Rated 5 out of 5 by NYNM Recommended
Prof. Harl is a delight - very knowledgeable in many areas. His expertise is featured in this series on the Crusades since he presents "both sides of the question." He discusses the Christian perspective and the Muslim perspective.
Because Harl has already done courses on the Byzantuim, on the Vikings (and their influence on Europe), and on Rome/Barbarians he is uniquely qualified to explain the intricacies of the Crusade era.
This is not so much a discussion of the campaigns and battles of the Crusades as it is a social history of the complex factors of the Crusades on Western (and quasi Eastern) civilization.
All of Harl's courses are excellent and highly recommended.
March 16, 2009
Rated 5 out of 5 by Challenger Another very fine course from Harl
The point most emphasized in this course is the relationship between Byzantium and the Western kingdoms. Professor Harl walks us through the historical transformation of the forces, with the West becoming stronger and the East weakening. When the Western Roman Empire ceased to be – there were no Western kingdoms to really speak of. England was in a state of trying to defend itself against the onslaught on the Barbarian Angles and Saxons. France and Germany were inhabited by German and Frankish clans. Spain was ruled by the Visigoths, but there was no strong political control there per se and they were constantly battling with the native Basque peoples. In the East to the contrary, the Roman Empire went on much as before and was as strong as ever. So at the beginning – in the fifth century - the Eastern Empire was overwhelming strong and developed compared to the West, and it considered itself to be far superior and dominant in every respect: in culture, in political structure, and in military might. It was also far richer - the richest parts of the Roman Empire had always been in the East – Egypt and North Africa. Even with regards to Christian sovereignty the East was dominant – the Byzantine emperor had to approve any new pope before he could step into office. All of this was to change on its head by the end of the Crusades. In the Fourth Crusade in 1204, the Western Crusaders lead by the Italian city states Venice and Genoa decided to change route and instead of trying to conquer Jerusalem from Saladin, sacked Constantinople. Thus the Byzantine Latin Empire was established, in which the West established an Eastern Roman empire based on the Catholic Church and on Western nobility and headquartered in Constantinopole. In fact it was a faltering Empire that never really rose very high, and lasted only sixty years before the Byzantines gained control back over Constantinopole. The Byzantine Empire however, lost its might forever in every respect, and the power balance of East and West was turned altogether – the West would be dominant in every way from now on.
This being said, this was not a single event and the changing of the power balance had been going on for some time. The first important point to note is that the East and West had been growing apart for some time. The West had established an autonomous church independent of the secular leadership in the East. Its fledgling medieval kingdoms, primarily England, France and Germany had matured and established relatively stable and strong monarchies and bureaucracies. In the Eighth Century, there was friction between the Churches because the Eastern Church ruled that icons should not be used in holy ritual – too close to Paganism. This erupted into open conflict in 1054 in what is today called the great schism between the two Churches. This conflict continues to this day.
In the Eleventh Century, Seljuk Turks from the East succeeded to make huge conquest in Asia Minor. The Byzantines, terrified to lose their Empire altogether, called to their Western Coreligionists and asked for assistance, saying that this could help resolve the Great Schism conflict. What they got was something totally different: the Crusades. During the Crusades, the tensions were greatly exacerbated. The Western Crusaders did not always behave on the best of manners – often killing and robbing the local Byzantine population on their way to Crusade. On the other hand, the westerners always felt that the Byzantine were not on the level. The supplies they were promised by the Byzantines often failed to materialize, and the Byzantines had a tendency to close deals with the opposing Turks and only later telling the crusaders about it.
The Crusades, in many ways put the Western Kingdoms on the map. From being poor Barbarian lands with little prospects, the kingdoms became forces to be reckoned with. They were able to make conquests even against the mighty Muslim Empire – a thought unconceivable up to that point, and they grew in force relative to the Byzantines until they overtook them. Another key point is the role of the Catholic Church – it acted in the Crusades also as a political force and not merely as religious leadership.
This is the second course I have taken focused specifically on the crusades, the other one being Professor Daileader's excellent course "How the Crusades changed History". As other reviewers have remarked regarding Daileader's course – the name is misleading… It hints that the course is going to be analytical, when in fact it is primarily narrative – describing the story of the Crusades. The last seven lectures are analytical though… The Present course is almost the exact opposite: it presents many different themes of the Crusading era, and dives quite deeply into "how the crusades changed history", but some lectures are narrative in nature. So I would say that the courses do overlap to some extent, but large chunks are complementary and actually mutually strengthen the points lacking in the other. So having heard them both I feel I have come to have a reasonably good understanding of what went on, and why it is important.
Professor Harl, as I have come to expect, gave a very good performance in this course. This is my Eleventh course given by him – in fact I have heard every course of his in the TGC so far – so obviously I am fond of his teaching style. He is not always so easy to follow, but he is always brimming with profound insight, and I find him highly entertaining, so the effort is highly rewarded. Another very fine course…
February 18, 2015
Rated 3 out of 5 by Susanah Era of the Crusades
The information is fascinating but his presentation is pretty minimalist. A few more smiles or changes in inflection would help keep the viewer awake.
November 13, 2014
Rated 3 out of 5 by DrRM Crusades
My comments in this review are based on having been a University Professor as well as attending lectures, courses and seminars on a number of subjects: sciences, medicine, history, music, etc.
There are numerous very good points to Dr. Harl's courses but a few that could be greatly improved in the presentation of the course material.
The material is well thought out and clearly comes from an expert in the field. The overall course content is excellent. Certainly well worth the time to view the course and certainly recommended as a course but with the reservations mentioned in this review.
Presentation is the main shortcoming of Dr. Harl's lectures/courses. For a full professor by now he should realize that he speaks much too fast (commented on by other reviewers as well), almost as if citing from memory, and at times machine gun like glancing up and down at his notes. His continued use of "AH" is annoying and distracting and could be reduced significantly if he slowed his presentation down. A suggestion: Dr. Harl could use a public speaking course given by a professional which would greatly improve his presentation of lectures and seminars. Once again, The continuous bad speaking habit of ah's are both a distraction and annoying as well as his rapid glancing up and down at his notes. The speed of presentation for many would make it extremely difficult to take notes and for some reduce the ability to completely follow the lectures. True, one can view the video again as well as the provided course notes, but since this is a visual lecture as well as numerous verbal facts presented, the overall presentation could be greatly improved. I expect that this course has been given numerous times throughout his career and Iwould have expected a more polished presentation. At times the impression is as if the lecture is being read out of a book and is too dry, even though Dr. Harl enjoys discussing this material.
Overall, a complete transcript of Dr. Harl's courses notes makes this a very valuable course as a well as his other courses.
October 4, 2014