Era of the Crusades
(36 lectures, 30 minutes/lecture)
Taught by Kenneth W. Harl
Ph.D., Yale University
The Crusades have been hailed as the driving force that brought Western Europe out of the Middle Ages—and condemned as the beginning of European imperialism in the Muslim Near East.But what really were the Crusades?
What were the forces that led to one of history’s most protracted and legendary periods of conflict? How did they affect the three great civilizations that participated in them? And, ultimately, why did they end and what did they accomplish?
A Crucial Chapter in the Story of Western Civilization
In The Era of the Crusades, Professor Kenneth W. Harl looks at the "big picture" of the Crusades as an ongoing period of conflict involving Western Christendom (we would now call it Western Europe), the Byzantine Empire, and the Muslim world. From this perspective, you will study the complex but absorbing causes of the Crusades, which include the many political, cultural, and economic changes in Western Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire.
In addition, Professor Harl presents the Crusades in terms of the specific military campaigns—the eight "canonical" Crusades that took place from 1095–1291—proclaimed to retake Jerusalem and the Holy Land from Muslim hands and return them to Christendom. You will consider the immediate circumstances—the leaders, purposes, key battles, and degrees of success or failure—surrounding these often-monumental expeditions (they could number as many as 100,000 soldiers and religious pilgrims).
This course is an opportunity to appreciate fully how Western Civilization changed in many profound ways during the Crusading era. You will understand how the Byzantine Empire collapsed; how Western Europe began its rise to global political, economic, and cultural power; and how the Middle East became a majority Muslim world.
You will also explore a wide variety of misperceptions and long-debated questions about the Crusades. Did the popes preach the Crusades as a way to increase their personal power and authority? Were the Crusader armies made up of zealous and brutal religious fanatics or of highly disciplined soldiers—heirs to a sophisticated Western European military tradition? Why did the members of the Fourth Crusade decide to sack Constantinople, turning the Crusades from Christian against "infidel" to Christian against Christian?
An Era of Adventure, Chivalry, and Legend
This three-part, 36-lecture course is as sweeping in scope as were the Crusades themselves. Professor Harl delves into fascinating aspects of history, all related to the Crusades, that make each lecture a new adventure. These include advances in shipbuilding that were spurred by the Crusades, the types of weapons and military tactics used in battle, and the legend of "Prester John," a mysterious eastern king with whom the popes hoped to form an alliance against the Muslims.
You will appreciate the opulence of the "Queen of Cities," the Byzantine capital of Constantinople, a city that conveyed a sense of awe-inspiring ceremony and splendor to the Crusaders and other visitors. Attending Mass in the city’s cathedral, the Hagia Sophia (now a mosque), was said to be so stirring that a number of Russians converted to Christianity out of the simple conviction that God must dwell in such a magnificent church.
You will examine the organization and purpose of the Hospitallers and the Templars: the Knights of the Hospital and the Knights of the Temple. These "soldiers for Christ," a unique mixture of clergy and warrior, played an instrumental role in defending the Holy Land and in operating its banking system.
What makes the Crusades so attractive to study is that they are like a great novel. This is a time in history that is the source of many of our notions of adventure and chivalry and that is peopled with colorful and renowned figures. Those you will meet include:
Odo of Bayeux, a churchman who fought in the Crusades but still maintained his beliefs against shedding blood. Instead of a sword, he used a mace to simply hit his opponents in the head and give them a concussion.
Louis VII of France, the pious and monkish king who slept on a bare stone floor, worried constantly about his sins, and viewed the Second Crusade as a means to personal redemption.
Eleanor of Aquitane, one of the most brilliant and engaging women in history, whose adventuresome nature led her to join the Second Crusade, accompanied by a personal court that included maidens dressed as Amazons.
Saladin, the great Kurdish-Muslim conqueror whose victory at the Battle of Hattin in 1187 ended the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. Through his gallantry and generosity toward his enemies, Saladin, a Muslim, ironically came to be seen as the epitome of Christian chivalry.
Richard the Lion-hearted, the son of Eleanor of Aquitane and heir to a family tradition of participation in Crusades. Considered "the perfect knight," handsome and with a fondness for gambling, jousting, and tournaments, Richard fought Saladin to a stalemate in a relationship of mutual respect and admiration.
A Masterful Teacher
Professor Harl’s presentation of this intricate story makes it easy to see why he has become one of The Teaching Company’s most popular professors. He seems to have all of the many facts about the Crusades at his fingertips, from key dates to royal lineages to how major battles played out.
Professor Harl has won eight teaching awards at Tulane, including the coveted Sheldon H. Hackney Award (twice voted by faculty and students). In addition, he was the Fall 2001 recipient of the prestigious nationwide Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teachers from Baylor University. Dr. Harl also teaches the popular Teaching Company courses Great Ancient Civilizations of Asia Minor and The World of Byzantium.
Course Lecture Titles
01 The Heirs of Rome
02 Byzantine Orthodox Civilization
03 Byzantine Zenith in the Macedonian Age
04 The Failure of the Heirs of Basil II
05 Abbasid Baghdad and Fatimid Egypt
06 The Coming of the Seljuk Turks
07 The Recovery of Western Europe
08 Kings and Princes of Western Europe
09 Warfare in Western Europe
10 The Papacy and Religious Reform
11 Piety and Pilgrimage
12 Christian Offensives in Spain and Sicily
13 Alexius I and the First Crusade
14 From Clermont to Jerusalem
15 Conquest and Defense of Outremer
16 Frankish Settlement of Outremer
17 Comnenian Emperors and Crusader Princes
18 The Second Crusade
19 The Empire at Bay
20 The Rise of Saladin
21 Byzantine Recovery under the Comnenians
22 A Renaissance of Byzantine Letters and Arts
23 Trade and Currency in the Mediterranean
24 Cultural Exchange in Gothic Europe
25 The Horns of Hattin
26 The Third Crusade
27 From Jerusalem to Constantinople
28 The Sack of Constantinople
29 The World of Frankish Greece
30 Splinter Empires and Orthodox Princes
31 Ayyubid Egypt and Seljuk Anatolia
32 Crusader Cyprus and the Levant
33 Venice and Genoa
34 The Mongols and the Legend of Prester John
35 The Royal Crusaders
36 The Passing of the Crusades