Deborah Gerish

Deborah Gerish, Ph.D.

Adjunct Professor of History

Note:  Dr. Gerish has left her full-time employment at ESU, having accepted a new position after working as an Assistant and Associate Professor of History from 2000-2014. She remains an adjunct faculty member assisting with graduate student projects. 

My B.S. is from Northwestern University, in speech-language pathology, and my M.A. and Ph.D. are from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in medieval history.

My research deals with the First Kingdom of Jerusalem, which was founded after the First Crusade. My dissertation explored the creation of royal identity between 1099 and 1187. The earliest kings of Jerusalem were born into noble rather than royal families, so they did not inherit the title of “king.” Many of their new subjects were also nobles, and had fought alongside them on the First Crusade. These kings had to create an identity that differentiated them from the nobles without alienating them. If the kings lost the support of their most powerful subjects, they would not have armies to defend the kingdom from their Muslim neighbors. In the end, the kings of Jerusalem chose to emphasize their role in defending Jerusalem through holy war. While they got a lot of mileage out of this role in terms of prestige, it ultimately failed to make them stand out from their subjects or from other royal families, because every Christian in the Crusader States and many Christians in Europe could make the same claim. I have published several articles on this topic and am currently writing a book based on this research.

Deborah GerishMy other research project is a collaborative effort. Often crusades historians only look at one side of the conflict, because they can read European languages or Arabi, but not both. A joint project with Dr. Niall Christie compares Latin and Arabic sermons calling for holy war. We have found that Christians and Muslims saw holy war in very similar ways, which surprised us because Christian ideas on crusading and Islamic views of jihad developed independently. Our first publication on the subject appeared in fall 2003 in the journal Al-Masaq. We’re writing a book on the topic (including all of our texts in the original languages and/or translations) for Ashgate Press.

I’ve given papers at medieval conferences in the U.S., England, Ireland, Israel, Austria, and Norway. The photo at the top of this page was taken in 1999 at the ruins of a crusader castle at Arsur in Israel, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The castle was built in the early twelfth century; when I visited the site, excavators had been working on it for the last ten years.