Treaties during the Fourth Crusade

Following Michael’s post earlier this week on the Early Christian Church this post will be about one of the many crusades linked to the church. The Fourth Crusade (1202-1204) is fairly notorious in its outcomes, as its original aims came to nothing. The Fourth Crusade was initially meant to attack Egypt, to disrupt the Saracen powerbase, before continuing on to the Holy Land. However the armies of the crusade never made it to Egypt, instead it attacked two Christian holdings, Zara and Constantinople. The events that preceded the two diversions can be viewed in terms of treaties and vows made by the various parties that made up the armies involved.

The original call to crusade, in 1198, issued by Pope Innocent III not long after his election went about relatively unheard. Innocent then issued a revised call to crusade on 31st December 1199. This call, and the preaching of the crusade that accompanied it, was much more successful. The success of a call to crusade can be measured in vows, as when each crusader agree to go on crusade they pledge an oath to the cross to undertake what is asked of them by the pope who calls the crusade. In the case of the Fourth Crusade the most noted oaths were taken during a tournament in Champagne, at a castle called Ecri. This tournament was held by Thibaut, Count of Champagne, who was named the secular leader of the Fourth Crusade. This is documented by the chronicler Geoffrey de Villehardouin, Marshal of Champagne.

Villehardouin provides an account of the bulk of the crusade, including what happened at the Treaty of Venice in 1201. After the leadership of the crusade had been decided six envoys were sent to Venice to organise passage of the army by sea. The envoys, according to Villehardouin, were himself, Miles the Brabant, Conon of Béthune, Alard Maquereau, John of Friaise and Walter of Gaudonville. These six men travelled to Venice and led the discussion that led to the treaty of Venice. What was eventually decided was that the Venetians would build a fleet of ships that would carry 4500 horses, 9000 squires, 4500 knights and 20,000 foot-soldiers. They also promised enough food for the horses and people for nine months. This was on the condition that the crusaders paid 4 marks for each horse and 2 marks for each man. This came to a total of 85,000 marks to be paid when the armies reached Venice a year later. The Venetians also promised to add 50 armed galleys on the condition that the Venetians were given half of all the spoils of crusade. This was agreed by the six envoys, concluding the Treaty of Venice. The Doge of Venice, Enrico Dandalo, who conducted the Venetian side of the Treaty also pledged to take the cross and join the crusade, prompting many other Venetians to do the same. All in all this was a good agreement in the eyes of the crusaders, when the envoys returned to the leaders of the crusade they were happy to hear the conditions of the treaty.

If we fast-forward to a year later, when the crusade was due to embark we see that Thibaut had died, and was replaced by Boniface, Marquis of Montferrat as leader of the crusade. Boniface seemed to hold up his end of the Treaty of Venice, however many others did not. When the army reached Venice to travel to Egypt, they found that a large portion of the remaining army had decided to attempt the land route, rather than travel through Venice. This meant that the 85,000 marks that was promised to Venice could not be paid in full. Once every crusader had given all that they would, as some refused to give more than the initial 2 marks, they were still short 34,000 marks.

It is at this point that some historians disagree on the chain of events. What is known is that the crusading army agreed to attack Zara, a city that was under the control of the Hungarians, in order to fulfil their agreement to Venice. The disagreement between historians is whether the crusaders agreed to do this freely or if they were imprisoned by the Venetians until they agreed to do so. Villehardouin suggests that the army was not imprisoned, and chose to attack Zara freely, however, a letter from Pope Innocent III suggests the opposite. Innocent vilifies the Venetians, and even goes to the extent of excommunicating all of those who were involved on the attack on Zara.

After the attack on Zara was successful the Treaty of Zara was concluded. This treaty was between the crusading army, including the Venetians, and the son of the dethroned Byzantine Emperor Isaac, Alexius. Alexius and his father Isaac were imprisoned by Isaac’s brother, also named Alexius (III). Alexius III had been in contact with Pope Innocent III shortly after his election, however he refused to capitulate to Innocent’s requests to return to the Western Church following the Schism of 1054. The younger Alexius came to the army at Zara requesting their help in overthrowing Alexius III and restoring his father Isaac as Emperor. This proposal was banned by Innocent as it would mean a further attack on other Christians, which was not Innocent’s aim with the Fourth Crusade, however Innocent exercised little power with the secular leaders of the crusade after they left Venice and the Treaty of Zara was agreed upon in 1204.

The crusading army would divert to Constantinople and would dethrone Alexius III and restore Isaac to the throne, alongside his son Alexius (soon to be Alexius IV). In return Alexius would return the Eastern Church to the Western Church, he would pay the army 200,000 marks of silver, he would provide food for the entire army and he would join the crusade himself, or provide 10,000 men in his stead. He promised to provide this for one year from the day he was restored to power. This was a fairly lucrative deal for the crusaders, who were mostly poor and would not be able to reach the Holy Land without further help. Alexius also promised to establish a protective detail of 500 knights in the Holy Land for the rest of his life.

Eventually the majority of the army agreed on the treaty, and left to attack Constantinople. The attack was successful and Alexius was crowned co-emperor with his father Isaac, who had been blinded by Alexius III. The crusaders were given an initial lump sum of silver marks, not anywhere near as much as they were promised. This sum was primarily used to settle the debt the crusaders had with the Venetians. However Alexius quickly started ignoring the crusaders who were mainly camped outside the city. After several attempts by the crusade leaders to talk to Alexius to organise the rest of what was promised to them the crusaders started looting the villages and towns that were near Constantinople. They saw this as right as they were retrieving what was due to them.

Soon, Isaac dies and Alexius is first imprisoned and then strangled by the usurper Mourzuphles. As Alexius was now dead his treaty with the crusaders was now null and void. The crusaders now had no way to travel to the Holy Land successfully. The leaders, seeing the majority of the army getting restless to fulfil their vow to fight in the Holy Land, decided to attack Constantinople again, this time to avenge Alexius. They argued that the people who killed Alexius were murderers and were enemies of the church, as they had refused to re-join the Western Church. The leaders argued that this meant that they were an enemy worthy of a crusading army. After several attempts to take the city the crusaders won the battle on the 12th April 1204. After the city was divided between the Venetians and the crusaders Baldwin, Count of Flanders was elected the first emperor of the Latin Empire in the East. With the success of this war the laity who made up the majority of the crusading army saw that their crusading vow was complete and they could return to their homes.

It is clear to see how vows, oaths and treaties played their part in the events of the Fourth Crusade, from the initial vow to go on crusade, until the Treaty of Zara which dictated the first assault on Constantinople, which eventually led to the second assault. Admittedly there are more influential factors that played a part in the crusade, however one must consider the treaties a valuable tool in understanding the crusade as a whole.

Some information on the Early Christian Church

This post will try and discuss the history of the Early Christian Church, from its birth to around 325 A.D. It will discuss how the church was viewed, and what it was actually like before it became a state religion of the Roman Empire. It is widely known that the Catholic Church soon rose to prominence after it was used by the state, and of course we know that the church would become very influential during the medieval period, however this period, of around 300 years is extremely interesting and should not be disregarded.

The first concept that will be looked at is the language. Were Christians always called Christians? Well the simple answer to that is no. The first accounts of Christians see them referred as followers of the Way. It can only be assumed that the term Christian came around as it was a term others used for them, denoting them as “followers of Christ”, therefore Christian.   The symbol that was used by the church was also interesting, and that it looks like a fish. It was called the ichthys, and in Greek denotes “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour”. The origin of the fish/symbol comes from Roman/Greek and Celtic roots, and was adopted by early Christians as a symbol to represent themselves. Whether it is true or not, I cannot say, but according to tradition, when Christians were persecuted by the Roman Empire in the first few centuries, they used the fish symbol to mark meeting places and tombs, to help them recognize each other and to help avoid detection. Certainly very interesting!

The history of the early church is not one for light reading, and is full of hardship and secrecy. Certainly it is no state religion, but its growth was quite extraordinary. The persecution however, started around the year 98, because the Emperor Nerva decreed that Christians did not have to pay the annual tax upon the Jews. This meant that they were not considered as a Jewish religion and served as a breaker from Rabbinic Judaism. This opened the way to Christians being persecuted for disobedience to the emperor, as they refused to worship the state pantheon.

When we examine Church structure, it can be noted that the 1st-century Christian Church possessed a basic cohesion based on the Pauline church movement and unlike today wasn’t split into a variety of different denominations. However by the 2nd and 3rd centuries, the church saw itself move away from its roots, and started to move away from its Jewish roots and culture. It a sense it was becoming even more unique and had its own identity, this can be also seen in the light of Nervas taxation of Christians. However, 4th and 5th-century Christianity experienced pressure from the state and from this we would see a Catholic church develop.

The Early Church has been throughout the ages an important area of study. The works and doctrines of the 1st century AD church certainly had a big influence on Luther and Calvin, two of the main group of people who helped cause the reformation, a period in which the Catholic Church was split, and the new Protestant movement was formed. The new movement based a lot of its doctrines and its church structures off the Early Church, and although there were still arguments on certain issues, there was a lot of similarity. Luther and Calvin both looked back at the Early Church and noted how different the current church was, and thus led them to cause the breakaway movements. The Catholic Church seemed to stay with the doctrines that really formed from the 2nd century AD onwards, which Protestants thought as heresy.

Therefore the Early Church played an important role in its own time, rapidly expanding across the Mediterranean, as well as impacting the history of Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. It can be seen that early Christian life was not particularly easy, however it is fascinating, and is something I do want to do more research at some point, whenever I get some free time away from the 17th century!

Interview with Dr. Christina Welch (3/3)

Dr. Welch also talked with us about her own personal experiences in academics and studying at a Higher Education level, discussing both her position as someone coming back to education after a break and studying as a single parent. Hers is a telling example of how university education does not necessarily need to follow the standard path of A Levels to Degree to Masters and can involve changes and breaks in between. Discovering she had dyslexia during her PHD, she also discussed with us the importance of providing access to students with learning difficulties, and how academics can benefit from providing better access to those with learning difficulties, through developing on different ways of interpreting and viewing information.

Sam: According to your biography on the University of Winchester website that you have been diagnosed with dyslexia. What approaches have you used to overcome it in an academic setting?

I did not know I had dyslexia until after my PHD about seven or eight years ago. I was marking work and the person who was second marking worked in study skills and looked at the comments I had made and the style in which I wrote and recommended that I should be tested for dyslexia. I went to have a test found out that I was along with having short term memory problems and a hint of dyspraxia. There is a real difficulty for dyslexics as it is not a hegemonies thing as there are different ways of looking at dyslexic and being dyslexic. The most important and crucial way to go about it is to ensure editing is done early for assignments. With essay planning during my undergraduate degree that I did not even realise I did this but I tell my students to do this now. When I wrote an essay or notes I would write them really spaced and then I would cut them up into small separate paragraphs pile them on the floor and think to myself these are the paragraphs and information that I want from breaking them down like that, rather than writing an 8,000 to 20,000 piece which is much harder for dyslexics.

I have a PHD and I am dyslexic my two children were diagnosed with dyslexia and my two children are. The eldest graduated with a 2.1 in BSc. Environmental Sciences and the youngest is about to graduate this year hoping for a 2.1 or a 1st. You should not let it deter you. It is important to remember you can do it, but you need to find ways around it and plan your time better. You have to think carefully about what you do, particularly going off into tangents. However as a lecturer and researcher that has been good for me as dyslexics we see things in different ways that perhaps other people have not by saying that is not right. Thinking about it there is a very good analogy about non dyslexics and dyslexics think and how their brains work by looking at how cards are stacked. So say for a non dyslexic there would have the cards stacked into separate corresponding piles, the ones in one pile, the twos in another and so on. If someone said to them to find the four of spades the will go through the four pile to find the four of spades. However for dyslexics the pile of cards are all spread out unevenly, half upside down so you have to literally shuffle through all of them to get to the four of spades. By saying or look there is a one of spades, a queen of spades and then there is another one. So it takes you long to get there but you can build up different connections. There are advantages of being dyslexic and become far more creative as a thinker and come up with different approaches but that is fine of you have the luxury of time. Most of us haven’t unfortunately so with an essay you have to know that for writing an essay up before a week 12 deadline it has to physically be written by week 11 so that you can use that whole week to correct it to proof read, send it to someone else to proof read it, reading it out aloud before submission. The important thing is to think ok I’ve got two weeks to research this if I don’t do it by the necessary week then tough that is what I am going to write my essay on. As a dyslexic it is too overwhelming so yeah discipline, time and editing is very important. Now recently there is a now an organisation for dyslexic academics that has come to attention since early March. It is the first time there has been a group that has come out as dyslexic academics it is a bit of a hidden secret as I don’t know how many there are at Winchester, I should imagine that I am not the alone one.

Sam:  It is more common when you think when you talk about dyslexic, you would not always assume it but when you talk about it you realise other people are in the same boat as you. With all things really when it is talked about in the open it becomes easier to deal with it and go about it without suffering in silence.

It should not be a stigma. It should be something that needs to be brought out. Everybody has got the strengths and for dyslexics their strengths may very well be they are slightly more creative people/thinkers than non-dyslexics. Non dyslexics for instance they may have other strengths like researching one specific topic. However with dyslexics there is still that idea, where is the Dunce’s hat standing in the corner as a dyslexic you can’t always think of answers. You are usually one of those typical people that think if only I said that sooner. It is the way your brain works going back to the stack of cards analogy you are shuffling through them all to get to an answer rather than sifting through specific piles like the pile of four. As a dyslexic you need longer in class, less having to do with quick fire dialogues that can be quite intimidating. Non dyslexic academics could do with learning more about dyslexic.

Emily: You have a set idea about what the symptoms of dyslexia are. When you actually get told them you can see them in the person. If teachers don’t have this knowledge and they are marking their work and you go through your whole school life not knowing about it.

University is great for dyslexics actually because if you are at school doing GCSEs or A Levels the teachers have to teach to a curriculum. Somebody else sets the questions and somebody else marks them. You are in many ways duty bound to teach those facts to get that student the best marks possible. This might not necessarily suit dyslexic students but as academics we will set far more open questions, for instance discuss gender in medieval England. Then you can take one aspect of gender and dig into that. We do not say it has to be between 1420-1430 in the west of England type thing. You have that flexibility that can play to dyslexics’ strengths. So for people that did not do as well at A Level can really shine at University.

Sam: I also feel you can build more of a personal rapport also with lecturers who mark your work so they get to know you more in tutorials which is something that just couldn’t happen in school due to the shear amount of students at school.

There are some very odd things like if you are dyspraxic you might have problems with light and bright light. So knowing that you are dyspraxic and why you might have a problem you might notice it more in the middle of the room. If people knew and are able to own their own different abilities that would be very helpful but because it is a hidden disability it often gets forgotten about. I very rarely put my lecture notes up on the learning network on PowerPoint before class as I do find students just read those. My lecture notes are very full and I found my students like that, I like having a lot of information and I give a lot of information. People can choose to use this information or not it is their choice. My powerpoints might be slightly text heavy but everything is there and I think as a dyslexic I found l that I need the reassurance. When I was doing my Undergraduate studies I needed the reassurance from the lecturer to know I got it right as I had always been below par. So actually having a lecturer say these are the main points and I found all those, actually I am not as stupid as I think. It is really said if you are a dyslexic and you are un-diagnosed you are still considered slightly below par and not that intelligent. It is not you are just differently intelligent but things are changing and I do think this new group they are having a fortunate fervour.

Sam: That is a good thing across the board and for all different academic fields. It is something that would be very useful and it would be interesting to see what would happen in the future with it as well.

Yeah. There are many difficulties I can’t learn languages for toffee! I have short term memory so I can’t learn languages so there are all sorts of things are can’t do but there are all sorts of things I can do. That is why I do all the visual stuff that is what I like *researching erotic calendars and death*. Nobody else has ever researched these… surprise!

These might be strange but these are one of my strangest images. [shows us visual images in the form of calendars that are being researched]. These are particularly bonkers so an image of people having sex on the back of a coffin is another one. So for what I have done, the coffin is a masculine signifier (death) and Eve (representation of a woman). In our current way of looking at the world we are far more life enhancing, rather than back in the day when we had death touching up a prostitute [previous visual image] with death stealing life, we are now trying to conquer death. So now we have the woman in front of the signifier of death, whereas beforehand she was being enveloped by death. This has enabled me to look at this in a very academic way that I’m sure the photographers had thought and those in the images. It has been very fun doing this research a lot and I do think I am on to something. Sex and death is perfect you can’t go wrong with it. *someone is going to read about one or the other*. Yeah although I would like to add that I don’t do anything about this in my personal life, it is purely research!

Emily: Also from your biography it says you studied as a single parent. I just wanted to ask what kind of advice you would give to going into higher education?

Yes I did. Do it is the best thing you can do! I don’t have A levels I left school at sixteen. I worked in finance for ten years, married with two kids. Once you leave finance it is very hard to get back in. It was then when I decided to become a teacher, considering that I had two young children. So I decided to come here to Winchester to study for my Undergraduate and also that they provided a crèche then got divorced whilst I was doing my Undergraduate and doing my Masters and a PHD as a single mature student. Yes time management is hard, particularly if you are dyslexic when you have to make dinner on top of other things, also helping with my children’s homework as well as doing mine. When they were younger, my children had to sometimes come in when I was lecturing during the half term so in that way I don’t see it as a particular problem having kids in the classroom. As a mature student with kids it is worth it coming back to the classroom, I think it is worthwhile it is a great role model for you children. Additionally it is great for other students to have mature students in the classroom as they have had life experience. It is hard to manage your time but it is perfectly do able so I am a big believer in starting university later or coming back to Postgraduate study later on that is also perfectly possible to do it with kids. Now we have PHD students here in their 70s and 80s for the simply pleasure for doing it, a love of learning.

It is also such a shame considering that like you my youngest will leave university with a huge amount of debt but he will have something in living his subject. So despite the debt it is still very worthwhile doing but it is getting harder and harder for people who are older with children to come back and study. If you have children especially if you are a single parent and trying to study you can’t work as well so it is getting increasingly harder and that is a shame.

Emily: You want to make education accessible across the board, we have this set idea of doing your GCSEs, A Levels, University, Masters, PHD, getting a job. We both felt we needed to take a year out to clear our minds a bit and what we actually wanted to do. I came from a science background and wanted to return to study History at degree level.

Taking a gap year is really good by giving you an understanding of the world. If you work for a year it gives you an understanding of the real world and how difficult work life is with all the balances you have to do and with travelling it can broaden your mind. So I don’t think it matters what people do. If you want to carry on it is not a bad thing either but I don’t think it is a bad thing if you take time out and I don’t think it is a bad thing if you want to come back and do a Masters degree. I have not got A Levels and I have a PHD. I did this as a single parent, being heavily dyslexia and I did not even know. When all the cards were apparently stacked against me but I still managed to do it. I’m not unique so other people can. I don’t know what drove me to it but it did, it didn’t quite drive me around the bend but not far off! I didn’t genuinely think expect to go into academia as it was something I never intended to do. I thought I’d do my Undergraduate degree to teach and become an Educational Psychologist but I didn’t. I took a Masters degree instead. Then at the end of my Masters degree I thought I’d apply for a PHD but if I didn’t get it I intended to teach. I however got my funded PHD and did that. I was lucky as hard work and luck comes into it. It wasn’t my life goal to become an academic, I just fell into it actually but it is fine and I love it! With this death art and anatomy stuff I have met and I am now working with the most amazing sculptures and forensic pathologists. These are things are genuinely did not know about, I never did history at secondary school either and I am suddenly doing medieval history. It does open up all these doors to stuff you didn’t know and like.

Emily: We are both in the same boat where we are both open to going into whatever with no set idea what we want to do and I feel that is ok and that it should be stressed that is ok.

Oh yeah absolutely! You could end up with a job when you leave here that is not exactly what you want but it doesn’t matter as it is a job and it is getting you some money. Then you could either save up, travel or you will know what you don’t want to do. I don’t think anyone knows what they want to do, they just know what they don’t want to do and you start to whittle it down. If you are lucky you will fall into the right place and if you don’t and have a job you like you can take an out of school course.

Sam: There are ways of working towards it. It might not be a straight A to B you might have to go through to C and D to get to B but you will do it eventually.

And by the time you do get to B you’ll have known you have done the right path. You would have picked up all those extra skills that means when you do get to where you felt you are meant to be, all of those can play to your strengths. Having a you must do this in life is not particularly helpful, I think it is rather stressful really.

Emily: I do not regret studying sciences at A Level. I did Maths and Biology I am looking at it from that perspective sometimes. It is such a different experience. 

It is! And it could very well be that actually you have that extra science analytical approach to history and that is fine and there is a whole lot of history for that to play into, whereas mine is the visual side and with me the scientific side I feel I will not do that too well. Actually it works and then you have two different sets of research and somebody else will come along and combine those and then you have got something else to take it into different ways. It is great how those little bits of knowledge stick together in a way like a pieces to a jigsaw puzzle.

Somebody has got to do the weird and wacky!



Many thanks to Christina without whom would not have been able to write this interview and Lillian for helping to organise it! ^^D


Was Jerusalem multicultural?

Jerusalem has always been home to many different religions. It has been depicted in history as the very centre of the world, and has been the Holy city for all Christians, Muslims and Jews. But despite this, it has also been the home of conflict and war for centuries, even continuing to the present day. The history of this city is vast, but we can focus specifically on whether this city was truly multicultural under the Christian rule between 1099 and 1187.


Before the Christian conquest in 1099, Jerusalem was under Muslim rule, and recovering from the disastrous rule of the insane Caliph Hakim. His successor Caliph Zahir attempted to restore the relationships between the different cultures and religions living in Jerusalem. The scars made by Hakim were never fully healed, according to historian Simon Sebag. The Christian Church of the Holy Sepulchre had been destroyed, and Jews and Christians were forced to convert to Islam. However, Zahir tried desperately to restore the harmony which his ancestors once bought. Muslims and Christians lived together in peace, and the position of the Greek Christians were especially favourable. Some historians believed that while Jews were allowed to live within the walls of Jerusalem, they were segregated and isolated. While the Jews may have had ambivalent relationships with the Muslims and Christians, they had been promised protection by Zahir, showing the acceptance and toleration in Jerusalem whilst under Muslim rule.

After the brutal and bloody siege in 1099, Jerusalem was taken over by the western Christians. The crusaders entered a holy city filled with many different schools of Christianity, such as Armenians, Jacobites and Nestorians. There were different types of Sunni and Shia Muslims, as well as different sects of Judaism. The siege wiped out most of the population. There are many different accounts from both Muslims and Christians describing the massacre, as Muslims and Jews were slaughtered in the streets and churches. Those who weren’t killed were either forced into exile or forced to convert to Christianity. This treatment was not limited to Islam and Judaism however, as the indigenous Christians also received the same treatment, as they were considered too eastern, and too closely linked to their enemies. The citizens of Jerusalem who fled travelled to the neighbouring cities such as Tyre and Acre. This treatment continued through Godfrey, who was the first Christian ‘king’ of Jerusalem during this period (although he took the title ‘The Defender of the Holy Sepulchre’, 1099-1100). This was similar during the reign of Godfrey’s brother, Baldwin I (R.1100-1118). Although unlike Godfrey, Baldwin was aware that his new Kingdom needed allies desperately, and so eastern Christians were slowly welcomed back into the city. Armenians were especially favoured, as Baldwin’s second wife was Armenian.  However, Muslims and Jews were still banned from entering the city.

Baldwin II of Jerusalem ascended to the throne in 1118, and continued his predecessors work to improve the state of Jerusalem. These obviously had to be very gradual changes, but nevertheless, they increased the multiculturalism within the Holy city. Muslims and Jews were not allowed to settle in Jerusalem, but they were allowed to enter the city, and even trade within the walls. This not only increased the tolerance of the Christians, but also helped the economic status of the city. The mountain raid in 1124 by the Muslims clearly shows their presence in the city, but also tells us that the two religions did not live peacefully with one another. Many various castles and fortresses were built (such as the castle at Jacobs Ford) during the reign of Baldwin II, which would again suggest that Jerusalem was still desperate to keep the Muslim world out, and therefore was still struggling with the threat of opposing nations.

The reign of Queen Melisende (R. 1131-1153), Fulk (R. 1131-1143) and King Baldwin III (R. 1143-1163) was a complicated one and their weaknesses were exploited fully by the Muslims, who staged another attack, which was also unsuccessful. However, Fulk made an alliance with the King of Damascus in 1137, demonstrating that the Kingdom of Jerusalem was capable of supporting Muslim cities, as well as being able to accept help from them. Certain Islamic cities faced the same threat during this period, and therefore Damascus and Jerusalem were willing to pair up in order to escape the wrath of Islam’s new leader, Zengi. By the 1140s, Jerusalem had been transformed. Simon Sebag believed that Melisende’s Jerusalem was ‘very different from the empty, stinking city conquered by the Franks 40 years or so earlier in 1099’. The city was populated by many different types of Christians, both eastern and western, and the streets were now singing with different languages from all over the world. The Templars and Hospitallers were nursing different types of people from the city, which included Muslims and Jews. There was even a halal and kosher kitchen, demonstrating just how much the laws which banned Muslims and Jews had been relaxed. Both Muslim leaders and Muslim peasants visited the city each day, without fear of persecution. Whilst this paints a picture of a culturally rich city, restored to its former glory, it was not the case for long. Internal disputes occurred once again, but this time it was between the native Christian and the western Christian pilgrims. The natives were far more tolerant to Muslims and Jews, and could understand their viewpoint, whereas the European Christians struggled to accept this other religion. Jerusalem was once again in danger of losing its rich and diverse culture.

Leading up to the Battle of Hattin in 1187, Jerusalem maintained an incredibly multicultural status. In 1180, a truce was made with Saladin, which allowed Islamic merchants to travel through the city. By 1170, there was evidence that there were Jews living near the royal palace, providing us with evidence that different cultures and religions were finally being granted permission to live within Jerusalem’s walls. However in September 1187, the Christian rule of Jerusalem was finally over. Instead of a repeat of the bloodshed of 1099, Saladin wished to preserve the diverse cultures within Jerusalem, and the city was handed over peacefully, without a single drop of blood being shed. The Muslims had finally regained control of the city, and had apparently learnt a lot from the 88 years in which Christians ruled the Holy Land. Christians and Jews were allowed to settle within the city, and were presented with a tolerant new regime.

So this brief description displays the way that Jerusalem developed over the years 1099-1187 under Christian rule. Under the reign of Godfrey, the many different cultures that resided in the city were completely wiped out, but we can see that over the years, the Christian rulers attempted to introduce more cultures. This could have been for more allies for the holy city, as well as to gain God’s forgiveness. Either way, Jerusalem’s history of multiculturalism has never been a straight forward one, but we can ultimately conclude that the Holy city was a place of growing cultures during the Christian rule.


Interview with Dr. Christina Welch (2/3)

In this interview feature we will be looking at Cultural Appropriation, artefacts in museums, religion, witchcraft and gender (with a particular focus on the elderly). This post follows from the previous post about Dr. Welch’s research and teaching. This is a part two (2) of three (3) interview with Dr. Christina Welch. Gentle reminder that the upcoming conference on Death, Art and Anatomy at the University of Winchester will commence on 3rd-6th June.

Interview by Emily Saunders and Samantha Holderness

Emily: You mentioned about the Cultural Appropriation. So it was your dissertation and PhD which drew you into that?

When I started here, I took a module on what was then Primitive Religions and I was completely fascinated by the fact that people in this country dress up as Native American Indians but Native American Indians don’t go and dress up as pretend Yorkshire people with flat caps and ferrets down their trousers – you know, you get those stereotypical views. I was really fascinated by that and so I really delved into the appropriation of Native American imagery and that’s trickling on. I do need to write it but the anatomy stuff is being funded at the moment so consequently that has to take priority. But it is quite fascinating and what’s been interesting is people have dressed up as Native Americans in this country since 1850 and the images that they use have not changed ever since.

Emily: And it’s in the mindset more today with how much of an issue it is really?

It’s quite interesting because when I was doing my research, there was a conference at the British Museum and I spoke at the British Museum and the local Pow Wow community, some of them took umbrage at what I was saying. And I went to a Native American tribunal, I actually got threatened to be tomahawked, actually it was really quite strange. [I] had letters here saying I wouldn’t be allowed to do my research, it was terrible. But, they looked at my work and agreed that what I was writing was correct, and actually made some changes in the movement at the time. And I think it’s sort of gone back a little bit. But it’s something I will carry on with. Again, it’s all visual, spiritual, it’s historical. I seem to be drawn to the historical, visual, more spiritual stuff.

Sam: So is that something you’ve always had an interest over the years or is it something which suddenly came when you studied at university?

It’s probably something which came out of studying at university.

Emily: I’ve seen that you’ve also written about artefacts in museums. What do you feel from your research is the issue with change to museums and colonial representations? What do you feel is the major challenge?

It’s really tricky, because museums are set up differently and there very set up in a western mindset. So I was at the Wellcome Collection last week and several of the things they’ve got there includes beaded pouches from Native American communities that would contain umbilical cords. Now, for Native American people they would not necessarily want them on show as something to look at or display, it’s a sacred item, so there’s some issues in the way that museums curate. Some museums in America don’t show the whole of the artefact, they cover part of it, so the whole thing isn’t on view, or will cover over and explain what’s under it and say we’re not showing this because. So they’re hiding but showing at the same time, and I think that’s a really interesting way of doing things. But because we don’t have an indigenous community I think it’s something which is quite hard for a lot of westerners to get their head around. So I think it’s going to have to be a case of give and take. Places like Glasgow, the museum up there, gave back the ghost dance shirt that came from the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show that was stolen, effectively, by a member of the Wild West Show and then passed on [and] sold to the museum. And they’ve got a replica. I think that might be a nice way to do things.

The Pitt Rivers Museum have got some amazing photographs of Blackfeet people and what they’ve done is they’ve taken it back to the communities. The communities have helped them interpret so whereas Westerners would look at it and go, ‘Oh look, really interesting this costume’. They’ll go, ‘that’s Uncle Joe’ or ‘that’s Grandma’. So, what they’ve done is they’ve taken copies of photographs so people have got the photographs and they’ve got the photographs, and they’re curating them in different ways so the community can curate them as they want to. They’re just photographs so they’re slightly different although there are elements of sacrality in there, but too complicated to get into in a blog really! But certainly, for museums it is really difficult. The American Art Museum in Bath have a Kachina and a Sharman marker, and because the museum is set up as an art museum they see it as a work of art, but the Kachina isn’t. The Kachina is actually a sacred other-than-human person and it is sort of semi-sacred and it’s being passed round to children in primary schools and I do think there’s some issues with that. And I think I mention that in my article, but it’s a really tricky issue and I don’t think it’s going to be solved easily and I think it’s going to be rolling on for a long time.

Emily: I think there is that major issue with primarily viewing it as art as well especially with African artefacts.

Again, what’s interesting with a lot of African and indeed some Native American artefacts – I don’t want to be overly homogenising – but, for a lot of indigenous people it’s actually the act of creating rather than the actual finished object itself that’s important. In a way, what happens to it at the end isn’t perhaps as important as what’s doing it, providing it’s looked at properly. But then it still is sacred and should be looked after, and if it’s a living object person, then being stuck in a cabinet somewhere and not interacted with, there’s all sorts of issues there.

Emily: There were a lot of them in the British Museum with plaques saying they were meant to fade away or be destroyed afterwards and now they’re on display. So it’s that sort of juxtaposition?

It is, in some ways it’s good because we’re learning about cultures and that’s got to be a good thing because it helps us understand. It’s having that balance, isn’t it. And I can’t remember, I think it was the British Museum – but one museum actually had a curator from the host community come in and work with them on some of the objects. But, obviously what’s on show is a tiny proportion of what’s in store and in a way there’s perhaps more problems with what’s on store than what’s on show. At least what’s on show is being interacted with and it sounds really superficial but if you think about Toy Story, it’s that idea that if this is a living human object person then maybe it is interacting with other living human object persons in its own sort of way, but if it’s stuck in a cardboard box in a store then what opportunities does it have? I don’t know, I think it needs a lot of nuancing and it is a really difficult issue.

Sam: I suppose one that won’t be solved quickly.

No, and there’s a museum in Australia that has Australian shields and it’s been said it can only be curated by a man and if it was a choice of the place burning down or being rescued by a woman, it would be better for the place to burn down. Because they were so sacred that women should never see them, and if women see them bad things will happen. So, the whole myth and ritual stuff it gets complicated. I don’t think it’s an easy topic, but it’s definitely an ongoing one and it will rumble for a long time.

Sam: You mentioned gender there, can you tell us a bit more about how this plays into the study of religion and how you go about that personally within your research?

Well, gender is everywhere. You can’t look at anything without looking at gender really so it feeds into everything from dress to ritual to myth, so gender’s just a background to everything I do. But in terms of research then my slightly dodgy erotic death art, gender’s really played into that. In the West, we tend to have an understanding – it’s not universal across the West – but we do tend to have an understanding in the West of a male Grim Reaper. Partly because Adam in the Bible brought death into the world, you can then see women as Eve as life. So you can get this nice juxtaposition with death versus life in a lot of these images. Particularly if they come from a Germanic context. It sort of fits in there and in terms of my carved cadavers, there is actually only one carved cadaver in this country of a woman, Alice de la Pole, who’s the granddaughter of Geoffrey Chaucer. And she’s a tier transi, so on the top she’s imaged as this beautiful young woman and then underneath is her naked cadaver – she’s got her shroud so it covers her – but she’s imaged as this seventy year old woman with naked shrunken breasts and she’s in a church and it’s really quite controversial figure. It’s in marble. I can’t imagine that at the time there would have been any naked sculptures of women showing their breasts so it’s a real statement piece. I need to a little bit more about that. Catherine Medici, about a hundred years later, had one done by Robbia. But when she saw it, her naked, emaciated, aging self, she decided she didn’t want it finished and would have a much nicer one. But that was a hundred years later, so Alice de la Pole’s really quite an interesting figure.

Sam: So ahead of her time, would you say, in that sense?

I would say outrageously ahead of her time really. I can’t imagine anyone now flashing their boobs in their seventies to be honest but there she is for the whole world to see. Not that it’s easy to see her. That’s interesting as well, in order to see her you have to peep through holes so there’s – it is modern-day voyeurism, I’m sure at the time it wasn’t as understood as voyeurism, there’s all sorts of other issues to go into for that. But there is this voyeuristic looking through the hole and seeing this terrible looking woman as she’s dying, naked. There’s something really quite interesting to do some research on that, from a gender perspective.

There’s also some very interesting gendered stuff I’m working on at the moment in terms of my carved cadavers because the upper effigies, they are symbolic. They were never meant to be directly looking as life but a lot of them – or some of them – certainly seem to have used female models for male bodies. Obviously, you can’t read back but you could read into it now as transgender bodies. I think there’s some interesting gendered work to potentially do on that.

Sam: Have you ever considered, or have you in fact, looked at groups like the Parsee community and how they are portrayed both in visual culture and how they are perceived?

No. I do teach about Zoroastrianism but I haven’t done any writing or research. There’s so much, so little time. And the anatomy of these carved cadavers is something – there is definitely something interesting. I never thought I’d be pushing back the boundaries of anatomy in this country in the fourteen and fifteen hundreds. There is something there that is really grabbing me at the moment. So, no I won’t be looking at the Parsee community, it’s just the Native American Indians at the moment I will go back and do a bit more work on so I can get my book out. That also will have to wait a little while.

Sam: Going back to your speciality with death, you have a good knowledge of poetry, in particular from the medieval period to the Victorian Period, as an expression of remembrance. So, could you tell us a bit more if there are any similarities or differences in how this was perceived in poetry?

It is important to understand how death is approached over different times and regions and although poetry is a good way to understand death as an expression of remembrance there are ways we know about it through other mediums One place in time and region in particular in Renaissance Italy from Baccchio tells us a lot about it, namely people’s attitudes to who had the Plague and how the dealt with it. Simply they locked those away who had the disease and ran away out of fear no matter how old the person was or who they were in relation to you. This included whether they were your mother, father, brother or sister. It is generally perceived that there is an idealised view about how the elderly were to be looked upon as wise and that they should be treated with dignity and respect. Sadly as these narratives show that was simply not the case in the event of something serious like the Plague, the elderly were left to die. If plague was rife there certainly was no time to look after them as they were considered to be using up resources that could be utilised for others. In this sense they were very much not liked looking through extracts of medieval poetry and the vernacular literature as the query our romanticised views of the past.

Emily: Interesting to say that as looking back at the witchcraft trials, the elderly women were very much mistrusted over the “elderly” aspect?

Yes, partly but the witch trials are rather complicated with gender again and how these elderly women were mostly in their forties. However what is interesting is looking at the carved cadavers and how they show how people did die in their seventies and not in their forties as we would like to think far back in the past. When referring to unusual visual stimuli it does provide us with a different perception of the past regarding the elderly and how death was presented. Going back to the question looking at how the elderly were mistrusted they were in the sense that through birthing many babies they acquired much practical wisdom. In this sense the church and some men did not really like that and how the everyday vernacular power of these women seemingly threatened them.

Sam: Would you say that would apply to anything out of the norm?

As the power of the church grew and how the power of the monarchy grew when the church decline there were elements to control the population, perhaps some women who had some sort of local influence perhaps came off badly. However it is important to mention that the church did not rule everything as not everyone went to church, otherwise they would not have brought in laws to enforce people to go to church, nonetheless their prominence was compelling. In terms of other minorities it is very difficult to determine what happened at that time; particularly those who were disabled unless they perhaps had an accident in the environment. At birth there were cases in history where midwives would have smothered babies that showed signs of a disability even as late as the 1920s as again the whole idea of draining resources crops up. It is interesting how recently in terms of history that this practice went on for. Through the use of personal family narratives there is evidence to suggest that this did go on. If you were from a poor family and you could no support a child, the child had to be tangible in order to help provide for the family, if there were not then everyone in the family would suffer. So in some ways you can see how the perception of women having control over life and death, before the baby had a chance to draw their first breath. This in effect was true in some ways. It should be made clear though that these actions were most likely carried out due to kindness at the time, rather than simply deciding that they should not live. Life was harsh looking at the lives of Native Americans, particularly the Sioux tribes before they had horses they lived in the mountains and came on to the plains in the summer. If winter was harsh they practices infanticide in order to keep their breeding pairs alive if they did not have the luxury to provide food and resources for children under the age of five. Furthermore it was not unheard for these practices to take place in Holocaust camps by Jewish women, simply because they did not want their babies to suffer the same fate as themselves. This sort of thing happened in many instances and cultures where survival was important, it was the elderly and the under-fives that had to go sadly as that seemed to be the most viable option to contend with. Clearly romanticising the past is simply not the case as some people seem to think true.

A Short History of Ballet

Lucile Grahn , Carlotta Grisi , Fanny Cerrito , y Marie Taglioni.-

Expression through movement has been a key part in ceremonial and celebratory events since man learned to walk. But the most beautiful and evocative of dance creations did not become what we would recognise today until the glittering Renaissance courts of fifteenth century Italy. Nobles used the basic steps and arm movements during weddings, masques and processions as a way to demonstrate politics, classical stories and biblical morality. Whole courts would participate in the dance designed to show off the ruler’s wealth through costume and the ability to know the latest dance crazes of late medieval Europe. Ballet itself spread northwards to France due to Catherine de Medici’s marriage to Henri II, then the Duke of Orleans, in 1533 who both sought to fund and patronise the growing athletic activity. Ballet continued to be a mixture of dance, poetry and music to envelope the audience in a concoction of movement, colour and noise in the hopes of impressing the resident foreign ambassadors of the French court.

Catherine de Medici’s patronisation of Ballet led it to becoming one of the art forms France remains infamous for today, hence why when learning ballet all of the steps retain their French name. Catherine never lost touch with her Italian native culture and encouraged dance masters from the city states to teach her children, including Cesare Negari who excelled at educating figure dancing – a series of dance patterns learned independently to the beat of eight per bar. The first full scale choreographed piece Ballet Comique de la Reine was portrayed on October 15th 1581 for Catherine to celebrate the marriage of Marguerite of Lorraine’s marriage to Duc de Joyeuse. Inspired by Homer’s Odyssey and choreographed by Balthasar de Beaujoyeulx, the ballet lasted five and a half hours and focused upon the enchantress Circe, while dancers appeared from all four sides of the great hall which was a first for any court ballet. French kings and queens developed a habit of appearing in the ballets themselves thus showing off their own prowess on the stage, and Henri III and his wife Louise of Lorraine were no different occupying roles in the Ballet Comique.

Ballet continued to be an important part of court festivities until the reign of the Le Roi-Soleil Louis XIV in the seventeenth century when the king began to standardised ballet into a discipline. Louis XIV was an avid dancer throughout his reign and performed in many choreographed pieces such as Ballet de la Nuit. His patronisation meant that ballet was lifted from noble amateurs to require professional training from the masters as dance academies began to develop from 1661. In 1681 ballet moved from the courts to the stage for the first time and became a popular pastime for royals and nobles to visit. By this time the ideology of the Opera-Ballet developed particularly enhanced by the French opera Le Triomphe de l’Amour which remains a popular show today. Up until this point ballet had always been incorporated into other art forms such as masques, weddings or poetry. However, Jean Georges Noverre in the eighteenth century believed that ballet could stand alone as a piece of artwork with just dance and emotive music to convey stories without words. Thence ballet d’action was born which meant the movement of the figures would convey the relationship between characters and carry the narrative themselves. Noverre’s work is considered the most important pre-cursor to the Romantic movement of the nineteenth century.

The Romantic movement influenced art, dance and music and some of the most famous ballets were designed and choreographed during this period. The movement focused upon the ideology of the supernatural with faeries and magic furthering influencing the Gothic movement in literature. Women were painted to seem fragile and passive creatures which were emulated in the ballets. It was during the romantic period that it became the norm for ballerinas to become skilled in pointe work – the act of dancing on your toes in special shoes – and tulle tutus became the staple image of a ballet dancer. The most famous ballets of this period were Giselle and La Sylphide which are the oldest surviving ballets with choreography that would be recognised today. Both include the dramatic death of a main character via supernatural means. Giselle focuses upon a girl who danced herself to death after experiencing heart break which led to wraiths forcing the man who broke her heart to dance to his death. La Sylphide portrays a man falling for a type of faery, a sylph, who is then killed by witches in the arms of a real girl who loved him. I have seen an adaption of Giselle by the Bolshoi Ballet which was stunningly dramatic and I loved it. During the nineteenth century ballet spread world-wide becoming infamous in Russia, England, America and Japan. Russia is responsible for the most famous ballets of all time with Pepita and Ivanov’s The Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake. These three ballets represent classical ballet in its purest form due to the development of the classical technique – turned out from the hips, pointe work, high extensions and ultimately precision. Tutu’s got shorted in order to fully maximise the effect of the classical ballet while introducing the ability and movement for leaps and turns those rendered more difficult in older ballet costumes.

From the twentieth century onwards ballet metamorphosed and was challenged by a series of choreographers to include styles and movements derived or adjacent to classical ballet. Neo-Classical ballet was created by the founder of the New York City Ballet, the Russian George Balachine. Balachine created the ideology of the plotless ballet where dance was choreographed to music to reflect the music’s style but for no other purpose and no narrative. Experimentation with costume and dance meant that ballet was able to take on a more contemporary form representing the newer Art Deco styles in the 1920s and away from the Pre-Raphaelite-esque romance of the previous century. Oskar Schlemmer designed the ‘Bauhaus Ballet’ – Triadisches Ballett – where the figures were moulded into geometric colourful shapes to allow the dancers to transform into part of the scenery. Today both classical and contemporary ballet continues to be shown on stages world-wide and remains to be a fascinating and enduring concept. Thousands of little girls still seek to learn the complicated discipline either at amateur schools or professional training boarding schools. I did myself for eleven years during my childhood. Ballet continues to be one of the innovative art forms of modern day society even with retaining old fashioned values and movements.

There are plenty of books that highlight the history of ballet that would also go into more depth including:

Anderson, J., Ballet and Modern Dance: A Concise History, 1993.

Clark, M., and Crist, C., Ballet: An Illustrated History, 1992.

Homans, J., Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet, 2010.

Lee, C., Ballet in Western Culture: A History of its Origins and Evolution, 1992.

(Image: ‘Grand pas de Quatre’ from

Interview with Dr. Christina Welch (1/3)

In this interview feature we will be looking at Dr. Christina Welch’s research and academic interests. Dr. Welch is a Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Winchester. It will chart a variety of questions detailing Welch’s background, what she does at the University and other external projects. Both Sam and I thought this was an amazing opportunity to undertake on behalf of the blog as we are both interested in religion and minority studies. Considering History is an inter-disciplinary subject, they certainly crop up as themes in many of our modules. This was what really inspired us to take part in this interview as we really liked the idea of these themes crossing over from one discipline and being applied to another. History is certainly not a cut and dry subject and the importance of promoting other disciplines to the study of history helps us, as historians, to develop and improve our craft as a way of understanding the past and how contemporary society is affected from it. This interview is split into three parts, with the two following sections being posted Saturday 21st and Monday 23rd May. The first will look at Dr. Welch’s research and teaching, while the second looks more in depth at her work on Cultural Appropriation and gender. The third, and final part, discusses her own personal experiences with studying at Higher Level education and working as an academic.

Dr. Welch’s latest publications, from this year, include:

‘From Villainous Letch and Sinful Outcast to “especially beloved of God”; Complicating the Medieval Leper through Gender and Social Status’, with Brown, R. Historical Reflections/Reflexions Historique (Spring 2016).

Welch, C. (2016) ‘Marketing Death through Erotic Art’. In, Dobscha, S, (ed.). Death in a Consumer Culture. London: Routledge: 43-56.

She also has an upcoming conference, Death, Art and Anatomy, at the University of Winchester between the 3rd and 6th of June.
Interview by Emily Saunders and Samantha Holderness

Sam: Can you give us a bit of background about what you teach at the University of Winchester?

My teaching’s different from my research. I teach in religious studies so the modules I teach on at undergraduate level include Islam, Judaism, Indigenous religions, New and Alternative religions and then basic Introduction to Religion, really. But, that would cover things like history, politics, sociology, anthropology, psychology, philosophy.

Sam: So very interdisciplinary?

Religious studies is a hugely interdisciplinary subject, and then I lead the Death MA, so I teach a lot about death

Sam: Interesting! So you say what you teach is different from your projects and your research. Could you give us a bit of a rundown of what your research is currently?

I started off doing my PHD looking at the role of appropriation narratives of people who dress up and dance, in this country, as Native American Indians, so that’s where indigenous religions and appropriation comes from. But, that developed out of my third year dissertation project. My masters degree, which is the Archaeology of Art and Representation, and then [I] did this PHD on visual imagery and spirituality, so I’ve always had an interest in the visual. And then, when I started teaching the Death MA and leading the Death MA, I needed to start thinking about how I’d apply this to death studies. So, I started researching on visual imagery and death. I just finished a project on erotic death art, so I’ve got a couple of publications out on that, and that includes reformation imagery, including people like Hans Baldung Grien, and Manuel Deutsch, and erotic coffin calendars produced out of Italy and Poland.


Emily: That is not something I would have expected to come out of this interview!

No, so I do that and then and so I’ve just finished that and, for a long time, literally probably about the last five years, I’ve been working on late Medieval carved cadaver sculptures. There are two in the cathedral. There are only forty-one in the country, forty-one extant, and so probably pretty much the only ones we’ve ever had. They’re very different from the ones in Europe, but it’s taken me off into a number of fields. I’ve been looking at them theologically, and relating them to a concept of post-mortem sentience in purgatory, because they’re catholic images. And, I’ve now started developing a thread in pre-versalian anatomy. So, I’ve got a conference coming up between the 3rd and 6th of June, on Death, Art and Anatomy, and I think I’ve probably got a large number of anatomical artists coming to the conference. And it’s part funded by the Wellcome Trust, Henry Moore, and the society for social history and Medicine. But that’s where my research seems to be leading, so I’m turning into a bit of a… yeah a bit of a historian. It’s moving away a little bit from religion on this one, looking at early anatomy.

Sam: But they do interlink a lot. I feel that a lot with my dissertation, actually, with how religion comes into it. I write a lot about minority cultures and religion titles as well.

This is a Catholic period and everything was religious anyway so there’s always religion in there, and it’s quite interesting how the history of the church and dissection. And eventually, I probably will start looking a little bit more at Islamic medicine, because that’s where the Greco-Roman came through to us. The Wellcome [Trust] had an exhibition on Tibetan Medicine and Tibetan Buddhist Medicine, and there’s some really interesting links there with that and medieval humorism, so I can definitely see that sort of links developing in my head.

Sam: Sounds very, very interesting

I’m actually having a carved… I crowdfunded a couple of years ago, just over £2000, and to have a carved cadaver carved for me, and he will be exhibited at the conference. So the sculptor very nicely is doing it in her own time, and we crowdfunded for the wood so we will have a 6ft carved cadaver and I’m doing an exhibition and we’re going to tour him and the exhibition in various places. [We’ve] had interest from the Thackray Museum in Leeds and Edinburgh Anatomy Museum and some churches and various other places.

Sam: So when was that conference again, June?

The 3rd to the 6th of June. Death, Art and Anatomy. I’ve got a performance poet, performing with a scythe, he’s doing a poem and using a scythe and… I’ve got all sorts! There’s performance and all sorts. Death is definitely the way to go at the moment I think.

Emily: We saw as well you worked on the Medieval Jewish Winchester Project. What sort of research did that involve and who did you work with?

Okay, well that came out of a WRAP project, so very long strange story. We, in our department, have an Erasmus partnership with the University of Potsdam in Germany just outside Berlin. The guy who comes over every year works in Jewish studies, he’s a very eminent Jewish scholar and, just one year, he happened to send an article which had been printed in a student journal, [a] post-graduate student journal that they run, and it was about the fact that York commemorates its Jewish medieval community and Winchester does nothing. But Winchester had quite a prominent Jewish community. So, obviously I teach Judaism, I know quite a lot of the local Jewish communities, and I took it to Danny Habel, who runs Habels Sleep Shop in the city and said to him, look, you know this is just ridiculous, we’ve got this thing here, why aren’t we doing something about commemorating the Jewish heritage.

It’s not as if people don’t know, there’s a book in the library here about Licoricia, so it’s not as if people don’t know about this, but nothing’s in the public domain. So, we sort of got chatting and decided it would be a really good project. He approached some people at the local council and they said if we did something they would fund it and it could potentially be a walk. Anyway, it sort of spiralled and somebody contacted – from the Jewish community – contacted the local council and  they just said you’re right, we’re not doing anything. We can’t have this, we need to do something proper, here we’ll pay for a proper leaflet for you. So, it ended up as this full blown walk. But I had some undergraduate students from my department – from Theology, Religion and Philosophy – and some undergraduate students from History, Civilisations and Beliefs, who were working on the project. They did a lot of reading through all the secondary literature, just seeing what was out there.

Emily: That’s what we do.

Exactly. Looking in the library, books by [Derek] Keene. Because it’s a walk, you can’t just look at stuff from books.

Sam: So the visual interpretation comes out quite a lot?

It does and it had to be something where even though the buildings weren’t there, people could walk the route and have the places pointed out to them. So it’s really important to get a map of the city, use the stuff in Keene, find out who owned what buildings, where were Jewish communities and build the story around that. So, that’s basically what we did. We got a couple of PhD students in because it was escalating from this small thing I was doing with Danny and a couple of students to this sort of… whoa okay it’s big! And we’ve got a big launch. So, we pulled some other people in to help so they could help me write it up because it had sort of grown out of…

Sam: I suppose you didn’t anticipate it.

No! I didn’t anticipate it to be like this at all and it’s fantastic. Yeah, so that’s how it grew and the council were really pleased and in fact we’re now developing more stuff with the city council. Ellie [Woodacre] is working with them, to do a Royal Winchester Walk so that’s really great. I think that link will carry on. I’ve always had some links with the Cathedral but because of the Holy Sepulchre Wall paintings that have got Jews in them I’ve been unearthing a little bit more information about that. So, that’s something else I might look at doing. And then eventually we ended up, when I was working with Trish, and we’ve now got one of the 175 year PhD studentships taking that project further and basically looking at what  can be done in other cities. [Looking at] why places like York very much focus on the massacres and not on the more positive stories as well, and trying to find out whether there’s room for more nuanced stories, so it’s not just that Jews were murdered. It’s a case of, there were these thriving Jewish communities and it was much more complex than this. But, yeah it’s sort of grown out of all proportion.

Emily: It’s really brilliant that it started off as a small thing and that it’s just had this huge massive impact.

Well I’m doing one again with Archaeology and History, where we’re doing a WRAP for the West Hill Cemetery, so again we’re hoping something will come out of that. I do like interdisciplinary projects, and it’s a great opportunity for students to get involved in something nice and two undergraduates are named on the leaflet and two postgraduates – I think there are two postgraduates named on it because a couple pulled out, for various reasons. So, we’ve got students named on the leaflets and it’s something that they’ll always have.

Sam: I did it last year, and it was invaluable because there were things I didn’t realise until researching it. So it’s a very good opportunity and something I would recommend. So it’s good to know that those projects do amount to something much more.

Yeah. Not all of them have, I have to say. There’s only been a couple of years I haven’t done them but I’ve got a visual archive of photographs that needs to be [sorted]. I’ve had students on a couple of WRAP projects sort of collating them but they all need to be scanned in and then we can have a visual archive of amazing photographs of religion and in various natural places but… it’s just time! That’s the problem, there’d be loads of lovely stuff that would be great to do but, it does take a while and also, as I’ve now learnt from the Jewish Medieval Winchester thing, these projects can escalate. So what turned out to be a WRAP two years ago actually took me two years in total. So, students worked on it and then it just continued and suddenly I was working on stuff I hadn’t expected to work on. It was great, I loved it but they can be quite time consuming and I think I need to factor that in a bit more next time. Yeah, if you’re going to do big projects remember it might last for more than a year. But I’ve had students working with me on my carved cadavers project so one set up a Wix Website for me and another one helped me look through some photographs. They’ve all been mentioned in publications, so there’s definitely – they are good. I’ve got to admit, it’s great to get students – good students – involved. That are keen and really want to learn.

Guanche – The People of the Canary Islands

Today we travel to a part of Spain that many people know mostly due to its touristic value: the Canary Island. However, this archipelago is the home to a usually forgotten and mysterious people – The Guanche. The are plenty of conspiracy theories as to where the Guanche came from and what was their involvement with the bizarre pyramids around Tenerife. However, recent archaeological and scientifical research are helping us understand the origins of these people and their role in the history of the islands. According to a study published in 2004 in the European Journal of Human Genetics, the Guanche are most likely related to the Berbers settle in the area of Morocco and other parts of northern Africa. This is also backed up by the similarities between Guanche language and Berber dialects from the area of the Atlas mountains. Nevertheless, further DNA analysis has shown that the Guanches may in fact be the result of an aboriginal tribe, natural to the islands, and their mix to the nomad tribes from the Sahara. The study even contemplates the idea that perhaps the Guanche DNA sequence mutated due to the settlement of the tribes in the islands affected by the new environment they were exposed to. However Spanish scholars from the University of La Laguna (Tenerife) believe it is likely the original population of the islands was of Punic-Phoenician ascendency. Yet others like Professor D. Juan Álvarez Delgado are inclined to believe that the islands became first inhabited when prisoners from the Numidian kingdom were abandoned in this location during the 1st century BC. But in any case, their actual geographical genesis is fairly complicated to identify. This cast shadow over our understanding of the Guanche identity and cultural traditions from an archaeological and ethnographic point of view.

The occupation of the islands by the Guanches is another matter that historians face. It is recorded by Pliny the Elder that the archipelago was not inhabited when the expedition of Hanno the Navigator visited the islands in the 5th Century BC. However, Pliny does advise that the Carthaginians did see ruins in the landscape, so this may suggest there were other people populating the islands before the Guanche settled there. Moreover, it seems that depending on the island, the name of this aboriginal people changed – Guanche is supposed to refer only to the inhabitants of Tenerife, while we have other names such as Gomeros for those living in La Gomera, or Canarii for those of Gran Canaria. Where all these people Guanche or of Guanche ethnic? Did the different names relate to the island they inhabited or to their ethnic background? This is almost impossible to determine. In any case we do know that the Canary Islands were well-known to their European and African neighbours – the Romans traded there with the locals and gave the islands individual names, and many Arab navigators and travellers visited this location during the early Middle Ages. From a historical point of view, the brutal invasion of the islands during the 15th century by the Spanish army does certainly make things complicated. Although some artefacts survive in the African continent, most of them could be related to Berber communities, so it is difficult to establish whether they are purely of Guanche origin, a mix, or neither. By 1496, Spain imposed its definitive rule over the archipelago, defeating for good the reminiscence of the Guanche opposition and absorbing them into their social structure. We know the Guanche did not easily let the Spaniards in as this is commemorate in several statues around the islands. Particularly this is symbolised by the statues of Bencomo – principal caudillo Guanche of the resistance. Although many cultural traditions remain, these are now mingled with customs from insular Iberia, so it is difficult to establish where the Guanche synergy begins and where the Spanish influence ends.

However there are a few things that remain from Guanche culture known to us. Of particular interest is their religious practices. It seems the Guanche culture had its own deities and they all varied from one island to another, although the concepts for each major god remain unchanged. Achaman was the supreme deity for the inhabitants of Tenerife, and he was ruler of the skies and thunder. This figure was replicated in the other islands under the names of Acoran (Gran Canaria), Abora (La Palma), Orahan (Gomera), Eraorahan (El Hierro). There was also a malign deity that inhabited the insides of the volcano Teide called Guayota. According to the legend, Guayota captured the god Magec – Sun deity – and the Guanches implored Achaman to rescue him and after a long battle Achaman prevailed and rescued Magec. As a punishment he trapped Guayota inside the Teide. Ever since the eruptions were interpreted by the inhabitants of the islands as the god trying to escape. There is a reminisce to the god Magec in the modern culture of Tenerife and the islands with the figure of the mago – which is the name people of higher social status gave to the peasants who worshipped Magec praying for good harvests.

There is one further aspect that has brought mysterious allegations around the Guanche people, which is the discovery of the pyramids investigated by Thor Heyerdahl at Guimar. Heyerdahl maintained that these were erected by the old Guanche population and that they were some sort of ritual site, which many conspiracy theorist have associated with similar builds in Meso and South America. However archaeological surveys from the 1990s seem to point out that these were constructed in the 19th century for agricultural purposes like the modern terrazas used all across the Canary Islands. However there is still room for interpretation and not all scholars are convinced by either theory.

Perhaps we have not learnt all that much about the Guanche people – or at least not as much as I would like. But here is to a little introduction to the known facts of this culture and to shedding some light on a part of Spanish history which is usually not mentioned in schools, gran narratives or known to the ordinary man. Hopefully the new scholarships of the 21st century will bring forward new hypothesis and discoveries on these people.

Burke or De Condorcet, who was the true king of Universalism?

Two men from very different backgrounds, with very different ideas on implementing their ideas, but with the same common core: universalism.

Edmund Burke

In one corner you have Edmund Burke, the Irish Whig politician, whom Sarah Palin (though not always the best backer, as seen through her Trump backing) once praised as one of the greatest conservatives, and who was involved within British politics.

Image of Sarah Palin

In the other corner you have one of France’s finest philosophers Nicolas de Condorcet, whom was a radical liberal, thoroughly behind the French Revolution, and the American one.

De Condorcet

Two people with different backgrounds, yet they agree on one thing: for universalism to be implemented within the British and French colonies across the globe. For Burke, he saw first hand how British rule was being changed in India by various different people to be harsh on the indigenous people. De Condorcet felt that the British had in the past been too unfair on their colonies, and wanted a change overall. Both wanted this change, but both wanted it in different ways. So who then is the true king of universalism?

Universalism of course is a modern day term that would not have been used by both Burke and De Condorcet, but their work hints to what would be modern day universalism. Burke by many historians is dubbed as the King of Universalism, that it was his views which helped pave the way towards it being a reality. As a politician, he saw the ugly side of the British Empire, whilst working in India.

Flag of the East India Company

The East India Trading Company carried the flag of the British Empire, not only showing the glory of the mass trade links that they had, but sadly highlighting the corruption that can come within an Imperial Empire. Warren Hasting’s in particular was a problem, taking the law into his own hands whilst in Bengal, and Burke knew that change was needed. The people within the colonies needed equal rights to the colonisers, they needed to be able to keep their cultural beliefs and religions but also be taught the British way. Rather than completely overthrow the British system, as had been done in France and America, Burke wanted slight changes carried out which would positively portray the British to their colonies. It was only one man wanting slight change, but it was the beginnings of the universal thought.

Image of Warren Hastings, a man who helped tarnish the Empire’s image

I realise whilst writing this post that the British Empire was not all tea and merriness, but was in many cases repressive and horrid, as was the Second French Colonial Empire in some cases. But the thoughts of a few people were aiming to get equal rights for the people within these colonies, to make the mother countries more respected, and to benefit the colonies more.

Similarly, Marquis de Condorcet, who was a French philosopher of the Enlightenment and was an advocate for Educational reforms and women’s equality. Like Burke, he wanted a universal set of languages, teachings and rights for everybody. However unlike Burke, his opinions changed just as much as the leadership of France. Living through the revolution created a very liberal viewpoint for Condorcet, who would happily overthrow the system if it meant that change could be made. Unlike Burke he viewed the French Revolution and American revolution as positive, seeing them as necessary. However he was similar to Burke in the belief that not only was it the big country’s duty to colonise these countries, but the people within the colonies had to benefit , that the big countries had to do it right.

Liberty Leading the People, one of the most famous French revolution images

When it comes to comparing the two, they both had the same sort of ideas when it came to universal thought. Burke was more vocal perhaps in his beliefs, writing up documents which would lead to Hastings getting tried, although not convicted. Condorcet also had the views that Burke did, though because of the revolution they often changed. However when it comes down to who is the true king of Universalism, the crown does have to go to Edmund Burke, who was happy to slightly tweak the system in order for the indigenous people within the colonies to benefit.

Battle of Jutland: May 31st 1916


The Battle of Jutland took place on the 31st May 1916 during the First World War. The battle saw two of the greatest and largest fleets in history come together which saw a huge loss of life and a battle which both sides claimed victory. I enjoy naval history, my family have served in the navy or been in naval disasters, with a relative who died on the Hood when it exploded from a shell from the Bismarck, another who died on the Titanic, and with my Great-Uncle and a Grandfather both being chief-engineers in the Navy and merchant navy, and many others working in Sheppey and Chatham dockyards, the opportunity to write about Jutland was one I could not simply miss. So I hope this brief blog will give an insight into the battle.

The English fleet was classed as the best and the most efficient of the time, however this can be easily contested as just as another Victorian tradition, which Eric Hobsbawm argues; that by the beginning of the 20th century, the navy was tactically and technologically behind other European states, but the idea of Britannia ruling the waves prevailed. This is important to note, as it could be argued that the British were complacent in their ship design because of this belief.

As tensions rose at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, it could be seen that England had involved itself with an arms race with Germany before the war had started. J.R. Jones, a leading historian in the field of the Anglo-Dutch Wars of the seventeenth centuries, states that ‘a study of the Rumps reaction to the Dutch decision to set out a massively expanded fleet in 1652 would have warned the Kaiser and Tirpitz that the enlarged High Seas Fleet would be seen in Whitehall as a provocative challenge to be met. The Anglo-Dutch War is an important comparison, as it allows us to see many similarities as well as noting the age old idea that history repeats itself. So, with both nations building dreadnoughts and super dreadnoughts, it was inevitable that both navies would clash at some point and when both navies met at Jutland, it would be hard to predict who would win.

Before the battle itself is discussed, the location must be analysed. The battle took place in the North Sea, off the coast of Denmark and just below Norway. This battle was important because it would decide who controlled the North Sea, and this is very significant, mainly due to the fact that Germany needed supplies from its colonies and other countries which could only be sent via the North Sea. Therefore if England had won the battle, the Germans would effectively be blockaded, whilst if the Germans had won, then the North Sea would be open to trade and supplies. It can be seen that Jutland was an extremely important battle, and one that could be argued as a turning point in the war.

My details on the battle come from a variety of sources, such as the BBC and the History channel. I will however try to briefly describe what happened that the battle, to give a summary of events. It can be noted that the English did have an advantage in the battle, they in fact enjoyed a ‘numerical advantage over the German High Sea Fleet of 37:27 in heavy units and 113:72 in light support craft.’ This is quite a large difference in numbers, but if you have studied any military history, then you would know that numbers do not necessarily mean victory. However the British Grand Fleet also enjoyed the advantage of having broken German signal codes.

The battle itself can be described in two very distinct phases. The first phase took place at 4:48 p.m. The scouting forces of Vice Admirals David Beatty and Franz Hipper located each other around in the Skagerrak, otherwise known as Jutland, and started a running artillery duel at around fifteen thousand yards. What was noted during this duel was the impressive craftsmanship of the German ships. It was noted that Admirals Hipper’s ships took a severe pounding but survived due to their superior honeycomb hull construction. The German ships were not surprisingly better made the their English counterparts, which would lose three battle cruisers, with the reasons being that there was a lack of antiflash protection in the gun turrets, which allowed fires started by incoming shells to reach the powder magazines. The English Admiral Beatty commentated stating that “[t]here seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today.” In this first phase, the superiority of the German fleet was made known, even with fewer numbers; they outgunned the British fleet and survived the British firepower. It does question the notion of England ruling the waves, which I argue as a historian was never really the case.

The second phase started at around 7:15pm. Admiral John Jellicoe used the advantage of the fading light to outmaneuver the German fleet and cut them off from their home base, and causing damage to the German flagship. However, the German fleet escaped this hangman’s noose, which can be only described as great seamanship and leadership. However by the end of the battle, losses were heavy, British losses amounted to 6,784 men and 111,000 tons, and German losses to 3,058 men and 62,000 tons. If we look at the battle as terms of what was lost, the British lost, but battles are never that simple, and with the German fleet retreating to port, it allowed the British to keep a blockade on German ports, which would prove disastrous to the German nation, with food supplies running low.

The battle lead Germany to change naval tactics to that of the U-boats and raiding, which reminds us a lot of the Second World War. The Battle of Jutland was the only major naval battle of the First World War, but it was decisive, it saw the British Navy claim the seas, even though the losses on the British side were much higher than that suffered by Germany. Eric Hobsbawm’s idea of the invented tradition seems to be justified by the battle, Britain no longer had the best fleet, Jutland proved that the British ships were inferior to their German counterparts, but the sheer quantity of ships and manpower gave the British a slight advantage. The German admirals were as efficient as their British counterparts. Finally the battle saw a huge loss of life for both sides all because of the arms race that happened a decade before. The rivalry between European states, would lead to the largest and one of the most devastating naval battles in our history.


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