It has been said that “the past is a foreign country” in that it differs from the present in social, cultural, intellectual and moral ways. When you visit a foreign country, ideally, you travel with an open mind, ready to learn from other cultures and at least be open to differences that may enhance your own worldview. In studying the past, we have to try to avoid the temptation to judge people in the past by using our modern perspectives. One of the challenges of studying history is that you need to develop an awareness of historical perspective.
We need to develop an understanding of how people were thinking at the time, rather than imposing our modern values to interpret and judge their actions. This is difficult, especially when faced with descriptions of atrocities and mass murders.
Below are two different accounts of the Crusaders’ attack on Jerusalem. One is written by a Christian, the other by a Muslim. When you read these accounts, pay attention to how these two descriptions portray the same event in entirely different ways. (Fulcher of Chartres file) The first account is by Fulcher of Chartres who was a participant in the First Crusade. He chronicled the entire journey, including the initial speech by Pope Urban II.
After Jerusalem was conquered, he remained there as Canon of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Note that the European Crusaders are referred to as Franks, and the Muslim inhabitants of the city are called Saracens. How would you describe the tone of Fulcher of Chartres? Which techniques does he use to describe the triumph of the Crusaders? Which aspects of the description might be shocking and upsetting to modern readers? To what degree does keeping historical perspective in mind help you understand the mindset of the Crusaders at their moment of conquering Jerusalem? (Ibn Al-Athir’s Account of the Crusades file) The second source was recorded by Ibn Al-Athir in the early 13th century.
This is not a primary source from a witness, but rather a historical secondary source written by a 13th-century historian, based on first hand accounts. What is the main focus of Ibn Al-Athir’s account? What is he trying to communicate? As a reader, what differences do you note between the witness’ account and the secondary reporting, regarding tone and subject matter? As a student of history, to what degree does the idea of historical perspective help you interpret these documents? Is there any way to avoid judging those of the past for their actions? About which other event in the course would you like to gain a different historical perspective? Explain your answer.
Please answer all questions for both documents in full sentences. Use the Chicago Manual of Style to format your assignments. Properly citing your sources shows you respect the ideas of others, and helps protect against plagiarizing. The formatting style should be used to create bibliographies, end notes, and/or footnotes.
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