CentreTerm: Amos Tubb’s crusade against the Crusades

Posted by Centre News in CentreTerm, Experts, History, News 15 Jan 2014

Chances are, anyone walking across campus during CentreTerm will see a horde of screaming and yelling students, axes and swords raised high as they charge across snowy Old Centre Lawn—that is, if Amos Tubb’s CentreTerm course is going according to plan.

Tubb is teaching The Crusades during CentreTerm, Centre College’s January semester that allows students and faculty to focus intensively on one subject in a variety of interesting and offbeat ways; in this case, through documentary film-making.

“The class gets divided into three groups of about 10 students each,” Tubb explains. “Each group is responsible for making a 30- to 40-minute documentary about a different historical Crusade. Students do it all—storyboard the film, write a script, create costumes, direct actors, conduct interviews, create film soundtracks and edit their footage into a final, finished product.

“Each part of this process is incredibly time-consuming and difficult,” he continues. “Students have to learn a lot about the particular Crusade they’re covering, design their documentary about that Crusade and then plan and create the film itself.”

crusades_battleAs if that weren’t enough, students are inundated with readings of primary text sources from Europe and the Middle East that chronicle the Crusades—not exactly light reading. In addition to their film project, students complete a term paper and a final exam. Tubb finds this kind of immersive academic rigor perfect for the short CentreTerm.

“It’s a class that in larger universities is an entire semester long,” he explains. “The academic content we cover could transfer to a semester course. But because the class happens during CentreTerm, we have the time to do a project that takes 30 or 40 hours a week. It has both academic rigor in the classroom and extra time to do intensive projects.”

The highlights of the class are the filming days, in which one group has the entire class of 30 people at its disposal for filming purposes; this is when costumed students storm various parts of campus to recreate giant battle scenes.

Aside from this unique opportunity to relive history in a hands-on way, the course offers students a chance to understand more deeply the politics of history.

“What most people know or think they know about the Crusades is largely based on an invention of their meaning by nineteenth-century historians,” Tubb explains. “The Crusades are often viewed as a form of proto-colonialism, when in reality they were fought for religious reasons.

“I want my students to understand the political use of history,” he continues, “and how the actual study of history can debunk such myths.”

Tubb also sees the crafting of a documentary film from start to finish as an important educational tool.

“The project forces students to learn how we create media and share information,” he says. “Hopefully, having been on the production side, they can have a more discerning eye when they’re consuming news and media.”

Learn more about CentreTerm.

By Mariel Smith

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