Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2010-2011 (archived)


Department: History


Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2010/11 Module Cap 80 Location Durham


  • A pass mark in at least ONE level one module in History.


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To develop a detailed understanding of the history of the crusades, crusader society and culture, the ideology of holy war, and the societies with which crusaders interacted, c. 1050-c. 1400
  • To develop a working knowledge of the background to holy war in Islamic, Byzantine and Latin Christrian culture.
  • To develop a grasp of the historiographical debate surrounding crusades.


  • The course can be seen to fall into two sections, the first on the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, the principalities of Edessa and Antioch and the County of Tripoli, their establishment and fate in the twelfth century. The second part concerns both the attempts to re-secure these territories in the Eastern Mediterranean and the prosecution of crusade elsewhere, on the borders of Castile, Aragon and Portugal, the German and Baltic frontiers and within Christendom as directed against enemies of the church (heretics and political enemies of the papacy).
  • The crusades are one of the most enduring images of the Western Middle Ages. From the Council of Clermont in 1095 when Urban II called the nobility present to follow the Cross, to the close of the Middle Ages and well beyond - the attack of the Spanish Armada against England was technically a crusade - crusaders and crusading were a permanent fixture on the European scene. To study the Crusades is to appreciate the riches and complexities, glories and failures, heroes and villains, self-perceptions and identities of medieval society.
  • The origins of the idea of crusading will be explored and the competing historiographical points of view examined. Following that the First Crusade will be looked at in considerable detail. As well as the narrative framework, the coneptual frameworks surrounding the complications of the evidence at our disposal and the ways in which these can be approached, alleviated and interpreted will form part of the course. After that the establishment, development and collapse of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem will be explored: key questions here involve military and social organisation - fighting monks, castles and royal dynasties, the settlement of the kingdom - towns, commercial life and rural settlement, the church in the East, relationships with other societies, cultures and polities - Muslims, Jews, Armenians, Greeks and other Westerners. The second and third crusades form part of this aspect of the course. In addition to the Western perspective, the response of Islam will also be considered, the evolution of Jihad, the rise of the Zengi and Nur-ad Din, and then the rise of the Ayyubid dynasty under Saladin.
  • From this point attention is shifted to other theatres of crusade. The Spanish and Portuguese re-conquests figure, as do the crusades in the North, the Danish and German dominated expeditions against the pagan Wends, Livonians, Lithuanians and the orthodox Russians. Questions of the transferability of the ideology of crusade are crucial here, as well as the very different nature of conquest and domination in these regions. The ultimately less successful expeditions in the Eastern Mediterranean will be covered including the Fourth Crusade which ended up capturing not Jerusalem but Constantinople, and the Fifth which fought and died in north Egypt. Finally the crusading activity of Louis IX and its aftermath will be considered, involving the Mamluk dynasty and the more terrifying prospect of the Mongols. A last topic will explore the use of crusade within Christendom in the form of crusades against heretics.
  • The Crusades offers the opportunity to address key historiographical issues such as the problems of defining crusade, the motivations for crusading and the role of the papacy. The merits of treating crusade in a narrow Jerusalem-centred manner or in a broad all-encompassing manner will also be considered. The question of crusade as a colonial venture will also be broached. Many of the issues discussed, for example the interaction between cultures and societies, have resonance far beyond the medieval period. Within that period however these questions offer an exciting and fascinating insight into the medieval world.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • An understanding of the complexities of identifying and interpreting crusades, both in terms of contemporary sources and modern historiography;
  • A knowledge of the ideological issues in the emergence of crusade in the eleventh century and their evolution in the course of the period. This will be complimented by understanding of the ideological responses engendered by crusade, in particular the Islamic response in the Near East and the notion of Jihad;
  • An appreciation of the relationships and discontinuities between ideology and practice in crusading activity;
  • A knowledge of a broad range of the dominant cultures of the period: the Latin West, Muslim Spain, Fatimid and Ayyubid Egypt, the Levant, Byzantium, Slavs, Scandinavian kingdoms, Mongols and Mamluks;
  • An appreciation of the interdisciplinary nature of the material used for the crusades: documentary (in various forms), archaeological and artistic.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Subject specific skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/history.internal/local/ModuleProformaMap/
Key Skills:
  • Key skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/history.internal/local/ModuleProformaMap/

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Student learning is facilitated by a combination of the following teaching methods:
  • lectures to set the foundations for further study and to provide the basis for the acquisition of subject specific knowledge. Lectures provide a broad framework which defines individual module content, introducing students to themes, debates and interpretations. In this environment, students are given the opportunity to develop skills in listening, selective note-taking and reflection;
  • seminars to allow students to present and critically reflect upon the acquired subject-specific knowledge, methodologies and theories, and to identify and debate a range of issues and differing opinions. The seminar is the forum in which students are given the opportunity to communicate ideas, jointly exploring themes and arguments. Seminars are structured to develop understanding and designed to maximise student participation related to prior independent preparation. Seminars give students the opportunity to develop oral communication skills, encourage critical and tolerant approaches to reasoned argument and historical discussion, build the students’ ability to marshal historical evidence, and facilitate the development of the ability to summarise historical arguments, think in a rapidly changing environment and communicate in a persuasive and articulate manner, whilst recognising the value of working with others and, occasionally, towards shared goals.
  • Assessment:
  • Unseen Examinations test students' ability to work under pressure under timed conditions, to prepare for examinations and direct their own programme of revision and learning, and develop key time management skills. The unseen examination gives students the opportunity to develop relevant life skills such as the ability to produce coherent, reasoned and supported arguments under pressure. Students will be examined on subject specific knowledge;
  • Summative essays remain a central component of assessment in history, due to the integrative high-order skills they develop. Essays allow students the opportunity to recognise, represent and critically reflect upon ideas, concepts and problems; students can demonstrate awareness of, and the ability to use and evaluate, a diverse range of resources and identify, represent and debate a range of subject-specific issues and opinions. Through the essay, students can synthesise information, adopt critical appraisals and develop reasoned argument based on individual research; they should be able to communicate ideas in writing, with clarity and coherence; and to show the ability to integrate and critically assess material from a wide range of sources.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 21 Weekly in Terms 1 & 2; revision lectures 1 hour 21
Seminars 7 3 in Term one, 3 in Term two; setup seminar 1 hour 7
Preparation and Reading 172
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
unseen examination two hour 100%
Component: Essays Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 1 maximum 2000 words not including footnotes and bibliography 50%
Essay 2 maximum 2000 words not including footnotes and bibliography 50%

Formative Assessment:

Formative benefits from summative assessment, plus one or more short assignments delivered orally and discussed in a group context.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University