Helena Schrader's Historical Fiction

Dr. Helena P. Schrader is the winner of more than 20 literary accolades including:
BEST BIOGRAPHY 2017: "Envoy of Jerusalem"
BEST CHRISTIAN HISTORICAL FICTION 2017: "Envoy of Jerusalem"
BEST SPIRITUAL/RELIGIOUS FICTION 2017: "Envoy of Jerusalem"
Find out more about her published and future novels, and share insights from her research here.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Rebels Against Tyranny: Civil War in the Crusader States


Few historical novels have been written about the crusades of the 13th century -- much less life in the crusader states at this period. Yet the baronial revolt against Emperoror Frederick II is one of the most exciting and  “modern” episodes in the medieval history of the Holy Land. 
The landscape is about to close! 
Coming later this year:


The Sixth Crusade, if mentioned at all in literature today, is usually condensed to the bloodless return of Jerusalem to Christian control. The inherent flaws in Frederick II’s treaty ― the short duration of the truce, the prohibitions on Christian fortifications, the legal impediments to the treaty ― are ignored or glossed over. Likewise, Frederick II is commonly likely to be portrayed as a monarch ahead of his time, even as a “genius,” or a man of “exceptional tolerance," without acknowledging ― or while outright disparaging ― those who considered him a tyrant.   

From the 15th to the early 20th century, popular adulation of absolutism and central authority transformed Frederick into the embodiment of “good government;” the fact that he ran roughshod over the law and arbitrarily exercised his authority was largely ignored or justified. Contempt for feudalism (a dogma of the Enlightenment) and hatred of the papacy (a dogma of the Reformation) combined to discredit Frederick’s opponents in the eyes of historians. Particularly German scholars of the 19th and early 20th century sought to create a glorious “German Emperor” to incarnate all the Germanic virtues then in vogue. Frederick II has long since been lost behind the legends created about him.



While Frederick's struggle with the papacy is legendary, his defeat at the hands of his own barons in the crusader kingdoms of Jerusalem and Cyprus is familiar only to historians of the 13thcentury Latin East. Yet the history of the baronial revolt against Federick II Hohenstaufen offers all the ingredients of first-rate historical fiction. On the one side there is the legendary and colorful Emperor ― the man who called himself “the Wonder of the World” ― and on the other side a cast of rebels, who are also scholars and intellectuals, poets and patrons of the arts.  

Emperor Frederick II was opposed by a coalition of barons, who left an impressive legacy of intellectual accomplishments. They were the authors of histories, poetry, and works of philosophy, although they are most famous today for their outstanding contributions to medieval jurisprudence.  The renowned crusades historian Jonathan Riley-Smith goes so far as to claim: “Perhaps the greatest monument to the western settlers in Palestine, finer even than the cathedrals and castles still dominating the landscape, is the law-book of John of Jaffa, which…is one of the great works of thirteenth-century thought.” (Riley-Smith, Johnathan. The Feudal Nobility and the Kingdom of Jerusalem 1174 – 1277. Macmillan Press, 1973, p. 230.)

Furthermore, the issues at stake remain relevant today: how much central power is necessary for the good of a state? Does “raison d’etat” justify dishonor and treachery? When does a citizen have the right to defend himself against tyranny?  At what point is forgiveness and reconciliation the wisest action ― regardless of the crimes committed? When is trust constructive ― and when is it dangerously naïve?



Watch for the release of Rebels Against Tyranny this fall! 

Meanwhile, enjoy my novels set in the Holy Land in the 12th Century.


For readers tired of clichés and cartoons, award-winning novelist Helena P. Schrader offers nuanced insight into historical events and figures based on sound research and an understanding of human nature. Her complex and engaging characters bring history back to life as a means to better understand ourselves.


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