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Response to Review no. 282

I warmly thank Prof. Harris for his very generous review. It is not easy to select a mere twelve articles to constitute ‘essential reading’ in crusade historiography, so it is certainly gratifying to hear that it was done well.

Prof. Harris’s one criticism concerns the inclusion of Steven Runciman’s article, ‘Byzantium and the Crusades’. He rightly points out that although the article was published in 1986 it is primarily a condensed version of his treatment of the subject in A History of the Crusades (3 vols, Cambridge University Press; Cambridge, 1951-4). Runciman, he notes, was also the guiding light behind the Terry Jones BBC series, which I sharply criticize in the introduction of the book. Runciman’s conclusions have been largely discarded by recent crusade scholars, so why include them?

As Professor Harris notes, I am well aware of the problems with Runciman’s work. Indeed, I state in the introduction that, ‘Many of Runciman’s conclusions about the motives of crusaders, their relationship with Byzantium, and relations between the empire and the Latin Kingdom have been contradicted by recent studies.’ I then cite works by Magdalino and Lilie, as well as the book I co-authored with Queller. (p. 11) To this could be added several other of my own studies that demonstrate the defective nature of Runciman’s approach to East-West relations. (1) Yet the purpose of this volume is not to present my view of the crusades, but to give a snapshot of current historiography. That means including Tyerman’s controversial article, with which I do not agree. It also means including Runciman, who outside of the academy remains the most influential historian of the crusades. In the aftermath of September 11, the popular media approached the medieval crusades strictly from Runciman’s perspective. Whether reporters and columnists had actually read Runciman did not matter – his views are burned into the popular consciousness. I consider that a bad thing; but it is true nonetheless. His conclusions are also not dead within academic scholarship, as the work of scholars like Donald Nicol makes plain. (2)

There is another reason I included Runciman’s article, and Professor Harris has astutely guessed it. It was necessary in a chapter on the impact of the crusades on the east to have something on the Byzantine empire. Like the rest of the contributions, it had to be a complete article of some importance that was accessibly written. The world needs someone to write an article that succinctly addresses the topic of Byzantium and the crusades, utilizing the rich bounty of recent scholarship. (Indeed, I plan to suggest it to several Byzantinists.) Until then, there is only Runciman.

Thomas F. Madden

Saint Louis University

August 2002

1. For example, Thomas F. Madden, ‘Venice and Constantinople in 1171 and 1172: Enrico Dandolo’s attitude towards Byzantium’, Mediterranean Historical Review, 8 (1993); idem, ‘Outside and inside the Fourth Crusade’, International History Review, 17 (1995).

2. Donald M. Nicol, ‘The Crusades and the unity of two worlds’, in The Meeting of Two Worlds, ed. Vladimir P. Goss (Medieval Institute Publications; Kalamazoo, 1986); idem, Byzantium and Venice. A Study in Diplomatic and Cultural Relations (Cambridge University Press; Cambridge, 1988).