Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Michael Haag's Book about the Templars and the Crusades Reviewed in the BBC History Magazine

'Helen Nicholson explores an unusual, but contentious, account of the effect that the crusades had on the Middle East.'  So runs the headline to Helen Nicholson's review of Michael Haag's The Tragedy of the Templars in the February 2013 issue of the BBC History Magazine. Dr Nicholson is reader in history at Cardiff University and author of A Brief History of the Knights Templar.

The narrative of the crusades as told here differs from the norm. Most books on the crusades concentrate on the western European Christians (the ‘Franks’) and say very little about the Muslims. Haag’s work describes in detail the divisions between Arabs and Turks, and Sunnis and Shi’ites, explaining the history of their conflicts. The fractures between the peoples of the Middle East are made clear, and readers can understand how the crusaders and other European settlers fitted into the politics and culture of the Middle East.

Haag traces the history of Islamic-Christian relations in the east before the crusades and explains the basis for the western Europeans’ expedition to Jerusalem at the end of the 11th century. He argues that, contrary to popular belief, most of the people of the lands the crusaders conquered were Christian, not Muslim. He describes how the western Europeans and local Christians lived alongside each other in the Middle East and argues that the Europeans were much more tolerant than the Muslims in their dealings with the local peoples. 

Muslim pilgrims queuing to enter the tomb of Jesus at Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Islam regards Jesus as a mortal prophet and a precursor of Mohammed.