The Crusades and Violence

How was violence understood and justified during the time of the crusades? This book argues that although just/holy war theory has long provided the framework for explaining crusading violence, cultural history gives us deeper insights into the meaning and conduct of medieval crusading warfare. Using a range of sources including histories, letters, and material culture from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, this book provides fresh insights into medieval violence and the history of the crusades. It shows how violence was debated, defined, worried about, celebrated, and condemned, and that the boundaries of legitimate and illegitimate conduct in crusading warfare were constantly and consciously tested.

This recent book authored by Dr. Megan Cassidy-Welch - Crusades and Violence - is part of the Past Imperfect series at Arc Humanities Press. 

Read below to learn how this project came about and how it fits into the author's broader career trajectory!

An undergraduate seminar on crusades and pilgrimage at the University of Melbourne really sparked my interest in the crusading period; it was taught by some amazing scholars including Stephen Knight, Anne Gilmour-Bryson, Roger Scott and others. 


I completed a MA in medieval studies at Birkbeck where I wrote a short thesis on ‘Popular Perceptions of Jerusalem at the time of the First Crusade’, before returning to Australia where I wrote on thirteenth-century Cistercian monastic life for my PhD. 


Since then, I became interested in how crusades were remembered in medieval culture, and why war occupies such a prominent space in modern national memory. At the moment I’m part of a large research project on preventive healthcare among medieval itinerant and rural populations, so I’m having fun exploring Holy Land pilgrim/crusader accounts of their perceptions of health hazards and how to manage them as they travelled.  


The book on Crusades and Violence came out of a project on atrocity in warfare, and how medieval societies tried to define and discuss what the limits of appropriate violence might be. I decided to write a shorter and more accessible book which hopefully might reach a wider audience than the usual academic tome. So, it’s a paperback, a bit polemical, minimal footnotes and nice and light to read on a longish flight! Like many medievalists, I’ve been worried by the use of medieval (including crusader) imagery in contemporary acts of violence, so wanted to write something that also touched on this issue.  


I currently direct the research program in medieval and early modern studies at the Australian Catholic University. Although I spend a bit of time travelling internationally to conduct my research, attend conferences and so on, I’m also really committed to seeing medieval studies thrive and prosper in Australia. With Dr Beth Spacey (University of Queensland), I convene the Australasian Crusades Studies Network, which brings together scholars from a variety of disciplines to share research about crusade-related topics. My next big project will be on home and homelessness in the long Middle Ages. This will include some work on crusaders far from home, too, so crusading history is still on my research horizon!  

Want to read more about the Crusades? Check out the new “bundle” of Medieval Warfare issues!

Leave a comment

Related Posts