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HS5220 Byzantium and the Fourth Crusade

Instructor: Professor Jonathan Harris

To be taught at Royal Holloway, Egham in term 2 on Tuesday afternoons.

This course takes a long term view of the crusade which captured and sacked Constantinople, the capital city of the Byzantine empire, in April 1204. Starting in 1180, it places events in the context of relations between the Byzantines and previous crusades and assesses how key developments such as the usurpation of Andronicus I, the Third Crusade and the empire’s internal weakness contributed to the ultimate outcome. We shall then turn to the events of 1198-1204. Translations of accounts left by contemporaries and eyewitnesses (both Byzantine and Western) will be studied in detail as we try to discover why an expedition that set out with the intention of recovering Jerusalem from Islam ended up pillaging the greatest city in the Christian world.


Introductory Reading:

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

Harris, Jonathan, Byzantium and the Crusades (London: Hambledon, 2003)

Phillips, Jonathan, The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople (London: Cape, 2004)


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

It would be helpful to buy a copy of Chronicles of the Crusades, trans. C. Smith (Penguin Books, 2008) as Geoffrey of Villehardouin’s account of the Fourth Crusade in that book is a vital primary source.

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)

HARRIS, J., Constantinople: Capital of Byzantium, 2007 (949.61 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)


It would be helpful to read up specifically on Byzantine history in the period 1118-1204:

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

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)

MAGDALINO, P., ‘The Byzantine empire, 1118-1204’, in The New Cambridge Medieval History. Vol. 4: 1024-c.1198, Part II, ed. D. Luscombe and J. Riley-Smith, 2004, pp. 611-43 (940.1 NEW)

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 (949.501/502 TRE)

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


If, on the other hand, you are new to the Crusades, it would be an idea to read a narrative account of the Fourth Crusade, for example:

McNEAL, E.H. and WOLFF, R.L., 'The Fourth Crusade', in K.M. Setton, A History of the Crusades, 6 vols., 1969-89, vol. 2, pp. 153-85 (940.18 SET). Also on MOODLE.

MAYER, H.E., The Crusades, 1988, 2nd ed., pp. 196-213 (940.18 MAY)

PHILLIPS, J., The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople, 2004 (940.18 PHI)

QUELLER, D.E. and MADDEN, T.F., The Fourth Crusade, 2nd ed. 1997 (940.18 QUE)

RICHARD, J., The Crusades c.1071-c.1291, 1999, pp. 242-58 (940.18 RIC)

RUNCIMAN, S., A History of the Crusades, 3 vols, 1951-4, vol. 3, pp. 107-31 (940.18 RUN)


Other reading:

ECO, U., Baudolino, 2002, is a novel, but it describes some of the events leading up to 1204.


Finally, a general survey of some of the themes of the course:

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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