Jonathan Phillips

Jonathan Phillips


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Personal profile

Personal profile


Jonathan Phillips was educated at the University of Keele (BA, 1987) and Royal Holloway, University of London (Ph.D, 1992). He worked at the Universities of Southampton and York before returning to Royal Holloway in 1994. He became Professor of Crusading History in 2005.

In 2021 he was elected President of the Society of the Study of the Crusades and the Latin East (SSCLE).


He is the author of numerous books on the crusades, most recently The Life and Legend of the Sultan Saladin (Bodley Head, 2019), described in The Times as 'Superbly researched... enormously entertaining... one of the outstanding books of the year... Clear, concise and illuminating.' It was also the winner of the Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Award of 2019. Saladin is published in the US by Yale University Press with translations in Danish, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Russian following. 

Phillips has appeared at the Hay-on-Wye, Oxford, Warwick, Chalke Valley, Jaipur and Dubai Literary Festivals. Saladin has also featured in podcasts such as Greg Jenner's BBC Series 'You're Dead to Me'; History Today's 'Year in Time' (1187); BBC History Magazine with Dan Jones; Dan Snow's History Hit, and the Historical Association.

In conjunction with his work on the medieval period Phillips is interested in examining the memory and legacy of the Crusades (this forms the final chapters of the Saladin book as well) and with Mike Horswell, he has edited and contributed to: Perceptions of the Crusades from the Nineteenth to the Twenty-First Century: Engaging the Crusades Volume 1 (Routledge, 2018).

 In 2014 a second, extended, edition of The Crusades, 1095-1204, was published by Routledge (formerly, The Crusades, 1095-1197, Longman 2002).

In 2013, with Martin Hall, he produced Caffaro, Genoa and the Twelfth Century Crusades, Crusade Texts in Translation no. 24 (Ashgate, Farnham, 2013), a translation and commentary on the writings of Caffaro of Genoa. Caffaro was the first layman to produce a narrative of the First Crusade, he was also responsible for the first urban history of the medieval age with his ‘Annals’ of Genoa.  A selection of charters, mainly in the form of commercial privileges, supplements these texts to give a rich insight into Genoese involvement in the Eastern Mediterranean during the twelfth century.

 In 2009 Holy Warriors: A Modern History of the Crusades was published by Bodley Head to very positive reviews. It was selected as one of the ‘History Books of 2009’ by The Sunday Telegraph and by BBC History Magazine. Professor William Chester Jordan, Chairman, Department of History, Princeton University, wrote: ‘Jonathan Phillips’ Holy Warriors is a superb book, one written with an elegant blend of clarity and zest. Its author demonstrates his mastery of all the relevant scholarship, from the oldest to the most recent, but he may be the most successful in his ability to capture the spirit of the various crusades through word portraits of some of their most memorable human characters’. Holy Warriors has also been translated into Dutch as In naam van God and published by Nieuw Amsterdam in 2009, into French as Une histoire modern des croisades by Flammarion in 2010; into German as Heliger Kreig: Eine neue Geschichte der Kreuzzüge by DVA, 2009 (with a student-price edition by Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, 2012), and into Italian as Sacri Guerrieri by Laterza 2012.


Phillips’ previous monograph The Second Crusade: Extending the Frontiers of Christendom, (Yale University Press, 2007), was strongly praised by reviewers in, for example, Times Literary Supplement (Professor R.I.Moore, 25/4/08), plus The Guardian, The Sunday Telegraph. It was translated into Polish in 2013. His earlier The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople (Jonathan Cape, 2004) was also translated into Greek, Spanish and Japanese and was shortlisted for the Hessell-Tiltman Literary Prize 2005.


His current research interests centre upon: 1. A history of the Third Crusade. 2. The life and legacy of the Sultan Saladin. 3. The Memory of the Crusades in western Europe and the Near East from the C18th to the present day.


He is also the General Editor of the forthcoming 2 volume Cambridge History of the Crusades.


Over the last few years Phillips has given invited conference papers and plenary lectures to or at: 

New College, Sarasota; University of Pennsylvania; Tufts College, Boston; The Edwards lecture, Glasgow University; the Simon Barton Memorial lecture, Exeter University; Dartmouth College; Fordham University; Oakland University; University College Dublin, Haifa University; Athens University; and the University of Ghent; the Riggsby lecture at the Marco Institute of Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Knoxville, USA; the Hebrew University, Jerusalem.

In 2015 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Southern Denmark, Odense.


Professor Phillips has appeared in numerous television and radio programmes. He has completed a major 6 part series on early Christianity, The Road From Christ to Constantine (Sunrise Productions) which he co-wrote and presented. 

Recently he has been interviewed by CNN for a forthcoming programme on the History of Jerusalem. He was on EWTN’s Crusades series, along with interviews for al-Jazeera’s series on the Crusades and for Yesterday TV’s ‘Ancient Black-Ops’ on the Assassins. He wrote and presented a radio essay on Saladin as part of Radio 3’s acclaimed ‘Golden Age of Islam’ series in 2014. He also acted as the historical consultant for David Eldridge’s play Holy Warriors: A Fantasia on the Third Crusade and a History of the Violent Struggle for the Holy Lands, performed at Shakespeare’s Globe, London in the summer of 2014. 


Other TV appearances include Channel 4's Back from the Dead: Crusaders (September 2011). He participated in BBC Radio 4’s Start the Week to discuss Holy Warriors. He was the consultant and an interviewee in Channel 4’s programme on the Crusades (part of the Christianity season, presented by Rageh Omaar, 2009); he was the consultant and an interviewee in Boris Johnson’s BBC2 programme After Rome (2008), and he was the consultant and lead presenter for the History Channel’s Crescent and the Cross (2005).


He is (with Professor Benjamin Kedar) co-editor of the academic journal, Crusades. He co-chairs the 'Crusades and Eastern Mediterranean' seminar at the Institute of Historical Research, London. Phillips is the Course Director of the MA in Crusader Studies.