The best books on the medieval military orders

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an associate professor in medieval history at Nottingham Trent University. My interest in the military orders began over twenty years ago with a very simple question – why? Jesus’ teaching to my mind clearly does not condone the use of lethal violence, so how did medieval Christians come to think that holy war warfare could ever be acceptable in the eyes of God? From this underlying question (which I still don’t feel I’ve satisfactorily answered!) emerged a curiosity about the military orders, who so epitomized crusading ideology. I began to ask wider questions such as: who supported the orders? How did they view people of other faiths? Why were the Templars put on Trial? 


I wrote...

The Teutonic Knights in the Holy Land, 1190-1291

By Nicholas Morton,

Book cover of The Teutonic Knights in the Holy Land, 1190-1291

What is my book about?

The military orders were among the strangest manifestations of the crusading movement. Splicing a monastic vocation with that of a campaigning knight and, in some cases, a medical practitioner, the most famous military orders are undoubtedly the Templars and Hospitallers. Yet there were many others. This book explores the early development of the less well-known order known as the Teutonic Knights.  

The Teutonic Knights are generally remembered for their actions in the Baltic region but, as this book demonstrates, during the Thirteenth Century they played an important role, both in the major crusading expeditions to the Near East and in propping up the Crusader States stretched out along the Levantine coast.  

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of A Brief History of the Knights Templar

Nicholas Morton Why did I love this book?

Helen Nicholson is a leading scholar who has written extensively on the history of the military orders. I picked A Brief History of the Knights Templar because it has the great virtue of being both extremely readable and entirely authoritative. Covering the Templars’ military and political roles, their economic activities, their religious life, and their famous demise, this is the book I recommend to my students if they want a solid and scholarly introduction to the Templar order. 

By Helen Nicholson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Brief History of the Knights Templar as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Much has been written about the Knights Templar in recent years. A leading specialist in the history of this legendary medieval order now writes a full account of the Knights of the Order of the Temple of Solomon, to give them their full title, bringing the latest findings to a general audience. Putting many of the myths finally to rest, Nicholson recounts a new history of these storm troopers of the papacy, founded during the crusades but who got so rich and influential that they challenged the power of kings.


Book cover of The Knights Hospitaller in the Levant, c.1070-1309

Nicholas Morton Why did I love this book?

Jonathan Riley-Smith researched the Hospitaller order for many decades and his work is rightly regarded as a crucial point of reference for the order’s history. This book is amongst his finest achievements—a truly outstanding history of the Knights Hospitaller and their activities in the Levant from the eleventh to the early fourteenth century. It provides a lucid and succinct survey of the order’s hierarchies, vocations and actions.  

By Jonathan Riley-Smith,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Knights Hospitaller in the Levant, c.1070-1309 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As one of the greatest of the military orders that were generated in the Church, the Order of the Hospital of St John was a major landowner and a significant political presence in most European states. It was also a leading player in the settlements established in the Levant in the wake of the crusades. It survives today. In this source-based and up-to-date account of its activities and internal history in the first two centuries of its existence, attention is particularly paid to the lives of the brothers and sisters who made up its membership and were professed religious. Themes…


Book cover of The Trial of the Templars

Nicholas Morton Why did I love this book?

Arguably the most famous event in the Templars’ history was their trial in the early fourteenth century, when King Philip IV of France levelled an array of charges against the order—most notably the accusation of heresy. Malcolm Barber’s The Trial of the Templars works through the events of the Templar Trial in granular detail, offering a deep and thought-provoking history of the event itself and the wider developments and powerful agendas which shaped its course. 

By Malcolm Barber,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Trial of the Templars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Malcolm Barber's classic The Trial of the Templars recounts the dramatic demise of this elite military force in the fourteenth century. Having fought against Islam in the crusades in the East for nearly two centuries, in October 1307 the members of this respected Order were arrested on the order of Philip IV, King of France and charged with serious heresies, including homosexuality and the denial of Christ. Finding resonances between the fourteenth-century trial and contemporary events, Barber's classic account endeavours to tackle the unresolved controversies surrounding the consequences of the trial and includes discussions in the context of new work…


Book cover of Archaeology of the Military Orders: A Survey of the Urban Centres, Rural Settlements and Castles of the Military Orders in the Latin East (c.1120-1291)

Nicholas Morton Why did I love this book?

The Templars and the medieval military orders are well known to have been enthusiastic castle builders, creating many massive fortifications across the Crusader States during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Nevertheless, their building activities extended far beyond the creation of strongholds. Whole regions lay under their dominion and they constructed many other structures including chapels, townhouses, mills, and workshops. This fascinating book explores the archaeological remains of the military orders, demonstrating their impact on the broader landscape of the Near East. It also examines the surviving objects they used in their everyday life, such as tableware and seals.

By Adrian J. Boas,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Archaeology of the Military Orders as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Including previously unpublished and little known material, this cutting-edge book presents a detailed discussion of the archaeological evidence of the five military orders in the Latin East:

the Hospitallers
the Templars
the Teutonic Knights
the Leper Knights of St Lazarus
the Knights of St Thomas.

Discussing in detail the distinctive architecture relating to their various undertakings (such as hospitals in Jerusalem and Acre) Adrian Boas places emphasis on the importance of the Military Orders in the development of military architecture in the Middle Ages. The three principal sections of the book consist of chapters relating to the urban quarters of…


Book cover of Templar Families: Landowning Families and the Order of the Temple in France, c.1120–1307

Nicholas Morton Why did I love this book?

The Templars are generally remembered as fighters and castle builders, yet their activities along the frontier depended heavily on the order’s huge support infrastructure across Western Christendom. Networks consisting of hundreds of estates spanning many countries dispatched vast quantities of cash and resources—as well as recruits and other supporters—to the Templars’ outposts in the Holy Land on an annual basis. In Templar Families, Jochen Schenk investigates these networks focusing especially on the relationships that developed between the order’s officers governing their landholdings in France and the many local families whose support enabled the order to function.  

By Jochen Schenk,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Templar Families as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Founded in c.1120, in the aftermath of the First Crusade in Jerusalem, the Order of the Temple was a Christian brotherhood dedicated to the military protection of pilgrims and the Holy Land, attracting followers and supporters throughout Christian Europe. This detailed study explores the close relationship between the Order of the Temple and the landowning families it relied upon for support. Focussing on the regions of Burgundy, Champagne and Languedoc, Jochen Schenk investigates the religious expectations that guided noble and knightly families to found and support Templar communities in the European provinces, and examines the social dynamics and mechanisms that…


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Why am I passionate about this?

On the expertise I claim only a deep interest in history, leadership, and social history. After some thirty-six years in the fire and emergency services I can, I think, claim to have seen the best and the worst of human behaviour and condition. History, particularly naval history, has always been one of my interests and the Battle of Jutland is a truly fascinating study in the importance of communication between the leader and every level between him/her and the people performing whatever task is required.  In my own career, on a very much smaller scale, this is a lesson every officer learns very quickly.

Patrick's book list on the Battle of Jutland

What is my book about?

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When the Consortium employs an assassin from the Pantheon, it becomes personal.

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What is this book about?

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