Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on ReligionInstitute for Studies of Relgion
IJRR :: 2017 Volume 13 :: Article 5
2017 Volume 13, Article 5
Religion, Warrior Elites, and Property Rights

Author: R. Warren Anderson and Brooks B. Hull (University of Michigan-Dearborn)

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In 1119 King Baldwin II of Jerusalem granted nine French knights space on the Temple Mount over the ruins of Solomon’s Temple to create the headquarters of a new monastic order: The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, or the Knights Templar. They grew in wealth and power and became an influential and pervasive organization throughout Western Europe until King Philip of France suppressed them in 1307. The Templars were only one of a number of Christian holy orders of “warrior monks” founded after the First Crusade, with more than two-dozen others founded in Syria, Central and Eastern Europe, and Iberia. More importantly for this paper, the Templars are one example of what we label “warrior elites.” Our definition of warrior elites is not precise but includes pre-industrial full-time specialized soldiers that represent a relatively small part of a region’s military forces but possess disproportionate military strength. In addition, warrior elites often possess significant political and social power. This paper explores the extent to which warrior elites have two characteristics: they adopt a special religion, either different from the mainstream religion or a unique adaptation of the mainstream religion, and the special religion has provisions that enforce property rights. To the extent warrior elites have these two characteristics, we hypothesize they are an example of a social institution that evolves as a low-cost alternative to government and to ordinary religion as a method of property rights enforcement.

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