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MA in Crusader Studies


Knights      Krak des Chevaliers           E08-Mainfacade,GreatUmayyadMosque,Damascus  


The Royal Holloway MA in Crusader Studies offers a unique and fascinating examination of the ideas, impact and personalities of this subject from the medieval age to the present day. Using a substantial range of contemporary materials, some of them unpublished, this course also provides a stimulating understanding of the sources, the events and the changing interpretations of this controversial topic.

The MA is led by Professor Jonathan Phillips (Professor of Crusading History), the author of five monographs on the history of the crusades, including most recently Holy Warriors: A Modern History of the Crusades (Bodley Head, 2009) and The Second Crusade: Extending the Frontiers of Christendom (Yale, 2007).

 Royal Holloway, University of London has a long tradition of studying the History of the Crusades and Byzantium and, in conjunction with the libraries and research seminars of central London, offers unparalleled expertise and resources. This MA has been taken by students from a wide variety of ages and backgrounds, both for the intrinsic interest of the subject-matter itself and as a means of securing a further set of skills and a qualification; it also has a highly successful track record as a springboard to doctoral research.


An Overview of the MA:

Louis IX, Mamluks and Mongols’. This unit covers the Seventh Crusade (1248-54), the largest crusade of the thirteenth century, led by Saint Louis IX of France. We consider the recruitment and progress of this campaign through the engaging and observant text of the chivalric knight John of Joinville, as well as a variety of letters, narratives, songs and documents. We will examine the crusade’s seismic effect on the Muslim Near East; it was this momentous event that helped to propel the Mamluk dynasty to power in Egypt and, by coincidence, overlapped with the continued advance of the terrifying Mongol horsemen into Persia and Syria. We assess western Europeans’ attempts to gain some understanding of the Mongols through the compelling eye-witness narratives of Mendicant friars who journeyed into the unknown wastelands of the East in an attempt to convert the steppe-warriors to Christianity.



Option courses include: ‘Byzantium and the Fourth Crusade’. This examines the frequently troubled relationship between the Crusaders and Byzantium, a situation which culminated in the disastrous diversion of the Fourth Crusade and the tragic sacking of the greatest city in the Christian world in April 1204.



Alternatively, ‘Women, the Crusades and Frontier Societies’ considers the roles of women in the crusading movement and the extent to which they could wield political power in the Latin East, most notably through the remarkable Queen Melisende (1131-52).


Recording the Crusades: The Historical Memory of the Crusading Movement’. This is a new course that reflects current interest in the way that the crusading mutated and survived down the centuries. We consider, for example, why crusading became relevant again during the age of colonialism in the nineteenth century; its use in World War I; and its adoption by General Franco in Spain. We also look at the legacy of the crusades in the Muslim world; at how Saladin emerged as a model for Arab Nationalists, such as Nasser of Egypt, and for Islamists, such as Osama bin Laden. Using literature, film, posters, photographs and contemporary documents, as well as enabling students to conduct their own original research through electronic resources, this is an innovative and ground-breaking unit. 


  Saladin in Damascus      




Skills and Languages: Courses in Research Skills and students with the necessary technical expertise to conduct master’s level research and will also provide a grounding for those looking to continue to doctoral research.

The MA concludes with a 15,000 word Dissertation, a piece of original research conducted by the student in conjunction with a supervisor and developed through group meetings and presentations.


Download the handbook (pdf).


Full-time: 50 weeks

Part-time: 102 weeks 


The Programme Course (25%) is assessed by one or two essays (at the course leader’s discretion) totalling 10,000 words.

The Core Course and one Option Course (12.5% each) are each assessed by one or two essays (at the course leader’s discretion) totalling 5,000 words. 

The Research Skills for Crusades Historians (12.5%) is assessed continuously.  Assignments will normally include oral presentations, class participation, and a selection of research skills (e.g. footnoting, bibliography, etc).

Each of the Skills Courses (12.5%) is assessed by coursework.

i): Latin (Beginners or Advanced)

ii) Recording the Crusades - the Historiography and Memory of the Crusades

The Dissertation (25%) is a piece of original work of 12,500 words.


Progression throughout the year is monitored through performance in coursework assignments, interim reports, and meetings with the Programme Director.

To pass the programme a student must achieve a mark of at least 50% in each course.

Failure marks of between 40 to 49% may, at the discretion of the Examining Board, be condoned in one or more courses constituting up to a maximum of 25% of the programme, but the Dissertation and the Programme Course must be passed with a mark of 50% or more. A student who does not successfully pass a course at the first attempt may be allowed to re-sit on one occasion.

To be awarded a Merit a student must achieve a weighted average of at least 65% over all courses, with no mark in any course falling below 50%. A Merit cannot be awarded if a student re-sits or re-takes any element of the programme.

To be awarded a Distinction a student must achieve a weighted average of at least 70% over all courses, with no mark in any course falling below 60%, and normally with a mark of at least 70% in the dissertation. A Distinction cannot be awarded if a student re-sits or re-takes any element of the programme.

Part-time students will normally complete the Programme Course and the Research Development Course in their first year of study and the two Option Courses, the Skills Course, and the Dissertation in their second year of study.



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