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Module HTH-2154:
Holy Wars 1095-1197

Module Facts

Run by School of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Euryn Roberts

Overall aims and purpose

When the fateful news of Jerusalem’s fall to the Islamic armies of Saladin in October 1187 reached Pope Urban III, it is said that he fell dead due to the shock. Close to a century had passed since the armies of the First Crusade had captured the holy city in a tremendous outpouring of violence and zeal in 1099. This module sets out to explore the events leading up to, and the aftermath of these notable events; a period which continues in many ways to be an emotional tinderbox for some in the East and the West. You will be provided with an insight into the motivations and actions of colourful characters such as Saladin and Richard the Lionheart, along with an opportunity to scrutinize a sample of the wealth of surviving primary sources (both textual and material). The module is also concerned with the unique society which developed in the Crusader States during the twelfth century, and you will be encouraged to assess the wider cultural, political, social and religious impact of this age of holy war.

The module aims to acquaint students with the main developments and impact of holy wars on the Eastern Mediterranean during the period 1095-1197; to introduce rival interpretations of topics covered and equip students to judge between them; to encourage students to synthesize their understanding of the topic as a whole; and to let them take special interest in particular aspects.

Course content

This module explores the following themes:

  1. Introduction: The Birth of Holy War; 2. The First Crusade; 3. The Challenges of a New Land c.1097-c.1152; 4. Foreigners no more? Society, Culture and Religion in the Crusader States; 5. The Military Orders; 6. The Second Crusade; 7. The Rise of Nur ad-Din and the Struggle for Egypt; 8. Warfare, strategy and castles in an Age of Holy War; 9. The Leper-King and the Defender of Islam; 10. The Third Crusade and its Aftermath

You will be given an opportunity to focus in-depth on these themes and on the underpinning primary sources in your seminars.

Assessment Criteria


Threshold students (D- [42%]) will demonstrate an appropriate depth of knowledge of at least parts of the relevant field, and will make at least partly-successful attempts to frame arguments which engage with historical controversies


Good students (C-, C, C+ [50s]) will demonstrate a greater depth of knowledge, and an ability to present evidence-based and coherent arguments on a number of topics relevant to the field. Very good students (B-, B, B+ [60s]) will show a solid level of achievement in all the criteria listed.


Excellent students (A-, A, A+, A* [70s and above]) will show this solid achievement across the criteria combined with particularly impressive depths of knowledge and/or subtlety of analysis.

Learning outcomes

  1. Demonstrate a thorough understanding of the development and consequences of Holy Wars during the period 1095-1197.

  2. Demonstrate a detailed knowledge of some aspects of the topic.

  3. Judge between competing historical interpretations of the period, including current historiographical positions.

  4. Present clear, evidence-based, and cogent historical arguments on aspects of the history of Holy Wars during the period 1095-1197.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
essay 2 50
Essay 1 50

Teaching and Learning Strategy


Attendance at all the lectures is essential as they form the backbone of this module. The lectures will provide you with knowledge and understanding of the key themes and issues covered by this module. They will also direct you to relevant primary sources and provide an overview of the historiography.


The primary aim of the seminars is to generate debate and discussion. Students will be given an opportunity to discuss topics or issues introduced by the lectures, along with related themes, perhaps not directly addressed by the lectures, but drawing on the wider guidance for reading provided by this handbook. Seminars will provide students, and those in the 3rd-year especially, with guidance on how to critically approach the various types of primary source material.

Private study 176

Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting

Subject specific skills

  • problem solving to develop solutions to understand the past
  • understanding the complexity of change over time; in specific contexts and chronologies
  • being sensitive to the differences, or the "otherness" of the past, and the difficulty to using it as a guide to present or future action
  • being sensitive to the role of perceptions of the past in contemporary cultures
  • producing logical and structured arguments supported by relevant evidence
  • planning, designing, executing and documenting a programme of research, working independently
  • marshalling and critically appraising other people's arguments, including listening and questioning
  • demonstrating a positive and can-do approach to practical problems
  • demonstrating an innovative approach, creativity, collaboration and risk taking
  • preparing effective written communications for different readerships
  • making effective and appropriate use of relevant information technology
  • making critical and effective use of information retrieval skills using paper-based and electronic resources
  • collaborating effectively in a team via experience of working in a group
  • appreciating and being sensitive to different cultures and dealing with unfamiliar situations
  • critical evaluation of one's own and others' opinions


Resource implications for students


Talis Reading list

Reading list

A select biliography of general works.

T. Asbridge, The Creation of the Principality of Antioch, 1098-1130 (Woodbridge, 2000) J. Bronstein, The Hospitallers and the Holy Land: Financing the Latin East, 1187-1274 (Woodbridge, 2005) P. W. Edbury, John of Ibelin and the Kingdom of Jerusalem (Woodbridge, 1997) N. Housley, Religious Warfare in Europe, 1400-1536 (Oxford, 2002) H. Nicholson (ed.), Palgrave Advances in the Crusades (Basingstoke, 2005) J. Phillips, Defenders of the Holy Land: Relations Between the Latin East and the West, 1119-1187 (Oxford, 1996) J. Riley-Smith, The First Crusaders, 1095-1131 (Cambridge, 1997) C. Robinson, Islamic Historiography (Cambridge, 2003) M. Barber and K. Bate (trans.), Letters from the East : crusaders, pilgrims and settlers in the 12th-13th centuries (2010) L. Riley-Smith and J, Riley-Smith, (eds), The Crusades: Idea and Reality 1095–1274 (1981) J. France, The Crusades and the Expansion of Catholic Christendom (2005) C. Hillenbrand, The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives (1999) P. M. Holt, The Age of the Crusades (1986) N. Housley, Contesting the Crusades (2006) A. Jotishky, Crusading and the Crusader States (2004) A. Jotishky (ed.), The Crusades (2008) P. Lock, The Routledge Companion to the Crusades (2006) H.E. Mayer, The Crusades 2nd edn (1987) J. Richard, The Crusades c.1071–c.1291 (1999) C. Morris, The Sepulchre of Christ and the Medieval West (2007) J. Phillips, Holy Warriors : a Modern History of the Crusades (2009) J. Riley-Smith (ed.), The Atlas of the Crusades (1991) J. Riley-Smith, (ed.), The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades (1995) S. Runciman, History of the Crusades (1951–4) K. M. Setton, (ed.), A History of the Crusades 2nd edn (1969–89) E. Siberry, Criticism of Crusading 1095–1274 (1985) J. Tolan, Saracens: Islam in the medieval European imagination (2002) C. Tyerman, England and the Crusades 1095–1588 (1988) C. Tyerman, The Invention of the Crusades (1998) C. Tyerman, God’s War (2006)

Courses including this module

Optional in courses: