By Pamela Toler
Sometimes the name you give to an historical event says a lot about where you stand in relation to that event. Is it the Civil War, or the War of Northern Aggression? The Sepoy Rebellion, the first Indian war of independence, or (my personal choice) the violence of 1857?
Other times, what you call an event can be the marker of a cultural blind spot. I certainly felt like I’d received a well-deserved smack up the side of the head when I recently picked up Amin Maalouf’s
The Crusades Through Arab Eyes and read on the very first page that medieval* Arab historians and chroniclers “spoke not of Crusades, but of Frankish wars or ‘the Frankish invasions’ “. Duh!
I’ve been reading seriously about the Crusades for several years now. I am well aware that the term “crusade” derives from the red cross worn by warriors who had “taken the cross”. If pushed to choose a side, I’d back the cultured Muslims against the barbaric “Frankish invaders” any day. But I’m also a product of my time, my place, and my education. In my head, it’s the Crusades. Or at least it was until an expatriate Arab Christian from Lebanon pointed out the obvious. Thanks, Mr. Maalouf. I needed that.
What cultural blind spots have you found lately?
*Another culturally charged word. Technically the Middle Ages refers to the period in European history between the Roman Empire and the Renaissance.
About the author: Pamela Toler is a freelance writer with a PhD in history and a large bump of curiosity. She is particularly interested in the times and places where two cultures meet and change.
This post previously appeared in History in the Margins.