The Sword Brothers, Part 3


Christians against Muslims, the Crusades that began in the 11th century were wars for control of the Holy Land. The Crusaders themselves were a hybrid of warrior and priest, defending the pilgrim, attacking the Infidel. These Military Orders were also the first multinational corporations, and until their eventual destruction and diminishment, the Knights Templar, the Hospitallers and the Teutonic Knights held unparalleled power, enough to threaten whole kingdoms and the Papacy itself. Philip Coulter tells the story. Conclusion.

Part 3: The Story of the Teutonic Knights - The Iron Fist

sword-borthers-ep-1.jpgLife in the 11th century was nasty, brutish and short. Most people lived and died within a few miles of where they were born, strangers were suspect, and danger lurked everywhere. Who was in charge was a matter of opinion: barons and local chiefs ruled as they wished, those who would be king faced a skeptical and hostile world. We take the modern world for granted, with its more-or-less stable patchwork of nation states, each with its body of law and governance, but in medieval times there was little in the way of a social safety net, little to protect the citizen from the cold winds. Except, there were the knights.

The medieval knights in many ways lived out a kind of secular social idea of how to live in community- they had military responsibilities to their masters, but they also took responsibility for the community around them. The other great presence in the community was the Church, and the monks of the great religious orders were a powerful force in shaping society. Then, after the first Crusade, in the early years of the 12th century, the two were fused - new orders, men who were both knights and priests, holy men with a sword, came along. The Knights Templar, the Knights Hospitaller, the Teutonic Knights - they were answerable to almost no one. Perhaps the first multinational corporations, they shaped the making of the western world for 200 years.

Participants in the series:

Jonathan Phillips, Reader in History, Royal Holloway, University of London.

Stephen Turnbull
, historian.

Evelyn Lord, Fellow, Wolfson College, Cambridge.

Piers Paul Read, historian.

Nicholas Delyannis, historian, Rhodes.

Marek Stokowski, historian, Malbork Castle.

Nicholas Morton, historian, University of Nottingham.


The Trial of the Templars by Malcolm Barber, published by Cambridge University Press, 1978.

The Oxford History of the Crusades by Jonathan Riley-Smith, published by Oxford University Press, 1999.

Holy Warriors: A Modern History of the Crusades by Jonathan Phillips, published by Random House, 2010.

The Knight Triumphant by Stephen Turnbull published by Cassell, 2001.

The Knights Templar in Britain
by Evelyn Lord, published by Longman, 2004.

The Templars by Piers Paul Read, published by  Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1999.

The Teutonic Knights in the Holy Land by Nicholas Morton, published by Boydell, 2009.

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