The best books on the real history of the Knights Templar

Why am I passionate about this?

As my father was a keen amateur historian, family holidays always involved visits to medieval castles, abbeys, and Roman antiquities, but it wasn’t until I’d finished a University history degree and started training as an accountant that I encountered the Templars. Reading a primary source from the Third Crusade, I found the medieval author praised the Templars – yet few modern histories mentioned them, or, if they did mention the Templars, they claimed they were unpopular. My curiosity led me to undertake a PhD on medieval attitudes towards the Templars, Hospitallers, and Teutonic Knights, and eventually to a university post and a professional career in medieval history, writing history books focused on primary sources.


I wrote...

Book cover of A Brief History of the Knights Templar

What is my book about?

Much has been written about the Knights Templar in recent years, most of it highly speculative and with no historical foundation. Helen Nicholson is a leading specialist in the history of this legendary medieval order and offers here a full account of the knights of the order of the Temple of Solomon, bringing the latest findings to a general audience.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The New Knighthood: A History of the Order of the Temple

Helen Nicholson Why did I love this book?

This is a detailed, reliable account of the Templars’ history from their beginning to their end.

There’s no imaginative speculation or flights of fancy: it’s all based on written and archaeological evidence from the time of the events described. Barber drew on a vast range of primary sources from across medieval Christendom and the Middle East, his own lifetime’s research into the Templars, and the work of other expert historians to produce this comprehensive history.

When it was first published, back in 1994, this was the first comprehensive, authoritative, up-to-date history of the Templars available in English. Many researchers have since written good shorter studies of various aspects of Templar history, but this remains the best all-encompassing scholarly study.

It’s a must-read for all serious scholars of the Templars. 

By Malcolm Barber,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Order of the Temple, founded in 1119 to protect pilgrims around Jerusalem, developed into one of the most influential corporations in the medieval world. It has retained its hold on the modern imagination thanks to the dramatic events of the Templars' trial and abolition two hundred years later, and has been invoked in historical mysteries from Masonic conspiracy to the survival of the Turin shroud. Malcolm Barber's lucid narrative separates myth from history in this full and detailed account of the Order, from its origins, flourishing and suppression to the Templars' historic afterlife.


Book cover of The Rule of the Templars: The French Text of the Rule of the Order of the Knights Templar

Helen Nicholson Why did I love this book?

The obvious best guide to the historical Templars is the regulations that they produced for their own use. This book is a reliable English translation of those regulations.

Of course these regulations only tell us what the leaders of the Order of the Temple believed that the brothers should be doing, not necessarily what they actually did do, day by day – but they give us an insight into the brothers’ ideals and what their purpose.

The regulations also include many examples of when things didn’t go as planned and what the brothers did about it, allowing us a glimpse of the problems and challenges the brothers encountered defending the crusader states.

By J.M. Upton-Ward,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Both monastic rule and military manual, the Rule is a unique document and an important historical source.

The Order of the Knights Templar, whose original purpose was to protect pilgrims to the Holy Land, was first given its own Rule in 1129, formalising the exceptional combination of soldier and monk. This translation of Henri de Curzon's 1886 edition of the French Rule is derived from the three extant medieval manuscripts. Both monastic rule and military manual, the Rule is a unique document and an important historical source. It comprises thePrimitive Rule, Hierarchical Statutes, Penances, Conventual Life, the Holding of Ordinary…


Book cover of Temple Balsall: The Warwickshire Preceptory of the Templars and Their Fate

Helen Nicholson Why did I love this book?

This is a detailed study of what life would have been like at the Templars’ commandery at Temple Balsall in Warwickshire.

Its author, Eileen Gooder, was a leading scholar in local history and an expert on the Templars in England. The book is based on her unparalleled knowledge of the inventories that King Edward II of England ordered to be made of the Templars’ estates when the Templars were arrested in England in 1308 and the accounts kept by the royal officials who ran those estates until 1313.

Gooder also reconstructed the trial proceedings against the Balsall Templars and what became of them, and their English brethren, after the trial. This is an excellent, short, readable, and reliable introduction to the Templars’ lives in Europe.

By Eileen Gooder,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Temple Balsall The Warwickshire Preceptory of the Templars and Their Fate


Book cover of The Templar Estates in Lincolnshire, 1185-1565: Agriculture and Economy

Helen Nicholson Why did I love this book?

Where did the Templars get the resources to build and maintain castles in the Holy Land and carry on their warfare against the enemies of Christendom? This book focuses on the Templars’ extensive properties in Lincolnshire, England, to show how the Templars generated wealth from their vast estates across Europe.

Using the Templars’ own record of their English holdings in 1185 and the English government records from the Templar trial period, 1308–13, Jefferson produces a fascinating study of Templar land- and people-management, showing that the Templars were at least as effective as farmers and managers as they were as warriors. He then takes the story on through the Hospitallers’ administration of the estates until the sixteenth century.

If you want to get to grips with real Templar life, read this book.

By J. M. Jefferson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Templar Estates in Lincolnshire, 1185-1565 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A new survey of major Templar landholdings offers fresh insights into key questions about their medieval history.

Much has been written about the history of the Knights Templar, the legendary Order of military monks. Far less attention, however, has been paid to the Templar estates in Western Christendom which supported their endeavours.
Set within the context of the turbulent history of medieval and Tudor England, the book follows the fate of the Templar estates in the county of Lincolnshire. Beginning with the survey of Templar property undertaken by Geoffrey FitzStephen in 1185, the story of the estates is followed through…


Book cover of The Persecution of the Knights Templar: Scandal, Torture, Trial

Helen Nicholson Why did I love this book?

Alain Demurger is the world’s leading expert on the French Templars during the trial of the Order.

This book, originally published as La Persécution des Templiers Journal (1307–1314), narrates the events of the Templars’ trial as they unfolded day by day, allowing readers to follow the twists and turns in proceedings. I confess that I read the French edition of this book, but I’m sure that the English version is just as compelling!

Alain Demurger has also written an excellent history of the Templars and assembled a reference guide to all the Templars in France during the trial – but these are not available in English.

By Alain Demurger,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The definitive account of history's most infamous trial, following the doomed Order of the Knights Templar from scandal to suppression.

The trial of the Knights Templar is one of the most infamous in history. Accused of heresy by the king of France, the Templars were arrested and imprisoned, had their goods seized and their monasteries ransacked. Under brutal interrogation and torture, many made shocking confessions: denial of Christ, desecration of the Cross, sex acts, and more.

This narrative follows the everyday reality of the trial, from the early days of scandal and scheming in 1305, via torture, imprisonment and the…


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Book cover of The Wonder of Jazz: Music that changed the world

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