Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
The Baltic Crusades, 1147-1290
Academic Year
Semester 2

Course Delivery



Due to Covid-19 students should refer to the module Blackboard pages for assessment details

Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Essay 1  (3,000 words)  50%
Semester Assessment Essay 2  (3,000 words)  50%
Supplementary Assessment Essay 1  (3,000 words)  50%
Supplementary Assessment Essay 2  (3,000 words)  50%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

​​1.  Demonstrate an understanding of, and contribute to, current debates regarding the definition of ‘crusade’ within a medieval context.

2.  Demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of, and apply critically, textual theories and approaches to the study of medieval narratives in order to investigate the motivations and behaviour of those involved in military campaigns in the Baltic.

3. Engage in an advanced critical evaluation of arguments about the motivations and behaviour of those who involved in military campaigns in the Baltics and support these arguments with appropriate selections of evidence.

4. Situate their arguments about the Baltic crusades within current academic debates and demonstrate a mastery of that broader historiographical context.

Brief description

In 1147, Pope Eugenius III proclaimed a crusade against the non-Christian people often referred to as the Wends, who occupied part of the Baltic region. The first incursions against the Wends were led by the Danish king and the Saxons in the mid twelfth century. This early activity was followed by campaigns by other princes, clerics and elite men further to the east in Livonia, Estonia, Finland and Prussia. Scholars have debated the extent to which these campaigns can be considered to be crusades in the same sense as those conducted in the Latin East. In this module, we will consider this debate from a number of perspectives. How were these military expeditions justified? What were the motivations of those engaged in this activity and did it change over time? What role did clerics play in these campaigns? This module will also consider the establishment of military orders like the Livonian Brothers of the Sword and their role within these campaigns.


1. Introduction – The Baltic Crusades
2. What is a crusade?
3. The Wendish Crusades
4. Analysing depictions of conflict in the Gesta Danorum
5. Campaigns against the Finns, Tavastians and Karelians
6. The Livonian crusades 1
7. The Livonian crusades 2
8. Military Orders
9. Clerics and the Baltic crusades
10. Baltic ‘crusades’?

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number N/A
Communication Seminars will include a range of activities aimed at developing students’ ability to express their ideas in a clear and well-structured manner.
Improving own Learning and Performance Students will be required to adapt their existing skills in analysing historical sources to a new topic. They will be encouraged to think flexibly about the historical debates in which they are engaging.
Information Technology Students’ ability to select appropriate online resources for academic study will be developed throughout this module and assessed through their essays.
Personal Development and Career planning A range of transferable skills will be developed throughout this module. Students’ ability to solve problems, analyse and evaluate evidence, and communicate effectively will be developed. Students will be asked to reflect upon their own arguments and reconsider them in light of other scholars’ ideas. Their ability to place their ideas within the context of current academic debates will be assessed.
Problem solving Students will be required to engage with and provide solutions to methodological problems. They will encounter new theories and approaches which they can use to tackle these issues.
Research skills Students will analyse the evidence of primary sources and use the information contained within these to evaluate the factors which have led to historical change. ​
Subject Specific Skills Students will develop their knowledge of the medieval history of the Baltic as well as the history of holy war. They will develop their skills in analysing sources and their ability to think critically about how historians navigate theoretical issues.
Team work ​Seminars will involve group work. This will not be assessed.


This module is at CQFW Level 7