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British historiography on the Crusades and Military Orders: from Barker and Smail to contemporary historians

British historiography on the Crusades and Military Orders: from Barker and Smail to contemporary historians

By Peter W. Edbury

Cardiff Historical Papers, Vol.3 (2007)

Introduction: Sir Ernest Barker (1874–1960) may not seem the most obvious person with whom to start this survey of British historiography on the Crusades and military orders. A distinguished scholar who was successively Principal of King’s College London and then, from 1928, Professor of Political Science at Cambridge, his obituary in the supplement to The Dictionary of National Biography makes no reference to either his interest in, or his writings on, the Crusades.

Truth to tell, his publications on the subject were not extensive, but they do reveal an acute mind and wide reading. For example, Barker, in an encyclopaedia article written before the First World War, gave due credit to the writings of Reinhold Röhricht and Hans Prutz, thereby helping to make their insights known in the English-speaking world, and he realised, more fully than many of his generation, that speaking of the First, Second or Third Crusade and so on tends to obscure the truth that crusading was an almost continuous process.

Neither was he the only serious scholar of the early part of the twentieth century whose works still deserve to be remembered. I might mention W.B. Stevenson, the author of The Crusaders in the East (1907) and, along with C.L. Kingsford, of the chapters on the Crusades in volume five of the Cambridge Medieval History (1926), or E.J. King, whose Knights Hospitallers in the Holy Land appeared in 1931.

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