Dr Helen J Nicholson

Contact Details

Cardiff School of History and Archaeology
Cardiff University
Humanities Building
Colum Road
Cardiff CF10 3EU

Email: nicholsonhj@cardiff.ac.uk


When and where did you initially develop an interest in the history of the crusades and/or the Latin East?

1985; City of Leicester reference library.

Who or what sparked your enthusiasm for the subject?

In my spare time (eg lunchtimes when I was in the Leicester office of Coopers and Lybrand Chartered Accountants) I was studying events in England during Richard I’s absence, a subject which had interested me since my ‘O’ level year, 1976-77. In the course of this research I was trying to find information about the Templars and Hospitallers, so I consulted William Stubb’s Rolls Series edition of the Itinerarium Peregrinorum et gesta Regis Ricardi. I quickly discovered that the views of the military orders in this near-contemporary text were rather different from those stated in the (sparse) secondary literature.  So … I quit the job and began translating the text, and then applied for a research scholarship at Leicester University – leading to a PhD on medieval images of the military orders (1990, published 1993), and the publication of my translation (1997).


Please provide details of your Higher Education, including dates, institution(s) and the name(s) of your research supervisors.

  • 1979-1982: BA degree course in Ancient and Modern History at St Hilda’s College, University of Oxford. Class awarded: First.
  • 1986: converted BA degree to an MA
  • 1986-1989: Open Research Scholarship in the Department of History, University of Leicester, researching PhD thesis. Supervisor: Norman Housley.
  • 1990: Obtained doctorate. PhD thesis entitled: ‘Images of the Military Orders, 1128-1291: spiritual, secular, romantic’

Career History

Please provide details of your academic career history, including confirmation of your current institutional affiliation and contact details.

  • 1992-1994: Part-time teaching assistant in the Department of History, University of Leicester.
  • 1994-1996: Three-year fixed-term lecturer in Medieval History, School of History and Archaeology, University of Wales, Cardiff.
  • 1996-2000: Lecturer in Medieval History, School of History and Archaeology, Cardiff University.
  • From 1 September 2000: Senior Lecturer in Medieval History, School of History and Archaeology, Cardiff University.
  • From 1 September 2004: Reader in Medieval History, School of History and Archaeology, Cardiff University.

Influences and Methodologies

What ideas and/or methodologies have informed your approach to your research?

My interest in history began as a child, when my younger sister and I were ‘dragged round’ castles, abbeys and other historical monuments on every family holiday. My father (working class by origin, with a language degree from Exeter University and a lifelong interest in history) encouraged us to walk the ground ourselves, look at what was there and analyse for ourselves; and also to read the official Ministry of Works guidebooks, which in the 1970s were not designed to be accessible to the general public. Studying medieval history for myself as an ‘O’ and ‘A’ level teenager I learnt to refer to footnotes and then search for the original texts in the County Library, rather than rely on the secondary works, which frequently contradicted each other; the Nelson series of parallel translations and the series of ‘English Historical Documents’ soon became valued friends. I set out to learn the necessary languages to study medieval history, learning Latin (to ‘O’ level) and French (to ‘A’ level) at school specifically for this purpose, and later (post-University) German.

At Oxford University, studying ancient and early medieval history, I was taught to go back to the primary sources and to read them in the original language whenever possible; to look for what was omitted from the written primary sources as much as for what was included (and to ask why it was omitted); to exploit every form of evidence of the past, including archaeology and ‘fictional’ texts (‘everything is relevant’; ‘history is a seamless garment’; ‘think wide’); how to extrapolate with care from a few hints and a minimum of evidence; to take nothing for granted but to question, question, question. This training has been invaluable to me in researching the history of the medieval military religious orders.

Research Outlook

What do you consider to be the most important avenues for future research in the field of crusader studies?

Source criticism, narratology, textuality, fictionality and reception: reassessing the primary sources on which our knowledge of crusading and crusader societies is based (an example of this sort of work is Peter Edbury’s research on the translations of Archbishop William of Tyre’s Historia and the continuations of William of Tyre’s work).

Areas of research that are currently developing but have plenty of scope for growth include prosopography, gender, cross-cultural exchange, the societies founded or ruled by the crusaders, slavery within those societies, and the role and function of crusading in late medieval western European society.

A further area of research is holy war and the use of the ideology of holy war during the early modern period; and modern interpretations of crusading: for example, how far crusade ‘traditions’ (however romanticised) informed nineteenth-century imperialism.

Research Output

Please provide details of your research output, including publications and other media as appropriate.

  1. (edited with Karl Borchardt and Nikolas Jaspert) The Hospitallers, the Mediterranean and Europe: Festschrift for Anthony Luttrell (Aldershot, Hants and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2007; ISBN 978-0-7546-6275-4), 321 pp.
  2. (edited with Anthony Luttrell) Hospitaller Women in the Middle Ages (Aldershot, Hants and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2006; ISBN 0-7546-0646-5), 280 pp.
  3. (edited with Johannes A Mol and Klaus Militzer) The Military Orders and the Reformation: Choices, State Building and the Weight of Tradition. Papers of the Utrecht Conference, 30 September-2 October 2004 (Hilversum: Verloren, 2006: ISBN 90-6550-913-5), 319 pp.
  4. (edited with Jochen Burgtorf) International Mobility in the Military Orders (Twelfth to Fifteenth Centuries): Travelling on Christ’s Business (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, ISBN 0-7083-1907-6, and Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, ISBN 0-8173-1512-8, 2006), xxii + 218 pp.
  5. (edited, introduction and ch 12) Palgrave Advances in the Crusades (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave, 2005: ISBN hbk 1-4039-1236-X, pbk 1-4039-1237-8), xix + 308 pp.
  6. Knight Templar: 1120-1312, Warrior, 91 (Oxford: Osprey, 2004: ISBN: 1-84176-670-4), 64pp. Reprinted in God’s Warriors: Crusaders, Saracens and the Battle for Jerusalem, with David Nicolle (Oxford: Osprey, 2005: ISBN 1-84176-943-6; pbk 2006: ISBN 1-84603-143-5), 224 pp.
  7. The Crusades, Greenwood Guides to Historic Events of the Medieval World (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2004: ISBN 0-313-32685-1), 196 pp.
  8. Medieval Warfare: Theory and Practice of War in Europe, 300-1500 (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave, 2003: ISBN hbk 0-333-76330-0, pbk 0-333-76331-9), 231 pp.
  9. The Knights Hospitaller (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 2001: ISBN: 0-85115-845-5; pbk 2003: ISBN 1-84383-038-8), 200 pp.
  10. The Knights Templar: A New History (Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 2001: ISBN 0-7509-2517-5; pbk 2004: ISBN 0-7509-3839-0), xviii + 278 pp Translated into Polish by Piotr Chojnacki as Rycerze Templariusze (Warsaw: Bellona, 2005: ISBN 83-11-10082-9), with new pictures and captions, some of which are incorrect. Translated into Spanish as Los Templarios: Una nueva historia (Barcelona: Editorial Crítica, 2006: ISBN 84-8432-719-1), 424 pp.
  11. Love, War and the Grail: Templars, Hospitallers and Teutonic Knights in Medieval Epic and Romance 1150-1500 (Leiden: Brill, 2000: ISBN 90-04-12014-9; pbk Boston, MA: Brill, 2004: ISBN 0-391-04218-1), xiv + 273 pp History of Warfare, 4.
  12. (edited) The Military Orders, vol 2: Welfare and Warfare (Aldershot and Brookfield, VT: Ashgate, 1998; ISBN 0-86078-679-X), xxviii + 412 pp.
  13. Chronicle of the Third Crusade: a Translation of the Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi with introduction and notes (Aldershot and Brookfield, VT: Ashgate, 1997; ISBN 1-85928-154-0; pbk 2000: ISBN 0-7546-0581-7), 409 pp Extensive extracts in An Eyewitness History of the Crusades: The Third Crusade, 1188-1192, edited and introduced by Christopher Tyerman (London: Folio Society, 2004)
  14. Templars, Hospitallers and Teutonic Knights: Images of the Military Orders, 1128- 1291 (London: Leicester University Press, 1993; ISBN 0-7185-1411-4; pbk 1995: ISBN 0-7185-2277-X), xvi + 207 pp.
  1. ‘The Hospitallers and the ‘Peasants’ Revolt’ of 1381 revisited’, in The Military Orders, vol 3: History and Heritage, ed Victor Mallia-Milanes (Aldershot, Hants and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2008; ISBN 978-0-7546-6290-7), pp 225-33
  2. ‘Crusades’, in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Women in World History, ed Bonnie G. Smith (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008, ISBN 978-0195148909)
  3. ‘The Testimony of Brother Henry Danet and the Trial of the Templars in Ireland’, in In Laudem Hierosolymitani: Studies in Crusades and Medieval Culture in Honour of Benjamin Z. Kedar, ed Iris Shagrir, Ronnie Ellenblum and Jonathan Riley-Smith, Crusades Subsidia 1 (Aldershot, UK and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2008, ISBN 978-0-7546-6140-5), pp 411-23
  4. ‘Relations between Houses of the Order of the Temple in Britain and their Local Communities, as Indicated during the Trial of the Templars, 1307-12’, in Knighthoods of Christ: Essays on the History of the Crusades and the Knights Templar, Presented to Malcolm Barber, ed Norman Housley (Aldershot, UK and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2007, ISBN 978-0-7546-5527-5), pp 195-207
  5. ‘Crusades and Crusading Literature’, in Medieval Women and Gender in Medieval Europe: an Encyclopedia, ed Margaret C. Schaus with Susan Mosher Stuard and Thomas Izbicki (New York: Routledge, 2006, ISBN 0415969441), pp 183-4
  6. Articles on the Eracles, Ernoul, Jerusalem, (Latin) kingdom of (with Alan V Murray), St Maurice -- order of, the Military Orders, the Third Crusade, Ralph de Diceto, Richard of Devizes and Rigord in The Encyclopedia of the Crusades, ed Alan V Murray, 4 vols (Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2006, ISBN 1-57607-862-0; e-book ISBN 1-57607-863-9), vol 2 pp 405, 407-8, 662-72; vol 3, pp 808, 825-30; vol 4, pp 1002-3, 1035, 1038-9
  7. Translations of chapters 78, 79, 81 and 186, 187 of Jean Froissart, Chroniques. Dernière rédaction du premier livre. Édition du manuscrit de Rome, Reg. lat. 869, ed George T Diller (Geneva: Droz, 1972), in Reading the Middle Ages: Sources from Europe, Byzantium and the Islamic World, ed Barbara H. Rosenwein (Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press, 2006, ISBN 1-55111- 693-6), pp 512-17
  8. La roine preude femme et bonne dame: Queen Sybil of Jerusalem (1186-1190) in History and Legend, 1186-1300’, in The Haskins Society Journal, 15 (2004: published 2006) (ISSN 0963-4959), 110-24
  9. ‘International Mobility versus the Needs of the Realm: The Templars and Hospitallers in the British Isles in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries’, in International Mobility in the Military Orders (Twelfth to Fifteenth Centuries): Travelling on Christ’s Business, ed Jochen Burgtorf and Helen Nicholson (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, ISBN 0-7083-1907-6, and Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, ISBN 0-8173-1512-8, 2006), pp 87-101
  10. ‘Saints venerated in the Military Orders’, in  Selbsbild und Selbstverständnis der geistlichen Ritterorden, ed Roman Czaja and Jürgen Sarnowsky, Ordines Militares Colloquia Torunensia Historica XIII (Toruń: Uniwersytet Mikołaja Kopernika, 2005; ISSN 0867-2008), pp 91-113
  11. ‘The Sisters’ House at Minwear, Pembrokeshire: Analysis of the Documentary and Archaeological Evidence’, Archaeologia Cambrensis, 151 (2002: published 2005) (ISSN 0306-6924), 109-138
  12. ‘Echoes of Past and Present Crusades in Les Prophecies de Merlin’, Romania, 122 (2004) (ISSN 0035-8029), 320-40
  13. ‘The Motivations of the Hospitallers and Templars in their Involvement in the Fourth Crusade and its Aftermath’ (Hill Monastic Manuscript Library Malta Study Center Lecture, 2003) online publication at: http://www.hmml.org/centers/malta/publications/lecture3.html
  14. ‘The Crusades’ (text only) in The “Times” Medieval World, ed Rosamund McKitterick (London: Harper Collins, 2003; ISBN 0007127103), pp 146-7
  15. ‘The Hospitallers and the ‘Peasants’’ Revolt of 1381 Revisited’, St John Historical Society Proceedings (2001), 43-55
  16. ‘Serving King and Crusade: The Military Orders in Royal Service in Ireland, 1220-1400’, in The Experience of Crusading, vol 1: Western Approaches, ed Norman Housley and Marcus Bull (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003; ISBN 0-521-81168-6), pp 233-52
  17. ‘The Hospitallers in England, the Kings of England and Relations with Rhodes in the Fourteenth Century’, Sacra Militia: Rivista di Storia Degli Ordini Militari, 2 (2002) (ISSN 1591-7142), 25-45
  18. ‘Women in Templar and Hospitaller Commanderies’, in La Commanderie: Institution des ordres militaires dans l’Occident médiéval, ed Anthony Luttrell and Léon Pressouyre (Paris: Comité des travaux historiques et scientifiques: 2002; ISBN 2-7355-0485-9), pp 125-34
  19. ‘The Head of St Euphemia: Templar Devotion to Female Saints’, in Gendering the Crusades, ed Susan Edgington and Sarah Lambert (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2001; ISBN hbk 0-7083-1705-7, pbk 0-7083-1698-0; New York: Columbia University Press, ISBN hbk: 0-2311-2598-4, pbk: 0-2311-2599-2), pp 108-20
  20. ‘The Military Orders and their Relations with Women’, in The Crusades and the Military Orders: Expanding the Frontiers of Medieval Latin Christianity, ed Zsolt Hunyadi and József Laszlovsky (Budapest: Central European University, 2001; ISBN 963-9241-42-3), pp 407-14
  21. Articles on the Templars and the Hospital of St John in The Encyclopedia of Monasticism, ed William M. Johnston (London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2000; ISBN 1579580904)
  22. ‘Following the Path of the Lionheart: the De ortu Walwanii and the Itinerarium peregrinorum et gesta regis Ricardi’, in Medium Ævum, 69.1 (2000) (ISSN 0025-8385), pp 21-33
  23. ‘Margaret de Lacy and the Hospital of St John at Aconbury, Herefordshire’, in The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 50.4 (1999) (ISSN 0022-0469), 629-51. Reprinted with map, picture and a few small additions in Hospitaller Women in the Middle Ages, ed Anthony Luttrell and Helen Nicholson (Aldershot, Hants and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2006; ISBN 0-7546-0646-5), pp 153-77
  24. ‘The Knights Hospitaller on the Frontiers of the British Isles’, in Mendicants, Military Orders and Regionalism in Medieval Europe, ed Jürgen Sarnowsky (Aldershot and Brookfield, VT: Ashgate, 1999, ISBN 1-84014-623-0), pp 47-57
  25. Short articles on ‘The Crusades’, ‘Georges Duby’, ‘Matthew Paris’, and ‘William of Tyre’ in The Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing, ed Kelly Boyd, 2 vols (London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1999; ISBN 1-88496-433-8), pp 268-9, 327-8, 906- 7, 1301-2
  26. ‘Knights of Christ? The Military Orders in the Eyes of their Contemporaries’, an article on ORB’s Military Orders page.
  27. ‘Before William of Tyre: European Reports on the Military Orders’ Deeds in the East, 1150-1185’, in: (edited) The Military Orders, vol 2: Welfare and Warfare (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1998; ISBN 0-86078-679-X), pp 111-18
  28. ‘The Military Orders and the Kings of England in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries’, in From Clermont to Jerusalem: the Crusades and Crusader Societies, 1095-1500, ed Alan Murray, International Medieval Research, 3 (Turnholt: Brepols, 1998; ISBN 2-503-50667-4), pp 203-18
  29. ‘Women on the Third Crusade’, in Journal of Medieval History, 23(4) (1997) (ISSN 0304-4181), 335-49
  30. ‘Knights and Lovers: the Military Orders in the Romantic Literature of the Thirteenth Century’, in The Military Orders: fighting for the faith and caring for the sick, ed Malcolm Barber (Aldershot and Brookfield, VT: Variorum, 1994; ISBN 0-86078-438-X), pp 340-5
  31. ‘Saints or sinners? The Knights Templar in Medieval Europe’, History Today, 44.12 (1994) (ISSN 0018-2753), 30-36
  32. ‘The Military Orders in the Romantic Literature of the thirteenth century’, in St John Historical Society Proceedings, 5 (1993), 25-41
  33. ‘Steamy Syrian Scandals: Matthew Paris on the Templars and Hospitallers’, in Medieval History, 2.2 (1992) (ISSN 0960-0752), 68-85
  34. ‘Templar Attitudes towards Women’, in Medieval History, 1.3 (1991) (ISSN 0960- 0752), 74-80
  35. ‘Jacquemart Giélée’s Renart le Nouvel: the image of the Military Orders on the eve of the loss of Acre’, in Monastic Studies 1: the Continuity of Tradition, ed Judith Loades (Bangor: Headstart History, 1990; ISBN 1-873041-00-4), pp 182-9