'Papal Calls to Crusade: Mobilising Support for the Crusader Cause in the Middle Ages' with Dr Thomas Smith


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Papal calls to crusade were some of the most influential texts in the medieval West: key messages, crafted at the papal court, that were disseminated and preached across Christendom to mobilise men and women of every level of society to take up the crusading cause. These calls were a dynamic element of a crusading society, in which all Christians were responsible for the fate of the Holy Land and could support the crusading movement by bearing arms or offering prayers. How were these calls crafted? How were they interpreted, reshaped and shared by the people of Christendom? In this episode, Dr Sophie Ambler, Deputy Director of the Centre for War and Diplomacy, talks to Dr Thomas Smith about his work investigating papal calls to crusade – both their production and their later life, once they were released ‘into the wild’.

Dr Smith is an expert in ecclesiastical and crusading history in the central Middle Ages. After completing his doctorate at Royal Holloway, he was Scouloudi Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research and then Leverhulme Study Abroad Fellow at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich. After two years at Trinity College, Dublin, he was Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the University of Leeds, before joining the History Department at Rugby School in 2019. His early work explored papal policy and financing in relation to the crusading movement, in a number of articles and his first book: Curia and Crusade: Pope Honorius III and the Recovery of the Holy Land, 1216-1227, published with Breopls in 2017. He has since undertaken important work in the forensic investigation of various documents related to the crusades, from papal bulls, to letters and chronicles, published across a host of articles in journals such as Historical Research, Viator, Crusades, and the Journal of Ecclesiastical History. He is currently completing his second monograph, on the Letters of the First Crusade, forthcoming with Boydell and Brewer, as well as working with Dr Susan Edgington on a new edition of a neglected chronicle of the First Crusade, traditionally attributed to Bartolf of Nangis.

Select works by Thomas Smith:

  • Curia and Crusade: Pope Honorius III and the Recovery of the Holy Land, 1216–1227 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2017)
  • ‘Audita tremendi and the Call for the Third Crusade Reconsidered, 1187–1188’, Viator, 49.3(2020 for 2018), 63–101
  • ‘How to Craft a Crusade Call: Pope Innocent III and Quia maior (1213)’, Historical Research, 92(2019), 2–23
  • ‘The Dynamism of a Crusade Encyclical: Pope Honorius III and Iustus Dominus (1223)’, Deutsches Archiv für Erforschung des Mittelalters, 74 (2018), 111–42

Music credit: Kai Engel, 'Flames of Rome', Calls and Echoes (Southern's City Lab, 2014).

25 episode