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HS5219 Byzantium and the First Crusade

Instructor:  Professor Jonathan Harris

Term 1. To be taught at Royal Holloway, Egham. Time and place to be arranged.

This course traces the response of the rulers of the Byzantine Empire to the First Crusade, which passed through their territory in 1096-7. It places the crusade in the context of previous Byzantine interaction with the Latin West, especially attempts by the emperors to secure military help both before and during the reign of Alexios I Komnenos (1081-1118). The events of the First Crusade - its preaching by Urban II in 1095, its progress through Byzantine territory to Antioch, the ‘third wave’ of 1101 and Bohemond of Taranto’s attack on the empire in 1107 – will all be discussed in this context through a range of Byzantine and Western source material in translation. Among the issues discussed will be the role of Alexios I in the preaching and launching of the crusade, the nature of the oaths sworn in Constantinople in 1096-7, the importance of the schism between the Byzantine and western Churches and the origin of the hostility between Bohemond and Alexios I.

Introductory Reading:

Angold, Michael, The Byzantine Empire, 1025-1204: A Political History, 2nd edn (London: Longman, 1997)

Frankopan, Peter, The First Crusade: The Call from the East (London: Bodley Head, 2012)

Harris, Jonathan, Byzantium and the Crusades, 2nd edn (London: Bloomsbury, 2014)


Background Reading (the numbers in brackets are Royal Holloway library call marks).

It would be helpful to buy a copy of  Anna Komnene (Comnena), The Alexiad, trans. E.R.A. Sewter, revised Peter Frankopan (Penguin books, 2009) as this work will be referred to throughout the course.

What secondary works you read depends on what you have studied in the past. If you are completely new to Byzantium you might like to look at some of these general introductions:

GREGORY, T.E., A History of Byzantium, 2005 (949.501/502 GRE) and e-book available via library catalogue

HARRIS, J., The Lost World of Byzantium, 2015 (949.502 HAR)

HERRIN, J., Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire, 2007 (949.502 HER)

MANGO, C. (ed.), Oxford History of Byzantium, 2002 (949.501/502 OXF) and e-book available via library catalogue.

It would be helpful to read up on the Byzantine background and on the events of 1025-1118:

ANGOLD, M., The Byzantine Empire, 1025-1204, 1997, 2nd ed (949.503 ANG)

ANGOLD, M., ‘The Byzantine empire, 1025-1118’, in The New Cambridge Medieval History. Vol. 4: 1024-c.1198, Part II, ed. D. Luscombe and J. Riley-Smith, 2004, pp. 217-53 (940.1 NEW) and e-book available via library catalogue.

BRYER, A.A.M., 'The first encounter with the West AD 1050-1204', Byzantium: An Introduction, ed. P. Whitting, 1981, pp.85-110 (949.501 WHI)

GREGORY, T.E., A History of Byzantium, 2005, pp. 237-68 (949.501/502 GRE) and e-book available via library catalogue.

HARRIS, J., Byzantium and the Crusades, 2nd ed., 2014 (949.503 HAR)

MAGDALINO, P., 'The Byzantine background to the First Crusade' (http://web.archive.org/web/20110605023308/http://www.deremilitari.org/resources/articles/magdalino.htm)

MAGDALINO, P., ‘The medieval empire, 780-1204’, Oxford History of Byzantium, ed. C.Mango, 2002, pp. 169-208 (949.501/502 OXF) and e-book available via library catalogue.

STEPHENSON, P., 'Political History, 1025-1204', in Palgrave Advances: Byzantine History, ed. J. Harris, 2005, pp. 39-57 (949.501/502 PAL)

TREADGOLD, W., A Concise History of Byzantium, 2001, pp. 165-96 (949.501/502 TRE)

TREADGOLD, W., A History of the Byzantine State and Society, 1997, pp. 583-637 (949.502 TRE)

It would also be an idea to read a narrative account of the First Crusade, if you are not familiar with it, for example: 

ASBRIDGE, T., The First Crusade: A New History, 2004 (940.10 ASB)

HOUSLEY, N., Contesting the Crusades, 2006, pp. 24-47 (909.07 HOU)

JOTISCHKY, A, Crusading and the Crusader States, 2004, pp. 23-72 (940.18 JOT)

PHILLIPS, J., The Crusades, 1095-1197, 2002, pp. 1-26 (940.18 PHI)

PHILLIPS, J., Holy Warriors: A Modern History of the Crusades, 2009 (909/07 PHI)

RICHARD, J., The Crusades c.1071-c.1291, 1999, pp. 1-76 (940.18 RIC)

RILEY-SMITH, J. (ed.), The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades, 1993, pp. 13-65 (940.18 OXF)

RUNCIMAN, S., A History of the Crusades: 1. The First Crusade, 1951 (940.18 RUN). Rather dated and containing some errors but still a good read.

Finally, general surveys of some of the themes of the course:

FRANKOPAN, P., ‘The view from the east’, History Today 62 (September, 2012), 38-45

HUSSEY, J.M., ‘Byzantium and the Crusades, 1081-1204’, in K.M. Setton, A History of the Crusades, 6 vols, 1969-89, vol. 2, pp. 123-51 (940.18 SET)

WRIGHT, C., ‘On the margins of Christendom: The impact of the Crusades on Byzantium’, in The Crusades and the Near East: Cultural Histories, ed. C. Kostick, 2011, pp. 55-82 (909.07 CRU)



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