Women and the Crusades in Europe and the Near East

By Professor Helen Nicholson, published 19th March 2024

Patronage, propaganda, and prayer

In 2023, Emerita Professor Helen J. Nicholson (Cardiff University), published her book Women and the CrusadesThis book surveys women's involvement in medieval crusading between the second half of the eleventh century, when Pope Gregory VII first proposed a penitential military expedition to help the Christians of the East, and 1570, when the last crusader state, Cyprus, was captured by the Ottoman Turks. It considers women's actions not only on crusade battlefields but also in recruiting crusaders, supporting crusades through patronage, propaganda, and prayer, and as both defenders and aggressors. It argues that medieval women were deeply involved in the crusades but the roles that they could play and how their contemporaries recorded their deeds were dictated by social convention and cultural expectations.

Although its main focus is the women of Latin Christendom, it also looks at the impact of the crusades and crusaders on the Jews of western Europe and the Muslims of the Middle East, and compares relations between Latin Christians and Muslims with relations between Muslims and other Christian groups.

In this podcast Professor Nicholson discusses her research and examines the role of women and key figures in the Crusades.

1. An introduction to ‘Women and the Crusades’.
2. What do we mean by Crusade?
3. What were women’s motivations in the Crusades?
4. Can you tell us about some of the women who went on their own?
5. What was the situation in the Iberian Peninsula on the eve of the Crusades?
6. How did the Iberian Crusade develop?
7. What role did women play in the reconquest?
8. Can you provide and introduction to the Baltic Crusades?
9. How did the Baltic Crusade conclude?
10. What role did women play?
11. What did the Cathars believe? What are the origins of anti-Cathar feeling?
12. What were the political and cultural origins of the Albigensian Crusade?
13. How did the Albigensian Crusade develop?
14. How does the Albigensian Crusade conclude? What were the consequences?
15. What led to the decline and eventual collapse of the crusader states? What role did women play in resisting and managing this decline?
16. Different diplomatic options for women Crusaders.
17. What role did women play in shaping how the crusades were remembered?
18. What should students keep in mind when studying this history?

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