Dr. Crawford Brings Expertise to History Channel Series
Traveling to Istanbul, Turkey, for series producer Lion Television in November 2004, Crawford was filmed at various sites in and around the city, including Hagia Sophia, which was the principal church of Eastern Orthodoxy until Constantinople's fall to the Turks in 1453.
Filmed inside the church, he pushed open the imperial door reserved for the Byzantine emperors, where the Emperor Justinian, who built the church in about AD 537, had once stood and proclaimed, "O Solomon, I have outdone thee!" Crawford was also filmed along the massive Land Wall, one of the medieval world's greatest feats of military engineering, and at the great ceremonial portal known as the Golden Gate.
One of Crawford's favorite locations was the Chora Church, an ancient monastic church in the northwest quarter of the old city, covered with golden mosaics of saints and frescoes from the fourteenth century. During filming he also traveled the waters around Istanbul to describe the crossing of the first Crusaders from Europe into Asia.
There is much the general public does not know about the Crusades, Crawford says. "So much of what is popularly thought is not true. That's why working on projects like this video is so important: to try to dispel myths and stereotypes and give people a more balanced view of the Crusades. Crusade historians haven't done a very good job of communicating the changes in our discipline over the last thirty years or so, I'm afraid, and the image of the crusades which is portrayed in the popular media and even in some non-specialist scholarly sources is seriously flawed on many points."
The Crusades were a part of the revival of western Europe in the 11th century. They were the first major counterattack by the Christian West against Muslim invaders who had been attacking Christian territory since the seventh century, and West European territory since the eighth. The First Crusade was in part a response to a call to the West for help from the Byzantine Empire, which was under attack from Seljuk Turks.
The popular but inaccurate view sees the Crusades as offensive military conquests. However, they were essentially defensive actions taken against Muslim forces that had conquered a great deal of Christian territory in Spain, France, and southern Italy and were driving to conquer more.
Crawford almost never became a history professor. He taught computer science at a community college until he decided to return to college to become a historian. He had wanted to be a medieval Scottish historian, but found out on arriving at the University of Wisconsin that it did not offer that field of history, so he changed his focus.
"I fell in love with crusade history," he said. "It is such an interesting subject. I'm always finding something new and exciting. You find human beings, on both sides of the conflict, at their best and their worst."
Posted: Tue, February 15th, 2005 at 1:19PM