In the last two decades there has been an explosion of scholarly interest in the Military Orders.
With a history stretching from the early twelfth century to the present day, they were among the richest and most powerful orders of the church in medieval Europe.
They founded their own states in Prussia and on the Mediterranean islands of Rhodes and Malta.
They are of concern to historians of the Church, art and architecture, government, agriculture, estate management, banking, medicine and warfare, and of the expansion of Europe overseas.
The conferences on their history, which have been organized in London every four years, have attracted leading scholars from all over the world.
The present volume records the proceedings of the Fourth Conference in 2005 and is essential reading for those interested in the progress of research on these extraordinary institutions.
The twenty-seven papers published here represent a selection of those delivered at the conference.
Architecture, archaeology and the part which the orders played in Europe are well represented, along with work on northern and eastern Europe.
Four papers deal specifically with military or naval matters, while another four deal with the spiritual life of the brothers and sisters.
Family relationships represent a growing field of interest.
The majority of the papers focus on the Hospitallers, but the volume includes studies on the Templars and the Teutonic Order, as well as the Portuguese military orders.