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Sophomore Seminar in History: The Crusades

Religious Studies 2062 - Fall 2020

In 1095, pope Urban II urged Christian princes to liberate the Holy Land from Muslim rule. Four years later, after enduring great hardships, the knights who had answered Urban's call conquered the city of Jerusalem. This first crusade and its accomplishments not only shaped the way future crusades were conducted, but also the way in which historians have both understood and framed the idea of a "crusade" as an armed pilgrimage sanctioned by the papacy to the holy land. However, the language of crusade was also invoked in campaigns against other enemies of Christendom: the long struggle to reconquer Spain from its Muslim rulers, the wars waged against pagan peoples along the Baltic Sea, and campaigns undertaken against Christian heretics and political foes of the papacy. This course aims to explore the idea of "crusade" and "crusading" over the course of the Middle Ages and raise questions about what these crusading activities meant for the participants, the public, and posterity. We will examine the causes, immediate effects, and long-term consequences of the crusades, and trace the lasting memory of crusading ideology throughout the Middle Ages and beyond. By the end of this course, students will understand the major themes and ideas that made up the medieval crusades and how those themes and ideas changed over time. Students will be able to recognize key components that made up a crusade and identify rhetorical trends that constitute a crusading ideology. Through an examination of holy war, pilgrimage, penance, indulgences, and the like, the students will ground themselves in the very issues that historians use to understand the Middle Ages. Finally, they will also acquire some of the basic skills of the historian's craft, learning how to read primary sources critically, use them to frame an argument, and situate that argument in relation to previous scholarship.

Section 01

Sophomore Seminar in History
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