Historical revisionism has been around for a very long time, and it is sad to think that most people indulge in revisionism of some sort. The issue usually surrounds a statement such as “history is usually presented by the winners, rather than the losers”. This usually means that the historian intends to strip out the warts an all of a given situation. Now, I could write about your American Civil War, but I can see that the wounds that were opened due to the situation that led to the Civil War, and then what took place afterwards have never been healed. A warts and all approach to the subject matter does not seek to place blame on either side, but simply to tell the story about how it happened. Please note here: I have not watched the film Lincoln. I feared that it would not present the whole truth of the situation, but would be one sided in a way that would not help to close those wounds.
What I want to do here is to move backwards in history to a period which was also riven with disputes, wars, death, claims of butchery, counter-claims etc. Yes, I am still dealing with Richard 1, the Knights Templar, and the later Crusade against the Knights Templar and the people of Langedoc, as well as what took place in or near Jerusalem at Acre which is now called Haifa.
The first thing to note here is that Saladin had gained control over Jerusalem and had massacred the population prior to the Crusade that took Richard 1 of England to the Holy Land. Up until that time, the Knights Templar had acted as guardians to the pilgrims and they were generally in favour. They fought against Saladin at Acre.
The siege at Acre happened over a period of time. There were losses on both sides before Saladin was beaten. Hostages were taken on both sides. Most of the kings and princes of Europe took part in the crusade. This was not just about the Holy Land, and there was political motivation at play which had brought the princes of Europe to the Holy Land. Prior to the end of the “war” some of those princes had returned home, leaving Richard in charge. He then negotiated with Saladin for the release of the hostages. I do not know what went wrong but the hostages on both sides were slaughtered. The question to be asked here is whether Richard the Lionheart was in fact responsible for the slaughter or whether blame should be apportioned to both sides. The point I raise here is that the revisionists are in fact placing all blame on Richard meaning they are overlooking the role of Saladin for the slaughter of the hostages. Both sides of the story need to be expounded and blame should not be apportioned since this kind of thing is in fact something one expects to happen during a period of war.
The other thing that gets a mention by revisionists is Richard taking over Cyprus and according to one source ruining Cyprus… but what do the historians from Cyprus actually think and believe? Yes, Richard 1 did go to Cyprus. Yes, he got rid of what the people regarded as a tyrant. Richard wanted to use Cyprus as a base whilst he was fighting the Crusades. The island itself was then sold to the Knights Templar, and then it was taken from them and given to others (but that comes later). There is in fact a good reason as to why Richard attacked Cyprus in the first place, and it had to do with a shipwreck, the death of his people at the hands of Isaac Commenus, and the fact that his fiancee was taken as a hostage by Isaac. Historical revisionists tend to leave out the motivations when they attempt to condemn and place blame and actually distort the historical evidence surrounding an event.
Please note I have not gotten into all of the politics that were going on between the various European principalities or City-States at the time. Richard was born in England but he had lands in France. He was related to the French king Phillipe Augustus and he married Berrengaria of Navarre. I want to move forward to the time when the Knights Templar fell out of favour.
I still think that one of the best resources regarding this period is in fact the Catholic Encyclopedia online. The Catholic Encylopedia takes the warts and all approach to a given situation. I did find another source that gave me an insight into the Knights Templar who were living in Cyprus. From what I was reading last night, it seemed to me that this group were isolated from the accusations and the descent into heresy that was obvious at Languedoc. The witnesses for the monks could not point to anything that they had done wrong, and it would seem that they alone stayed loyal to Catholic teachings, whilst the Knights who lived elsewhere had descended into heresy.
The accusations that led to the movement against the people at Languedoc were many and varied. The revisionists claim that these people were “intelligent, well read, innovative…. etc. etc.” but such claims are not backed up by any documents. This is why the revisionist will claim that the available primary sources are biased. They will then claim that all of the writings of the people of Languedoc were destroyed because the Catholic Church did not want the facts to be known…. except that such claims are themselves pure fantasy.
Sir Walter Scott, in the novel Ivanhoe had a monk mention “the Gospel of Nicodemus”. Now that did send up a red flag because the Gospel of Nicodemus falls into the category of Apocrypha or at least what Catholics call Apocrypha. If I was to believe the revisionists then I would have come to the conclusion that such did not exist… yet, this was mentioned in the 19th century by a novelist? What it means is that the revisionist has been promoting a lie about the very existance of those documents, and totally ignoring that these same documents were the subject of a lot of discussion from about the 5th century onwards. The Gospel of Nicodemus was well-known by the early Christians, but it was discounted and considered to be false.
The charges made against the Knights Templar in Cyprus could not be proved because those charges were based upon behaviours elsehwere, in particular behavious observed in Languedoc. The heresy of the Albigenses was widespread and there were efforts to wipe out the heresy that culminated in a Crusade against the heretics. These behaviours included homosexuality. However, I think that the one thing that should be remembered is that the Albi themselves were prone to anarchic behaviour and that there were a genuine cause for concern at the time. These were not innocent people.
The revisionist historians tend to exaggerate the numbers that were killed during this period. As an example, one source claimed that 15,000-20,000 died as a result of the sacking of Beziers. The real figure is something like 6,000 dead, I am not concerned here about the fact that these people were killed (since such deaths would be considered a war crime in today’s world), but I am concerned about the exaggeration regarding the numbers killed.
Now, let’s move foreward to the situation in Syria today because I see yet another parrallel, regarding the exaggerations that are expressed about the number of people who have been killed. I do not know the exact figure who have died as the result of this civil war conflict. It is certainly very high. What I am questioning is whether we are being fed the truth . As an example, there was a recent chemical weapons attack. Now I deplore the use of such in any given situation so that is not an issue to me. What is an issue here is the reporting of the numbers that died or were injured. What I see is the conflating of that figure. Medecines san Frontiere reported that they had estimated that about 342 people had died as a result of that gas attack, but the media is report 5 times as many died in the attack. Medecines san Frontiere reported that they saw more than 1500 people who had been affected by the gas attack. My question is: where did these other figures come from?
Revisionism is itself very propaganda prone. It seeks to destroy the original narrative by any means possible. There are many other examples of revisionism to explore and that includes the lies told by Islamists in regard to their own history because the truth is: Islam has not had any achievements and under Islam, the world has not flourished.