Archive for the ‘templars’ Category

Going to the Sources

November 26, 2016

I apologize for not getting this to you before.  I almost had the whole list finished when I was called away for a family emergency.  I’m still playing catch-up.  Those of you who were in my class won’t be surprised that most of these books are translations of primary sources.  There are others in Arabic, French, German and Latin but these are a good place to begin. I have included authors from several sides of the Crusades.  Not just Western European and Muslim, but Greek, Armenian, Syrian and Jewish points of view, as well.

At this time, when contradictory information is flying about everywhere, I believe it’s useful to examine what we think we know about history and then apply it to a critical look at the report of an horrendous atrocity that one’s brother-in-law just posted.


Crusade Bibliography

Primary Sources: Muslim

Ibn al-Athir, The Chronicle of Ibn al-Athir for the Crusading Period 2. Volumes. tr. D. S. Richards (Ashgate, 2007) [He wrote in the 13th century and was an advocate for Saladin, but he had access to a lot of older material]

Baha’ al-Din Ibn Shaddad, The Rare and Excellent History of Saladin. tr. D. S. Richards (Ashgate, 2002) [a contemporary and friend of Saladin who witnessed many of the events]

Francesco Gabrieli, ed. and tr. Arab Historians of the Crusades, (Dorset Press, 1969) [For a long time this was one of the few English translations. It covers the time between the First Crusade and the fall of Acre and is a good introduction]

Ibn Al-Qalansi. The Damascus Chronicles of the Crusades. Tr. H.A.R. Gibb (Luzac & Co. London, 1932) [An account by an important member of the government of Damascus who was an adult at the time of the First Crusade.  He died in 1160.]

Usama ibn-Munqidh. An Arab-Syrian Gentleman and Warrior in the Time of the Crusades. Tr. Phillip K. Hitti (Columbia University Press, 1929) [Usama (1095-1188) wrote this memoir late in his eventful life. An Arab aristocrat who refused to learn Turkish, although he fought with the Turkish armies, he was born at Shaizar and died in Damascus.  Arrogant but entertaining, his account shows the ways in which the Christian settlers and upper-class Arabs interacted. The Templars kept a place for him to pray; he hunted with the king of Jerusalem, but that didn’t stop him from killing them in battle. Some stories are hearsay and other embellished.  Great fun.]


Primary Sources: Western:

Edward Peters, ed. The First Crusade: the Chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres and Other Source Materials. (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1978)

Malcolm Barber and Keith Bate, ed. & tr. Letters from the East: Crusaders Pilgrims and Settlers in the 12th and 13th Centuries, (Ashgate, 2013) [While not all these are letters as we would term them, the collection gives first-hand slices of information on events that are often only given a sentence or two in histories.]

Fulcher of Chartres. A History of the Expedition to Jerusalem, 1095-1127, tr. Frances Rita Ryan (Norton 1969) [Fulcher went on the First Crusade and stayed in Jerusalem.  He was a cheerleader for settlement and sometimes his description is a bit too rosy, but his account is invaluable.]

Anon. Gesta Francorum: The Deads of the Franks and the other Pilgrims to Jerusalem ed. Rasalind Hill. (Oxford University Press, 1962) [ An eyewitness account of the Frist Crusade from the speech at Clermont in 1095 to the siege of Ascalon in 1099.  The author was an educated soldier, not a cleric.  His descriptions of battle and the siege of Antioch are harrowing]

Guibert de Nogent, The Deeds of God through the Franks, tr. Robert Levine. (Boydell, 1997) [Guibert was a French monk who got his information from returning pilgrims.  He presents various views on the crusades.  He also wrote an autobiography, which I find very amusing]

Albert of Achen.  History of the Journey to Jerusalem  2 vols. Tr. Edgington (Ashgate 2013) [Albert also stayed in Europe and acquired his information from returning travelers, but his account fills in gaps in others]

William of Tyre. A history of Deeds Done Beyond the Sea, ed. Babcock and Krey. (Farrar Straus, Giroux, 19760 [born in Jerusalem, William was sent back to Europe for schooling and returned to become bishop of Tyre and tutor to Baldwin IV, the leper king.  Many of the events he recorded happened while he was gone, but he is excellent, if opinionated, on people he knew and interviewed many who had lived through the time he chronicles.]

The Gesta Tancredi of Ralph of Caen Bachrach, Bernard S. and Bachrach, David S. (eds.), (Ashgate.)  The Norman view of the early Italo-Norman rulers of Antioch.  I haven’t had a chance to read it, yet.

Odo of Deuil, The Journey of Louis VII to the East. Tr, Virginia Berry. (Norton, 1948, many editions) [Odo went with Louis and Eleanor and was miserable most of the way.  His chronicle ends when he reached Antioch and things started to get interesting.  He seems to have been to depressed to say more.]

Peter Edbury, ed. The Conquest of Jerusalem and the Third Crusade (Ashgate 1998)  [This is a translation of the continuation of William of Tyre.  It covers the complicated dynastic struggles in Jerusalem, the rise of Saladin and the resulting crusade.]

The Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi tr. Helen J. Nicholson, (Ashgate 2001)[ A flattering portrait of the Third Crusade and King Richard the Lionheart.]

G. A. Loud, ed. & tr. The Crusade of Frederick Barbarossa: The History of the Expedition of the Emperor Frederick and Other Accounts. (Ashgate, 2010) The best known life of Frederick and his time on the third Crusade was written by his uncle, Otto.  Loud gives translations from a variety of other chroniclers

Robert de Clari. The Conquest of Constantinople, tr. Edgar Holmes McNeal (University of Toronto Press,1996) [Robert was a soldier on the Fourth Crusade.  His report from the ground is illuminating , since he stayed through the capture of Constantinople.]

Janet Shirley tr. Crusader Syria in the Thirteenth Century  (Ashgate 1999) [A translation of two chronicles covering the crusades from 1229 – 1261, led by Theobald of Champagne and then Louis IX of France.  The first, Rothelin, is totally disjointed but wonderful in that he veers from accounts of the expeditions to magic and protest songs from the ranks.  Eracles is not so much fun but contains much information]

Peter Jackson, ed. & tr. The Seventh Crusades, 1244-1254: Sources and Documents (Ashgate, 2007)


Primary Sources: Levantine

Walter the Chancellor. The Antiochene Wars tr. Asbridge and Edginton (Ashgate 1999) [Walter was chancellor in Antioch in the early days of the Latin settlement.  He gives the story of the battles among both the Crusaders and the local Muslims, making it clear that they often allied against a common foe.  He tells of his time as a hostage in Aleppo.  A good counterpoint to the completely Eurocentric accounts]

Anna Comnena. The Alexiad.  tr. E.R.A. Sewter (Penguin Classics, 1969/2003) [Opinionated Anna was in the thick of things in Constantinople during the First Crusade.  The book was written to glorify her father, the usurper, Emperor  Alexis, but everyone else is fair game.  Her comments on the leaders of the Crusade are priceless]

Matthew of Edessa, Armenia and the Crusades. Tr. Ara Doustourian. (Armenian Heritage Press, 2014) [This new, revised edition is fabulous.  Matthew lived in Edessa before and during the early Crusades.  He is highly opinionated and he gives accounts of life there under Muslim and Frankish rulers that are barely mentioned in other sources.  Everyone interested in the crusader period should read this.  We have so few minority views of life then.]


General Histories of the Crusades:

Thomas F. Madden The New Concise History of the Crusades. (MD: Rowman &Amp; Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2006)[I’ve liked much of his earlier work but haven’t had a chance to look at this]

Hans Eberhard Mayer The Crusades (Oxford University Press, 1988) An expert German historian who takes a less French-centered view.

Jonathan Riley-Smith, The First Crusaders, 1095-1131, (Cambridge UP, 1997) [A comprehensive look at the leaders and ranks of the first wave from the west.  He also wrote a three volume history on all the Crusades.]

Carole Hillenbrand. The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives. (Edinburgh University Press, 2010) [This is a fabulous book, full of quotes, analysis and pictures.  She discusses relations among the Arab/Turkish/North African Muslims as well as their interactions with other groups.  Her writing is clear and she makes her biases obvious so that the reader can take them into account.  Whatever general history you read, this should be a companion.]

Christopher Tyerman. God’s War: a New History of the Crusades. (Belnap/Harvard, 2006)  [A vast history, strong on military and political events.  It’s not intended to be a social history and powerful women are given less space than the men.  The strengths of the book are an emphasis on the role of the Italian city-states, his coverage of the crusades in Spain and the Baltic, and a section on the Albigensian Crusade.]

WARNING!!!  Whatever book you choose for a general survey of the period, if the author is listed as a reporter for the New York Times or the Washington Post, put it back on the shelf.  These books are popular but wildly inaccurate.  I have no idea why these people think they can write a history because they’ve been to the Middle East and read a couple of books on the topic.  ARRGH!


Websites and blogs:

Andrew Holt is a medieval historian and local TV pundit who has a blog that often covers the Crusades.

He has also edited a book with Alfred J. Andrea, Seven myths of the Crusades, Hackett Publishing, Indianapolis, 2015 ($19.00)  This is a good corrective for a lot of things that “everyone knows”, including the non-connection between the Templars and the Freemasons.

The Medieval Sourcebook.  This is a wonderful resource for primary sources in translation.  Paul Halsall has maintained it for many years.

May 7, 2011

In response to many requests (OK 2) I have reproduced the chapter from the book THE REAL HISTORY BEHIND THE TEMPLARS on recognizing pseudo history.  (see my previous blog)  Since it’s rampant these days, I think we all should cultivate a talent for spotting the signs.  It pleases me greatly to know that this cahpter is being used in at least one classroom!

Ps. I’d show the picture of the helicopter but secret government agents have erased them from my computer.  I’d show you the book that tells of the Irish monk, but I promised the owner to protect his identity.  Sorry.

How to Tell if You are Reading Pseudo-history.

            There are so many published theories about the Templars that it’s difficult to keep up with them.  In this book I have attempted to give the story of the Order and also address some of the illogical or unsubstantiated claims about them.  But this is very difficult.  Every time I think I’ve found them all, new Templar stories pop up like dandelions on a lawn.  So, I’ve decided to give the reader a few guidelines to help in judging the material. Many of these are well-written and sound authoritative.    But there are some clues that can help the reader make a decision about how trustworthy the writer is.

Here goes.

1.    Is the book published by a university press?  If yes, then it’s been checked by other historians and, while there may still be errors, it’s likely to be as accurate as possible.

If no, then…

2.   Are most of the footnotes to primary sources that any scholar can find?  If yes, then you may be ok and, if you doubt something, you can go look it up.

One mark of pseudo-history is that most of the footnotes are to other pseudo-histories or “secret” books (see no. 4) and it’s impossible to trace down the original information to check it.

If no, then…

3.    Does the author use phases like “everybody knows” and “historians agree”?  If yes, then don’t bother reading further.  There is nothing that “everybody” knows.  That’s just a quick way of saying, “I haven’t done my research and want to make you feel too ignorant to call me on it.”

Historians do agree on things like, “there was a battle of Hastings and William of Normandy won”.  Or “Machu Pichu is an amazing feat of engineering.”  Beyond that, everyone has a different way of evaluating the available data.  One other thing historians agree on is that someone who presents work that’s not based on information that others can check isn’t going to last long in the rough and tumble academic world.

4.   Does the author insist that the theory can’t be proved with available data because there was an immense cover-up or that the knowledge is guarded by a select secret society?  If yes, then how did the author find the information?  How was it authenticated?

An alternate to this is that the author has a “secret” source, a lost book or a document that reveals all.  This was used often in the Middle Ages.  The most famous is Geoffrey of Monmouth who wrote some of the earliest King Arthur stories.  He found the information in a book “in the British tongue”, that is, Breton or Welsh.  Since no one else had the book and Geoffrey wouldn’t show it to anyone, only he could transmit the truth.  I must admit, he did well with it.


5. Does the author pile one supposition upon another, assuming they are all true?  For instance, a book may begin with a known fact, such as, “the Templars had their headquarters at the al-Aqsa mosque” and then continue with something like, “As is well-known, the area in front of the mosque is large enough in which to land a helicopter.”[1]  Then the author might continue by wondering why the space was there before helicopters had been invented.  Perhaps he has found, by chance, a manuscript illustration that resembles a helicopter about to land.  Even though the manuscript was made in, say,Ireland, the author of a pseudo history will imagine a previously unknown Irish monk coming to Jerusalem in time to see the Templars’ secret helicopter landings.  “Everybody knows” the Irish were great pilgrims.

From this, the author will claim to have established that there were helicopters flown by Templars and that it is proved by the picture made by the phantom pilgrim monk.  Of course, the only way this could be is if the Templars were really time-traveling soldiers of fortune determined to grab all the artifacts they could, including mystical talking heads (really a 24th century communication device) that would give them the secret of the universe.  This makes perfect sense because “everyone knows” that this is the site of Solomon’s temple and Solomon, as you must have heard, was a great magician who hid advanced technology in the basement of the Temple to keep ignorant and superstitious people from gaining knowledge that their primitive minds couldn’t handle.

The author is sure that now is the time when all should be revealed.

You heard it here first.

[1]  Another interesting trait of pseudo historians is that the author won’t have bothered to find out that the Templars filled in the courtyard with buildings, including a large church and that it was only when Saladin took the city ofJerusalem and cleared them out that there was room to land a helicopter.

More than in the books

March 12, 2010

THE REAL HISTORY OF THE END OF THE WORLD will be out on April 6, 2010.   In it I talk about how people have viewed the End for the past 5000 years or so.  As you might imagine, there were a lot more theories about the End than I could put in the book.  So I decided to start a blog to add in people and ideas that I didn’t have room for.  I also want to post updates on that (last warnings?) and a lot of the medieval subjects that interest me.  Since I firmly believe that there either never was a Middle Ages or that we are still in them, that gives me a lot of scope for comment.

I am also hoping that others will add their thoughts.    One thing I can say at the start is that so far,   all predictions as to a date for the End have been wrong.    I will add more information on other movements.  For instance, did you know that Lady Eleanor Davies was more often correct in her prophecies than Nostradamus?   He just got more press.

I think my next rant will be on the “documentary” about the guy who went hiking on a remote Pacific island and decided a rock formation was a Mayan ruin built as the prime spot for viewing the end of the 13th baktun.

Feel free to join in!   Sharan