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Sunday, 15 March 2015

End of Term Report


University of York Centre for Lifelong Learning course "God Wills It? A History of the Crusades"

For the last two terms I have trundled across York to the University campus to attend this course. 18 lectures/discussions on Wednesday evenings between 7 and 9 pm. I thoroughly enjoyed them.

My history studies are usually confined to French history and artillery fortifications after 1650, that is, starting with the reign of Louis XIV. I was interested in the course after I saw a television programme about the VII Crusade, organised and led by Louis IX in 1249, that was crushed at the Battle of Al Mansurah, Egypt, in February 1250. Then I found out that the First Crusade was declared by Pope Urban II outside the Cathedral of Clermont in 1095 and that large numbers of French knights and soldiers joined the Crusades to the Holy Land. This course added a lot to my background understanding of the French military and politics of the later medieval period.

Ten of us attended, this turned out to be a very good number. The course was ably and engagingly led by Dr Cristina Figueredo, a specialist in medieval history. Each session was centred around some 25 slides and pictures, written and sourced by Cristina with a view to having us contribute to the discussion. Most of the ten spoke, but not everybody. Cristina also provided reading matter for the following week's lecture, some of which I actually read.

The course covered the eight Crusades in the Middle East, plus the Reconquista in Spain, the Albigensian Crusade in France against the Cathars, the Baltic Crusades, the anti-Ottoman Crusade called to save Constantinople and, finally, the Crusade called against the Hus Uprising in Bohemia. Several of these Crusades were completely new to me. I knew of the struggle between Richard the Lionheart and Saladin and I've seen the films "El Cid" and "The Kingdom of Heaven", but a Crusade against the Hus? What have the Hus ever done to us? All was explained by Cristina. The Hus had wanted to practice Christianity without the yoke, the pomp, the wealth accumulation of the Church of Rome, so an early form of Protestantism.

So, to summarise, this was a very good course, very well organised and conducted by Cristina, very interesting, I learnt a lot.

I was reminded that tertiary education has changed very much since my student days. I think I have written previously how, because of the loans and debt involved, students now see their courses as financial transactions and contracts with quality levels and that because of the debt they work a lot harder than I did. This was the first course that I have attended when younger attendees arrived with laptop computers and typed notes throughout the two hour sessions.

Also, this was the first course that I have attended with a couple of foreign students.  York Uni has a very large number of Chinese students and one came to the lectures. The City of York has a large number of hotels, I imagine these attract a lot of European workers, the second foreign student was a Spanish engineer who is working in a hotel.

(A slight digression - I am told that  York Uni has the largest number of Chinese students in the UK, that the Chinese Government pays their fees of £27K pa, which is three times the UK student fees of £9K pa, so we only see the best Chinese students, the brightest and they work hard, very hard.)

A still from "Kingdom of Heaven", Tiberius (Jeremy Irons) considers strategic questions

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