Dr Fiona Kisby Littleton presented her research on school text books covering the Crusades at an MCB roundtable discussion on Monday 21st December 2009.
The event, organised by the MCB's Research & Documentation Committee, was chaired by Matthew Wilkinson of King's College, London. Dr Littleton's talk was based on her MA thesis, 'Representations of the Islamic World in History textbooks for English schools, 1799-2002: a case study of the Crusades'. She noted that "representations of the Islamic world, its people, culture and religion, have been, and still are to varying extents, inaccurate and deficient and often present an unfair, unbalanced, narrow and biased image to Western children. Muslims have been presented as a problem to be solved; they are characterised as aggressors and takers and placed in a 'self-evidently' inferior position to Christians. They often receive a monolithic characterisation, in terms of 'them' and 'us' and the diversity of their communities is not made apparent".
In her research, Dr Littleton examined the treatment of the Crusades in detail in over 20 school text books, starting with Dodsley's 'The Chronicle of the Kings of England, from the Norman Conquest to the Present Time', published in 1796, to 'Power and the People 1066-1485', by Rees, Kidd and Richards, published in 2002. She noted that there has been a change since the 1970s with a "neutral, balanced, objective viewpoint" more evident, emphasising "shared ancestry, mutual failings, loss and victory, the viewpoints of other communities (rather than only the Christians assessing the Muslims) ".
Dr Littleton's work has important bearings on tackling issues of Islamophobia in society - her talk at the MCB referred to the observation of the European Monitoring Centre of Racism and Xenophobia 2001, that there was need to "improve the understanding of Islam in the UK population as a whole ... Particularly among young people and children". She is Honorary Research Fellow, University of Winchester and teaches at St Edmund's College Ware.