History Buzz November 9, 2011: Q&A Historian Jay Rubenstein


History Buzz



Source: Knoxville Metro Pulse, 11-9-11

Q&A: Historian Jay Rubenstein

photo by John Black

University of Tennessee history professor and MacArthur Fellow Jay Rubenstein’s new book, Armies of Heaven: The First Crusade and the Quest for Apocalypse, is a detailed account of the First Crusade and an analysis of the religious and political conditions in Europe that led to the great 1095 pilgrimage to Jerusalem, a cataclysmic event in world history. It’s also a bloody, violent tale of adventure and intrigue. And it’s got a jacket blurb by Monty Python’s Terry Jones, the director of Monty Python and the Holy Grail and a series of BBC documentaries on medieval life.

What’s the intended audience for this book? It’s obviously scholarly, but kind of popular, too.

I tried to write it with as wide an appeal as possible. Because of the MacArthur Fellowship, I had a chance to tell a story that would appeal to a scholarly audience but also be able to reach a general audience as well. That’s one of the luxuries of writing about a topic like the Crusades.

What made you want to write this particular book, tell this particular story?

I didn’t expect to really write a book about this story when I started. I was going to do two or three scholarly papers on the Crusades, and perhaps an article. I wanted to do it to fill out a lacuna in my earlier research. I’d done a biography of a monk named Guibert, who had written a Crusade chronicle, but I didn’t have time to deal with it as fully as I wanted to. The more research I did, the more I realized that there was still a lot of potential for new angles on the Crusades story, in particular the apocalyptic angle, which I didn’t expect to do at all when I started….READ MORE

Nancy Caciola: She’s Got the Devil by the Archives


History Buzz

Source: San Diego News, 5-20-11

Nancy Caciola

Photo by Sam Hodgson

University of California, San Diego history professor Nancy Caciola is a leading specialist in the study of spiritual possession.

University of California, San Diego history professor Nancy Caciola spends her days studying the fine line between godly saints and demonic sinners. She’s interested in how the people of the Middle Ages figured out which was which — or witch.

Caciola, a leading specialist in the study of possession, is intrigued by those who obsessed over their strange-acting neighbors. Were they in the throes of religious ecstasy? Willing followers of Satan? Or maybe the devil had taken their innocent souls hostage. If that was the case — oh dear — then what?

In an interview this week, Caciola talked about witchcraft, women and one heck of a suffering saint.

You teach a class about witchcraft and the church’s battle to kill off witches. What do you talk about?

There’s a huge amount of disagreement. There are those who say there was a frame-up, a fantasy that scapegoated women and has no relation to what women might have been doing. Others say a pagan cult survived underground and was demonized by the Catholic church. And then there are those who say there really were demon-worshipping women who literally went to the crossroads and tried to call up the devil….READ MORE

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