HH485A: Trans- and intercultural warfare in the middle ages

Fall 2006


Prof. Richard Abels (302 Sampson, x6263, abels@usna.edu; classroom SA120)

Office Hours:  MW second period, Tu second period, and by appointment




(Last revised  21 Nov, 2006)


This independent study examines the impact of culture upon the practice and conception of war in the High Middle Ages. The topics covered include: the formation of a “European” culture and its expansion, race relations on cultural frontiers, racial stereotyping and the creation of the Other, the influence of chivalry upon warfare, war and the peasantry,  and the differences between intra- and trans-cultural warfare.  The last will entail an examination of how war was waged on the Scottish frontier, in the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem, and in the Albigensian Crusade against heretics in southern France.


ASSIGNMENTS AND COURSE POLICIES (read fully and carefully):

1.  SHORT WRITING ASSIGNMENTS .  For each class day you are to write a brief paper either answering a specific question I posed about the reading or, more generally, identifying the thesis/theses and arguments/evidence used to substantiate it/them. 

2.  READING JOURNAL.  You are to keep a reading journal with your reactions to the assigned readings. The focus of the journal should be on addressing the capstone essay question.

3. CAPSTONE ESSAY. The capstone essay is to be a synthesis of your assigned readings, 10-15 pages long, which addresses the impact of cultural differences upon the practice and conception of transcultural warfare in the Middle Ages.  Were such wars fought differently and thought of differently from contemporary intra-cultural wars? If so, how and why? What role did such wars play in the development of a self-conscious ‘European’ identity? In answering these questions discuss the specific wars you read about this semester: Crusading warfare in the East, 1096-1187; the Albigensian Crusade; and Anglo-Norman warfare on the Celtic fringe.

4. TUTORIALS. The independent study will be modeled upon the “Oxford.”  Our meetings will begin with you reading aloud the assigned paper for that class day.  I will feel free to ask questions during your reading.  At its conclusions we will engage in discussion about the assigned reading and how it relates to previous readings.

LESSON PLAN  (we will meet Monday mornings at 0830 and Thursday afternoons, fifth period)
NOTE: Unless indicated otherwise, you are to bring to each of our meetings a short paper explaining the thesis or theses in the assigned reading and assessing the author’s use of



Week of 04 Sept
T (is Monday!)  Bartlett, The Making of Europe, chaps 1-5


Th.  Bartlett, Making of Europe, chaps 6-9

Essay question: Characterize race relations on the frontiers of Latin Christendom and explain what evidence exists for racial attitudes in the Middle Ages.



Week of 11 Sept

M.  Bartlett, Making of Europe, chaps. 10-12

Essay question: What does Bartlett mean by the “making of Europe” and how does he think Europe was made?


Th. Strickland, War and Chivalry, chaps 1 and 3

Essay question: What was “chivalry” in the Anglo-Norman world according to Strickland, and what was the relationship between this “chivalry” and the clergy?


Week of 18 Sept (sign up for 30 minute individual meeting)
M. Strickland, War and Chivalry, chaps. 4-6

(Explain the theses of each of these three chapters. How do these theses/chapters relate to one another?)


Th.  Strickland, War and Chivalry, chaps 7-9



Week of 25 Sept

M. Strickland, War and Chivalry, chaps. 10-11 and Conclusion

Essay question: What was chivalry, how did it influence warfare, and when didn’t it apply?


Th:  Nicholas Wright, Knights and Peasants: The Hundred Years War in the French Countryside (Boydell, 1998)



Week of 02 Oct

W. The Problem: Impact of Culture on the Practice of War

Stephen Morillo, “A General Typology of Transcultural Wars: The Early Middle Ages and Beyond”, in Transcultural Warfare Medieval and Modern, the Proceedings of the 2004 Regensburg Conference on Transcultural Warfare (handout).


F. War and Cultural Identifications: Scotland

John Gillingham, “Conquering the Barbarians: War and Chivalry in Twelfth-Century Britain,” The Haskins Society Journal 4, 1992 (handout); Matthew Strickland, Killing or Clemency? Ransom, Chivalry and Changing Attitudes to Defeated Opponents in Britain and Northern France, 7-12th centuries in Krieg im Mittelalter (2001)



Week of 9 Oct

M. Anglo-Norman warfare and settlement on the Celtic fringe

Strickland, “Securing the North: Invasion and the Strategy of Defence in Twelfth-Century Anglo-Scottish Warfare,” in Strickland, ed., Anglo-Norman Warfare (handout); C.J. McNamee, William Wallace's Invasion of Northern England in 1297 - from Northern History v.26 (1990); R.R. Davies, "Colonial Wales," Past & Present 65 (1974): 3-23

Essay question: Was it warfare or settlement that most shaped English attitudes toward the Scots, Welsh, and Irish?


Th. Transcultural Warfare: First Crusade in the Sources

Letters from Crusaders (read only letters from the First Crusade); The First Crusade (read only chapter IV and VII)



Week of 16 Oct

M.  Relations across military frontiers: Spain and the Levant

Angus MacKay, “Religion, culture, and ideology on the late medieval Castilian-Granadian frontier,” in Bartlett and Mackay, eds, Medieval Frontier Societies (Oxford, 1998), 218-43; Nikita Elisséeff, “The Reaction of the Syrian Muslims after the Foundation of the First Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem,” in The Crusades, ed. Thomas Madden (Oxford, 2002) (handout)


Th. Construction of the Other: How did Westerners view Arabs?

Jo Ann Moran Cruz, “Popular Attitudes Towards Islam in Medieval Europe,” and John V. Tolan, “Muslims as Pagan Idolaters in Chronicles of the First Crusade,” in David Blanks and Michael Frassetto, eds., Western Views of Islam in Medieval and Early Modern Europe (handout)



Week of 23 Oct

M. Construction of the Other: How did Arabs view the Westerners?

Niall Christie, "The Presentation of the Franks in Selected Muslim Sources From the Crusades of the 12th Century"

Essay question: Was there a consistently held view of the Frankish Crusaders by Muslim writers in the twelfth century?


Th.  Frontier Warfare in the Latin Kingdom

Usamah ibn Munquidh (read in particular the material on raiding and captives); The Siege of Ascalon of 1153



Week of 30 Oct

M. The Fall of Jerusalem (1187) and Richard’s massacre of the prisoners in the sources (handout)


Th. Military Strategies: Saladin and Richard

William Hamblin, "Saladin and Muslim Military Theory"; John Gillingham, "Richard I and the Science of War"


Week of 06 Nov

M. The Baltic Crusades

William Urban, "An Historical Overview of the Crusade to Livonia"; Chronicle of Henry of Livonia (excerpts);  Documents Relating to the Baltic Crusade


Th. The Baltic Crusades: Victims?

William Urban, "Victims of the Baltic Crusades"



Week of 13 Nov

M. Intracultural warfare: Albigensian Crusade

Joseph Strayer, The Albigensian Crusades, pp. 1-72


Th. Strayer, Albigensian Crusades, pp. 73-122



Week of 20 Nov
M. Albigensian Crusade as presented in the sources

Caesarius of Heisterbach on the Sack of Beziers; The Siege of Termes from the Song of the Cathar Wars; The Siege of Termes (1210), according to the Historia Albigensis; The Siege of Toulouse in 1217;  Albigensian Crusade Timeline (1209-1255)




Week of 27 Nov

M. Malcolm Barber, "The Albigensian Crusades: Wars Like Any Other?"


Th. Work on capstone



Week of 04 Dec
T. Discussion of Capstone essay