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HS5220 Byzantium and the Fourth Crusade

Instructor: Professor Jonathan Harris

To be taught at Royal Holloway, Egham in term 2.  Time and place to be arranged.

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 around 1192, it places events in the context of relations between the Byzantines and previous crusades, of the internal situation of the empire and of the situation in the Latin east in the aftermath of the Third Crusade. It then examines how the Fourth Crusade was preached and planned, how it was diverted first to Zara and then to Constantinople, and how it came to attack and pillage the city.  Translations of accounts left by contemporaries and eyewitnesses (both Byzantine and Western) will be studied in detail and subjected to critical analysis.


Introductory Reading:

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

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

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


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 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).

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)

If, on the other hand, 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 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.D. Whitting, 1981, pp.85-110 (949.501 WHI)

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

HARRIS, J., Constantinople: Capital of Byzantium, 2nd ed. 2017 (949.61 HAR)

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)

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) 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 (949.501/502 TRE)

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

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)


If you like historical novels, they are easy way to introduce yourself to the period. Two that are relevant to this course are:

 ECO, U., Baudolino, 2002

HENEAGE, J., The Mistra Chronicles (composed of The Walls of Byzantium, 2013, The Towers of Samarcand, 2014 and The Lion of Mistra, 2015





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