun in Denmark this summer. Whacha gonna do, I say…Anyone who likes things that go flash-bang, or bang-flash, or BOOM…you get the picture. Check out this footage of experiments with late medieval incendiary weapons:

HO Seminar

Medieval Warbooks

IMC, Leeds 2010 Call for Papers

Just got this the other day, for those of you who fancy a flight across the pond, as they say:

International Medieval Congress 2010: 12-15 July 2010
Paper proposals must be submitted by 31 August 2009, session and roundtable proposals by 30 September 2009.
Plans for next year’s Congress are well underway. As in previous years, papers and sessions on all aspects of the study of the European Middle Ages are most welcome, in any major European language.
One of the focuses for 2010 will be the special thematic strand on ‘Travel and Exploration’. IMC 2010 commemorates the 550th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry ‘the Navigator’ by making ‘Travel and Exploration’ a special thematic focus. The voyages undertaken in the name of Henry exemplify many of the motives that had long driven people to travel and explore: the prospect of wealth, trade, and territory, knowledge and curiosity, piety and religious zeal, legends and external salvation.

The IMC seeks to provide a forum for debates on the motives, processes, and effects of travel and exploration, not only by Latin Christians in the so-called ‘Age of Discovery’, but across cultures, and throughout the medieval period and beyond. The full call for papers is available on our website at

The IMC Core Strands are:
. Anglo-Saxon Studies
. Archaeology
. Art and Architecture
. Byzantine Studies
. Celtic Studies
. Central and Eastern European Studies
. Church History and Canon Law
. Crusades and Latin East
. Culture and Society
. Daily Life
. Drama
. Gender Studies/Women’s Studies
. Geography and Settlement Studies
. Government and Institutions
. Hagiography and Religious Writing
. Historiography (Medieval and Modern)
. Jewish Studies
. Language and Literature – Comparative
. Language and Literature – Germanic
. Language and Literature – Middle English
. Language and Literature – Romance Vernacular
. Late Antique and Early Medieval Studies
. Latin Writing
. Literacy and Communication
. Material Culture
. Medievalism and Reception of the Middle Ages
. Mediterranean and Islamic Studies
. Monasticism and Religious Life
. Music and Liturgy
. Philosophy and Political Thought
. Scandinavian Studies
. Science, Technology and Military History
. Social and Economic History
. Sources and Resources
. Theology and Bible Studies

We prefer proposals to be completed online – a quick, easy, and secure method. To submit a proposal, go to
Remember to order your equipment for 2010 on your proposal form! Check for more details.

Future IMC Dates
. IMC 2010 Paper Proposals Deadline: 31 August 2009
. IMC 2010 Session Proposals Deadline: 30 September 2008
. IMC 2010: Special Thematic Strand: ‘Travel and Exploration’, 12-15 July 2010
. IMC 2011: Special Thematic Strand: ‘Poor-Rich’, 11-14 July 2011
. IMC 2012: 9-12 July 2012
. IMC 2013: 8-11 July 2013
. IMC 2014: 7-10 July 2014