How will these resources help you?

The Crusades have traditionally been taught from a purely Christian viewpoint (which we see reflected in the many Hollywood movies on this topic!). More recently, especially with more public awareness of anti-Islam and anti-Semitic sentiments, the Crusades are being re-evaluated and the curriculum revised, with the aim of offering a balanced analysis. These resources will help teachers to find that balance.

Background

The Crusades: The War for the Holy Land

by Thomas Asbridge, published by Simon & Schuster, (2020), 9781471196430

This book gives an excellent overview of the Crusades. It tells the story of the epic struggle from the perspective of both Christians and Muslims, reconstructing the experiences and attitudes of those on either side of the conflict. The material offers a great starting point for a research task. You could ask students to create an infographic looking at the causes and consequences of the Crusades, the events of the Crusades or even the importance of the Crusades – all key historical concepts. The Extra History video Europe: The First Crusade – The People’s Crusade – #1  by Extra Credits is also good to use with this book as a short introduction and summary. 

An Islamic view of the Crusades

Why Muslims See the Crusades So Differently from Christians

by Missy Sullivan, published by A&E Networks (HISTORY magazine)

This fascinating interview with two professors of Islamic history, gives a very different viewpoint on the Crusades than that portrayed in Western popular culture. In Western culture, they are often described as pure conquest, an attempt to drive out Muslims. However, as this interview shows, Muslims saw far more coexistence, being happy to work with and deal with Christians and other religious groups. Muslims treated the Crusades as a chance to trade goods and scientific knowledge. Students could write two newspaper articles about the Crusades, one from a Christian point of view about one crusade and the other from an Islamic point of view. 

A Jewish view of the Crusades

Medieval Antisemitism

published by The Holocaust Explained website, managed by The Wiener Holocaust Library, (2020)

This resource is a very brief overview of some of the Jewish experience in the Crusades. It sets that experience in the context of the medieval period. This is the perfect place to start research of the Jewish experience of the Crusades and could be contrasted to the Christian and Muslim experience, or students could study the history of Jews in Jerusalem in the Middle Ages. (Sections of the books in ‘further reading’ could be used to support the research on this topic, either adapted or given to students directly as appropriate.) 

A Christian view of the Crusades

Voice of the Shuttle (VoS): The Crusades

by Alan Liu (edited by), published by University of California, Santa Barbara

 This is a list of primary sources in translation that can be used with this topic. For example, the first link is to five versions of Pope Urban’s speech, which was a call to arms for the first Crusade (Medieval Sourcebook: Urban II (1088–1099) Speech at Council of Clermont, 1095). Students could work in groups (being assigned one text each), where they have to find as many reasons in it as possible about why Christians should go on Crusade to the Holy Land. Then they could rank and debate which was the most important reason, according to this evidence. The final activity could be looking at other reasons, for example, adventure or financial gain, and compare these to the reasons given in the primary sources. You may wish to edit, modernise or simplify these primary sources, depending on the reading level of the class. There are lots of other sources here that can be used for different aspects of the Crusades topic, depending on the particular focus of the lesson. 

Audiovisual clips

What’s the Point of Forgiveness? - Christian forgiveness and the Crusades

published by BBC, (2011)

This clip explores the paradox of the Crusades, with a focus on the concept of forgiveness granted by the Pope, when crimes were committed in his name.
The Crusades - Early Christianity

published by BBC, (2019)

This clip analyses the strategy used by the Roman Church to justify the motives of the Crusades, the otherness of Jerusalem's rulers at the time.

Further Materials

Crusaders by Dan Jones, published by Head of Zeus, (2020), 9781781858899 Find this book
Jerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore, published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, (2020), 9781474614399 Find this book
An Illustrated History of the Crusades and the Crusader Knights by Charles Phillips, published by Anness Publishing, (2009), 9780754819004 Find this book
Christopher Terry is a former Head Teacher and former academic lead for Teaching and Learning in various British and International Schools, and he has been a teacher of History for 15 years. He works as an examiner and also delivers ITT History Teacher Training in the North West of England and Internationally. He also has been a specialist advisor to OFQUAL for History and has been recognised by the Historical Association as an outstanding practitioner. 

Text © Christopher Terry, 2021.