It would require a particular talent to write a dull history of the crusades and there are many fine studies available covering virtually every aspect of the subject, from politics to battles, and from the economy to daily life and crusader settlement in the Levant. It becomes a challenge to find a new and original direction by which to engage and captivate an audience on the topic. If one’s aim is to interest a wider audience, the challenge becomes greater still. Putting aside the academic seeking to fathom why a peasant from Poitiers might wish to participate in the hardship and perils of a crusade, or the archaeologist trying to understand why a castle was built in a particularly undefendable location, what about the student who is only beginning to come to terms with this remarkable period of history, and the layman whose acquaintance with the crusades is limited to having seen dubious representations of crusading history in such films as Kingdom of Heaven, or who has only heard the term used when a minister of Health recommends a “crusade” to stamp out tooth decay? Crusading history and the archaeological study of the crusader states is worthy of a wider audience, but how to go about reaching a broader public?
When approaching retirement, I wondered in what way I, a crusader historian and archaeologist, might contribute to an awakening of interest in the subject that has held me captivated for several decades. It occurred to me that it might be done by writing a bi-weekly blog consisting of posts on various crusader related topics, but with a twist – by comparing the topics I chose to similar events from other time periods, both ancient and modern, or to personal recollections and encounters from my own past, I aimed to give the blog an at once more intimate and unique character. The posts would be informal, informative, and occasionally combined with an element of humour. Following this framework, for a period of close to two years, until another project that I am currently engaged in began to take up all of my time, I wrote on numerous crusader-Latin East related topics.
A small number of these posts, combined to form larger, but still quite short essays, are what make up the current volume titled The Crusades Uncovered. The title is a wink at my profession, for indeed, I have spent several decades uncovering the crusades, or to be more precise, uncovering the outcome of the crusades (most of my work has been to expose crusader settlements and fortifications, which were consequences of the crusades, the crusades themselves being comparatively brief events that left little material evidence). The mini essays in this volume are filled with reminiscences and based on my own experiences and attitudes. As such, they are often very personal, something that only I could have written. That makes this little volume very close to me. However, this personal approach is hopefully one reason why readers might find the book not only informative but engaging.
by Adrian J. Boas
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Perceptions—Travel, Legend, Warfare, Wonderment
Chapter 2: Places—Hattin, Fortresses, Jerusalem, Acre, The Countryside
Chapter 3: People—Guy de Lusignan, Marino Sanudo, Germain, Saladin
Postscript: Hit and Myth—History and Mystery