Conference Program


85th Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History

 Landscapes of War and Peace

April 5 - 8, 2018, Louisville, Kentucky


Title: Was the First Crusade an Offensive or Defensive War?
Abstract: The Crusades are history's most famous holy wars and have been the subject of intense academic scrutiny. The debate over of the cause and purpose of the First Crusade in particular is diverse in approach, ranging from such schools of thought as "traditionalism" (crusades were defensive wars to aid Christians and Christian lands in the East) to "generalism" (crusades resulted from a gradual ecclesiastical acceptance of Christian violence) to "pluralism" (crusades were a type of penitential war that could be fought anywhere) and "popularism" (crusades were inherently eschatological in focus). The interpretive wrangling of historians over these concepts?all of which have some merit?is well known in medieval history circles.

However, in the public sphere there are really only two basic understandings of what the Crusades were. One might dub them the critical and the apologetic views. In the first, the Crusades were malicious, offensive wars intent on the destruction of Islam and/or eastern cultures and, afterward, a colonial occupation of the Levant. In the second view, the Crusades were a defensive response waged by Christians in response to four centuries of Islamic aggression against the Church. In effect, wholesale black-and-white condemnations or approvals have been the order of the day. How and if these notions correspond to serious academic research of the Crusades is an important question.

This roundtable, therefore, will center on the ways academic study has and has not affected broader understandings of the First Crusade. A panel of Crusade experts will offer unique views on crusading historiography and discuss its connection to popular notions of Christian holy war. The session should be profitable for a wide audience: medieval military historians, students of religion and war, teachers of Western or World History, and anyone interested in the public reception of historical research.
 
John Hosler, Army Command and General Staff College
Janet Valentine, Army Command and General Staff College
Lawrence Marvin, Berry College
Andrew Holt, Florida State College at Jacksonville
Daniel Franke, Richard Bland College of William & Mary