The Meanings of the terms used for the muslims in the accounts of the first and third crusades
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Although most people who encounter terms such as identity, group identity, ethnic, groups, nations or religious groups believe that they know, at least roughly, what these terms mean, the terms are in fact slippery and difficult to define. The confusion is not limited to readers of the mass media they are difficult terms for the academic world, as well. Exact definition of these terms remains as elusive as ever. The more academics have tried to define such terms, the more such terms have taken new meanings, which do not necessarily bring either better or worse definitions of these terms. In this study, I have tried to investigate the terms whereby one might argue to define identity, group identity, the concept of ethnicity, groups, nations or religious groups in the crusading era. The way the chroniclers of the First and Third Crusades identify Muslims constitutes the basic and the most important part of this thesis. My point of departure is to look at the terms used for Muslims by the chroniclers and to understand the contemporary meanings of these terms in order to analyze what changed between these two periods separated as they are by some ninety years. Not only does it throw a different and particular light on Latin Christian attitudes to Muslims compared with the more detached, more purely Western-based and more academic “western views of Islam” literature, but it contributes also to the study of “identity”, and particularly “group identity” in the Middle Ages. After describing the difficulties that historians might encounter and what they need to take into consideration in studying this terminology, I have concentrated on the religious and the ethnic terms the chroniclers used for Muslims in their accounts of the First and Third Crusades. This is a study where I have attempted to show how it is not sufficient for historians to use the terms in his or her sources without explaining the earlier meanings they had for the people who used them. In this connection, this is an attempt to provide an already investigated topic with a distinct, new perspective showing how historians should approach the terms with their original meanings in the times they were used.