The Medieval Review 11.05.23

Madden, Thomas F., James L. Naus and Vincent Ryan. Crusades - Medieval Worlds in Conflict. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2010. Pp. 212. $119.95 ISBN 978-1-4094-0061-5. .

Reviewed by:

Norman Housley
University of Leicester

This collection of twelve essays derives from an international symposium held at St Louis University in 2006. The symposium was clearly a wide-ranging one, and this is reflected in the volume under review, whose papers are unusually disparate in character. The editors have grouped them into four sections: "Conflicting worlds of sanctity"; "Contested worlds of ideas"; "The Byzantine world"; and "The world of St Louis." This is ingenious but it cannot disguise the fact that there is little coherence in the first two sections.

The first section opens with an essay by Carole Hillenbrand on the development of jihad poetry during the crusader period. She concludes that a type of invective first cultivated in response to Muslim conflicts with Byzantium was transferred with relative ease to a new Christian target; indeed it was recycled by the Ottomans and resurfaced as late as 1799. This largely formulaic genre contrasts with the imaginative flair that was shown by twelfth- century Christian commentators and preachers, above all Alan of Lille, in describing the crusader's spiritual relationship with the crucified Christ. The theme is explored by Matthew Phillips in the disappointingly short essay that follows Hillenbrand's. The last essay in this section, by Sam Zeno Conedera, provides an overview of the activity of the Iberian hermandades.

The section headed "Contested worlds of ideas" begins with a paper by Robert Hillenbrand that examines how the presence of the crusader states may have influenced the art of author portraiture in neighbouring Syria and Jazira. Irrespective of its scholarly merit, the paper's connection with the crusades is tangential. From different perspectives, both Jennifer Price and Walker Reid Cosgrove address the question of how best to define a crusade. Price reconsiders the extension of crusading to Aragon-Navarre during the reign of Alfonso I. She argues that while the papal curia was willing to give much Iberian campaigning against Muslims crusading status, Spaniards in the early twelfth century "did not generally feel comfortable assuming the cross in connection with the battles they fought against their neighbours" (93). It took some decades for them to accept the argument for full equivalence. Cosgrove contributes an analysis of the terminology used by Pope Innocent III's curia when writing about warfare to which the pope accorded crusading status. He concludes that the dominant theme of the pope's correspondence is its eclecticism, so that the word crucesignatus was interchangeable with a variety of other words and phrases relating to warfare and pilgrimage.

The next three authors review key episodes in the relationship between the Byzantine empire on the one hand, and western crusaders and settlers in the east on the other. Brett Edward Whalen discusses Bohemond's campaign against Alexios I in 1107. His emphasis is on the individuals who responded to Bohemond's recruitment drive, and he confirms that there is no evidence that they regarded the venture as anti-Byzantine in character: as Orderic Vitalis remarked at the time, this was seen as another expedition to Jerusalem. Two essays address the reign of Alexios's successor, John II. Thomas Devaney examines the Byzantine court's response towards the Venetian fleet that took part in the next substantial crusade after Bohemond's, that of 1122-4. In a closely-argued essay, he judges John to have mishandled the situation, underestimating Venice's capacity to inflict harm on his maritime lands. Nor was John any more successful in his attempt to remould Byzantine relations with Antioch, as David Alan Parnell shows in his short study, which focuses on John's expedition in 1137 and the treaty with Count Raymond that followed.

Appropriately enough given the conference's venue, the last and strongest group of papers relate to the crusading career of St Louis. Michael Lower revisits what lay behind Louis's decision to take his second crusade to Tunisia in 1270. Lower confirms that there is no evidence to support the argument that it was a diversion engineered by Louis's brother Charles I of Sicily. The fact that Charles maximized his own gains from the crusade cannot be taken as proof that he brought it about; in this as in so much else Charles was just a highly skilled opportunist. One could add that based on Louis's attitude towards Damietta in 1249, he would have annexed conquered Tunis to the French crown, which would have blocked Charles's own expansionist hopes in the region. The explication mystique reported by Geoffrey of Beaulieu, that Louis was convinced of the emir al-Mustansir's secret conversion, carries more weight. It remains the best explanation on offer, and Lower links it with Louis's conversion policy within France, which is plausible though incapable of proof.

Caroline Smith focuses on the French voyages to and from the East in 1248 and 1254. Relying heavily on Joinville but making use also of John Sarrasin, Odo of Chëteauroux, the lives of Louis by William of St Pathus and Geoffrey of Beaulieu, and (a notable find) Ralph of Bocking's Life of St Richard of Chichester, Smith discusses the spectrum of associations that travelling by sea held for thirteenth-century crusaders. It was hazardous, unpredictable and uncomfortable, of course, but there were also disconcerting spiritual connotations: it was more difficult to celebrate religious observances on a regular basis and sailors were regarded as a group particularly prone to sinfulness. It was not surprising that the westwards voyage provided Joinville with one of the four occasions on which Louis "demonstrated his willingness to face death for the good of his people" (172). In the third paper on Louis IX, Cecilia Gaposchkin investigates the contribution that the king's crusading made to his canonization by Boniface VIII in 1297. Gaposchkin highlights the disappointment voiced by contemporaries, including Joinville, that Louis was denied recognition as a martyr. Instead the king emerged as "the perfect embodiment of a memorialization of saintly defeat that at once bypassed and capitalized on the uncomfortable reality of what had happened on the ground" (209).

It cannot be said that there is any ground-breaking research in this collection, but its contents do advance a number of ongoing debates within the field of crusading studies. The index is woefully unfit for purpose.