HIH1505 - The First Crusade

2016/7 Module description

Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module description

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.

Module aims

This module aims to acquaint students with some of the key problems arising from the use of various sources for the history of the First Crusade and the evidence they provide about a wider range of issues. At the Council of Clermont (1095) Pope Urban II called on the people of western Europe to go to the aid of their fellow Christians in the East against the forces of Islam. Whether he had in mind a small army of mercenaries to aid the Byzatines or the huge popular movement of perhaps 100, 000 people which emerged, and which led to the establishment of the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem, is a matter of considerable debate, as are the motives of those involved in the Crusade. Contemporary texts will allow us to study the Crusade from the point of view of the Pope, the Crusaders themselves, and those they encountered en route: the Jews in the Rhineland, the Byzantine Christians and the Moslems. These texts will themselves be analysed with the aim of demonstrating to students problems of the reliability and bias of historical sources.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Ability to assess the reasons for the success of the First Crusade.
  • 2. Ability to assess how the idea of the crusade developed.
  • 3. Ability to work critically with a range of sources for the history of the First Crusade written from a variety of perspectives.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Ability to identify the problems of using historical sources, e.g. bias, reliability, etc., and to compare the validity of different types of source, e.g. chronicles, letters and charters.
  • 5. Ability to answer a question briefly and concisely.
  • 6. Ability to present work orally, to respond to questions orally, and to think quickly of questions to ask other students.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Independent study and group work, including the presentation of material for group discussion, developed through the mode of learning.
  • 8. Ability to digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment.
  • 9. Ability to work with others in a team and to interact effectively with the tutor and the wider group.
  • 10. Ability to write to a very tight word-length.

Syllabus plan

Week 1 Introductory lecture

Week 2 Calling the Crusade

Week 3 The Response to the Crusade

Week 4 The ‘People’s Crusade’

Week 5 Jewish reactions to the crusaders

Week 6 Reading week: no class Week 12 General review

Week 7 Byzantine perceptions of the crusaders

Week 8 Fighting the Turks

Week 9 Dissent amongst crusaders reflected in chronicles

Week 10 The crusade through Moslem eyes

Week 11 The Crusade ideal

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities22 hour lecture: Introduction to module
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities2010 x 2 hour seminars. At a meeting of the whole class generally a different group of 3-4 students will give a presentation to the whole class, followed by class discussion and working through the sources for that week carefully. Additional sources may be issued in the class and the lecturer will also use the time to set up issues for the following week.
Guided Independent Study128Students prepare for the session through reading and research; writing a weekly source essay and preparing one group presentation in the course of the term.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group presentation (3-4 students)10-15 minutes1-4, 6-7, 9Oral
Lowest mark from portfolio of 5 source commentaries500 words1-5, 7-8, 10Marks and written comments

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
4 highest marks from portfolio of 5 source commentaries602000 words (500 per commentary) (15% per commentary)1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments
Essay on Sources401500 words1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
4 highest marks from portfolio of 5 source commentaries4 highest marks from portfolio of 5 source commentaries1-5, 7-8, 10Referral/deferral period.
1500 word essay1500 words essay1-5, 7-8, 10Referral/deferral period.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Hans Eberhard Mayer, The Crusades, 2nd edn (Oxford, 1988)
Kenneth M. Setton and Marshall W. Baldwin, (eds), A History of the Crusades I: the First Hundred Years (Madison, Wisc.,1969)
Steven Runciman, A history of the Crusades, vol I: The First Crusade and the Foundation of the Kingdom of Jerusalem,
(Cambridge, 1951)
Jonathan Riley-Smith, The First Crusaders, 1095-1131 (Cambridge, 1997)
Jonathan Riley-Smith, The First Crusade and the Idea of Crusading (London, 1986)
John France, Victory in the East : a Military History of the First Crusade (Cambridge, 1994)
Jonathan Philips (ed.), The First Crusade (Manchester, 1997)

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