Religion, Propaganda, and War: Medieval and Modern Understandings of "The Crusades"

Programs for Teachers
History Channel Seminar Series
Friday, December 10, 2010

This seminar explores the crusades in their historical setting—the causes, motives, and impacts on relations between medieval Christians and Muslims—and as they shape discourse today. We will begin by discussing our own understandings of the crusades, before examining how crusade was pitched by a newly invigorated papacy to a recently besieged, slightly insecure, and religiously charged Europe—and why such a variety of Latin Christians responded with such zeal. Finally, we will analyze what kind of impact these invasions—and the subsequent Muslim propagandistic and military response—had upon both the Christian and Islamic worlds at the time and into the present. The seminar also focuses on how the crusades fit into larger themes such as the intersection of religion and violence, propaganda and warfare, and the resulting interplay between Byzantine, Latin, and Islamic cultures. For example, how does a religion that condemns killing and encourages turning the other cheek find itself spearheading military invasions against other monotheistic religions, such as massacring entire communities of Jews en route to fighting the Muslims? To understand such an apparent contradiction, we will investigate both Christian and Islamic propaganda, Byzantium’s cry to the west for help, the papacy’s concept of bellum iustum (just war), and  the Muslim concept of jihad (holy struggle).

Seminar led by Andrew Miller, DePaul University and Katie Sjursen, Southern Illinois University

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