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Response to Review of Crusading as an Act of Vengeance, 1095-1216

Methodology is undoubtedly the area where we are all most likely to take issue with one another’s work, and Whalen is right to note, following my lead, that some will take issue with the theoretical position I took to the texts. As I explain on page eight, I deliberately adopted a modified structuralist approach. Further, as I continue on page eight, ‘I certainly do hope that future scholars will flesh out the story of crusading as vengeance, source by source, region by region, decade by decade’. To do these kinds of micro-historical study was not the purpose of my project, nor indeed would it have been feasible to do both the micro-historical studies and the macro-historical analysis within the given timeframe. That said, ideally others will work on crusading as vengeance in their own ways, and I am eager to see how other scholars will further develop this work in the future.

Whalen suggests that my caution regarding the vocabulary of vengeance implies that I believe ‘the sources speak for themselves’. However, that is not an accurate interpretation of my choice to be careful with vocabulary. It is precisely because sources never speak for themselves – even when their utterances seem entirely obvious – that I believe we need to be thoughtful and deliberate when interpreting them.

Whalen remarks that he wishes ‘that Throop had taken a little more interpretative risk, making scholarly calls about the significance of vengeance’. I consider the implications of my work fully in my conclusion, and I think many readers will find that the implications are quite bold enough. To summarize, I argue that as a result of my work, crusade scholars need to reconsider and perhaps abandon the traditional interpretive structures that have implicitly colored work on ideas of crusading (pp. 179–82).

Whalen is disappointed that, as he sees it, I did not delve deeper into my statement on page 56 that ‘Muslims were not the others, but rather those of us who are doing wrong’. In fact I continue to develop this point throughout chapters three and four and in the conclusion, most notably in my ongoing discussion of the blurred perception of Jews, Muslims, and heretics; it would seem that I do not signpost this development clearly enough.

Finally, Whalen states that my analysis of the Hebrew accounts of crusade-related violence on pages 64–70 leaves me ‘at odds with historiography on the anti-Jewish pogroms in the Rhineland during the First Crusade’. This is not quite true, or perhaps Whalen and I understand his words differently. The historiography of those texts – the work done by scholars of Hebrew – in fact was vitally important for me. Where I have differed from some others is in highlighting the dates of composition and interrelationships between the various texts. Later in the book, my interpretation of broader trends in anti-Jewish sentiment does veer away from that of Robert Chazan (pp. 97–107). As I discuss in those pages, there are various ways to account for the differences between Chazan’s interpretation and my own.

I hope that scholars will contact me if they have further questions or concerns.