Thursday, February 11, 2010

Crusades symposium begins next week

The Second International Symposium on Crusade Studies begins next Wednesday, drawing in dozens of scholars from over ten countries.

Hosted by Saint Louis University and the Crusades Studies Forum, the symposium, entitled Crusades: Medieval Worlds in Conflict, provides a venue for scholars to approach the Crusades from many different perspectives, to present the fruits of new research, and to assess the current state of the field.

Thomas F. Madden, Director of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Saint Louis University says that about 120 people have registered for the conference, including prominent historians such as Jonathan Phillips, Ronnie Ellenblum and Michael Angold. Madden credits the strong expected turnout to the success of the first symposium, which was also held at Saint Louis University in 2006, as well as the reputation of the Crusades Studies Fourm, and "a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities."

The symposium will explore a number of issues related to the crusades ranging from the development of crusading ideology and Holy War to the military aspects of the conflict. Madden notes that in recent years, some of the emerging trends in scholarship about the crusades is "the emphasis on religion and spirituality. The crusades were wars, but they were religious wars and if we fail to see them within that framework we fundamentally distort them. There was no good strategic reason for thousands of European warriors to march thousands of miles deep into enemy territory during the First Crusade. But there were many powerful religious reasons to do so.

"Within that framework, I'm particularly excited by studies that have begun to examine the intersection of crusade and liturgy, hagiography, and Marian devotion. Beyond religious approaches, there are also some interesting new studies being produced on the question of identity and the crusading movement. Because the crusades in some manner permeated so deeply into medieval society, it is an exceptionally rich topic of investigation."

The symposium includes lectures that are open to the public, and two days of conference papers. Over 48 speakers are participating. Madden adds that the preparations for such a large symposium involved "a great deal of work, but I have very good assistants in the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies and a battery of willing graduate students who chip in at every stage."

The proceedings of the first symposium will be published this year by Ashgate Publishing. Professor Madden, who has written numerous books and articles about the crusades, is currently working on Venetian involvement about the Fourth Crusade as well as a larger work about the history of medieval Venice.

The Second International Symposium on Crusades Studies runs from February 17th to 20th. Click here to go the Symposium website.