contributor.author: Zsolt Hunyadi

title.none: Allen and Amt, eds., The Crusades (Zsolt Hunyadi)

identifier.other: baj9928.0501.011 05.01.11

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Zsolt Hunyadi, University of Szeged, hunyadiz@hist.u-szeged.hu

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2005

identifier.citation: Allen, S.J., and Emilie Amt, eds. The Crusades: A Reader. Series: Readings in Medieval Civilizations and Cultures, vol. 8. Peterborough: Broadview Press, 2003. Pp. xix, 430. ISBN: $30.00 1-55111-537-9.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 05.01.11

Allen, S.J., and Emilie Amt, eds. The Crusades: A Reader. Series: Readings in Medieval Civilizations and Cultures, vol. 8. Peterborough: Broadview Press, 2003. Pp. xix, 430. ISBN: $30.00 1-55111-537-9.

Reviewed by:

Zsolt Hunyadi
University of Szeged
hunyadiz@hist.u-szeged.hu

University students and teachers are usually happy to be able to use a new reader since it is meant to be a new teaching manual and reference work making it easier to explore the written sources of a given period of time or a particular topic. Using such works is not only saving time but it also gives a chance to have a much better overview of a field of interest. At the same time, however, the compilation of a reader often holds some risk, as this genre plays a determining role in the "canonization process" of different texts and their translations. Given this, a reader can determine what students of the given field will read or, what is more, which texts are going to be omitted from the everyday scholarly discourse. It is particularly hard for me to remain unbiased towards the work in question here, having realized, with the help of a brief Internet-survey, that several university courses have already listed it on their syllabi--just a few months after its publication. Nonetheless, it is not useless to evaluate this recent work.

The reader, edited by S. J. Allen and Emilie Amt, came out as vol. 8 of the series published by Broadview Press, entitled Readings in Medieval Civilizations and Cultures [RMCC]. The series was launched in 1993 and, following a hiatus, it has presented new volumes, by and large, annually since 1997. The volumes of the series cover a wide spectrum of medieval studies and it is particularly welcome that the editor-in-chief dedicated a separate volume to one of the most dynamic fields of research: the collection of the sources of the crusades. Apparently, the publisher gained remarkable experience and routine in publishing readers and anthologies during the course of the last one-and-a-half decades. The success of the series is also indicated by the second edition of its first volume (Paul Edward Dutton, ed. Carolingian Civilization: A reader. RMCC 1. Broadview Press, 2004 [1st ed. 1993]).

The present reader is not the first collection with regard to collections of (translated) sources pertaining to the history of the crusades either. For a long time, the standard work regarding the topic in question has been that of James Brundage, The Crusades. A Documentary Survey. Milwaukee, WI: The Marquette University Press, 1962. [reprint: 1976] which is now fully available online, in the Internet Medieval Sourcebook. Apart from its numerous merits, one of the most striking features of Brundage's selection is that it comprises excerpts of sources no later than the Fall of Acre (1291). In other words, it excludes sources concerning the later crusades. Another standard reader, edited by Louise and Jonathan Riley-Smith, The Crusades. Idea and Reality, 1095-1274 (Documents of Medieval History 4. London: Edward Arnold, 1981), embraces an even shorter period of time. The pluralist approach, nonetheless, rendered a wider circle of sources at the reader's disposal. The choice of the editors was influenced by the then current transformation of the widely accepted view on the turning point in the history of the crusades: scholars of the field attributed a bigger importance to the decrees of the Second Council of Lyons (1274) on the crusade than to the loss of the last bulwark of the Holy Land. It was not, however, Jonathan Riley-Smith, one of the most prominent representatives of the pluralist scholars of the crusades, but his disciple, Norman Housley who published, with some delay, a reader for the history of the later crusades, Documents on the later Crusades, 1274-1580 (Basingstoke: Macmillan Press, 1996; American edition: New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996). The two works complement each other with regard to the time-span, while a third reader, edited by Elizabeth Hallam, Chronicles of the crusades: eye-witness accounts of the wars between Christianity and Islam (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1989; American edition: Chronicles of the Crusades: nine crusades and two hundred years of bitter conflict for the Holy Land brought to life through the words of those who were actually there. New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1989; reprints: 1996, 2000)) comprises eye-witness accounts for the whole period, admittedly focusing on the first two centuries.

Several other text editions should be mentioned; however, here I would like to refer chiefly to those editions which are arranged around a specific topic or constitute such a collection of sources. The translations of Alfred J. Andrea (The capture of Constantinople: the Hystoria Constantinopolitana of Gunther of Pairis. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997; Contemporary sources for the Fourth Crusade. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2000), the selection of Simon Barton and Richard Fletcher (The world of El Cid: chronicles of the Spanish reconquest. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000) and that of Thomas A. Fudge (The crusade against heretics in Bohemia, 1418-1437: sources and documents for the Hussite crusades. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002) should be mentioned in this context. The latter is particularly noteworthy since the Hussite sources have been published under the aegis of a project launched by Ashgate Publishing House in 1996--Crusade Texts in Translation--and its target readership is most likely identical with that circle of students of history eager to rely on modern and reliable translations.

The summary of the antecedents partly determines the form of evaluation of the reviewed opus since its readers involuntarily analyze how far and in what respect the present collection differs from its precedents--both those that appeared in the same series and those published elsewhere. Although the reviewed work fully accomplishes the expectations laid down by the previous volumes of the RMCC-series, readers who used those volumes in the course of their educational or scholarly activity may lack some useful elements found in those works. Vol. 2 of the series (John Shiners, ed. and tr. Medieval Popular Religion, 1000-1500: A reader. (Broadview Press, 1997)) is supplemented by a detailed chronology, while Vol. 5 (Alexander Callender Murray, ed. and tr. From Roman to Merovingian Gaul: A reader. RMCC 5. (Broadview Press, 2000)) comprises maps, genealogical tables and a gazetteer. These auxiliary tools can be accessed in different publications; however, it would have been more fortunate to include them in the present reader thus making it a more or less "self-standing" handbook (see, for instance, doc. 52). The lack of these tools might have been as well compensated by a select bibliography or at least some references to bibliographies of the topic.

It is hard to provide an unequivocal appraisal of the content of the reader (for the Table of contents, see http://www.broadviewpress.com/bvcontents.asp?BookID=620). One could easily single out documents or excerpts of sources and ask: why exactly these have been included as opposed to those omitted (regardless whether the choice was deliberate or accidental). Avoiding such interminable brain storming, I would like to make a few general points. Although it is not expressis verbis formulated, the target readership of the volume is the wide range of students of history especially those having interest in medieval studies. Thus the criteria for selection should also have included additional factors of university curricula. For instance, it would have been practical, with regard to further studies, to draw the attention of the assumed readership to the fact that several hardly accessible text-editions have reprint versions (e.g., doc. 14, 22, 30, 34, 40, 43-45, 63, 68, 72), some have been retranslated/edited (e.g., doc. 16, 20, 24, 28, 36, 39, 44-45, 58, 74, 84, 89, 97), or become fully or partly accessible on the Internet (e.g., doc. 1-3, 5, 6, 8, 11-17, 31, 36, 46, 57-59, 61/1, 62, 71-73, 76, 81, 86). It particularly concerns one of the most important source collections (Recueil des historiens des Croisades, 5 ser, 16 vols. (Paris, 1841-1906) which has been both reprinted (Farnborough, Hants: Gregg Press, 1967) and made accessible online via the Gallica Project hosted by the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris (http://gallica.bnf.fr). The latter is incomplete yet. The editors of the present reader only indicated the web-access of one source (doc. 69); unfortunately the database has been moved to another web-address in the meantime (from http://orb.rhodes.edu to http://the-orb.net).

From a more scholarly point of view, I think that the editors could have put forward further professional considerations and better explained their choice of sources for the present collection: perhaps more profound ones than in case of the previous volumes of the RMCC-series. However, Allen and Amt diplomatically avoid getting entangled in the historiographical debates of the last few decades. In their Introduction (it was not indeed the goal of the collection), they eventually had to take sides while selecting the different sources. In my eyes, the criteria for selection are deeply rooted in the editors' attitude, that is, whether they belong to the traditionalist, pluralist (in other words: revisionist), or generalist historians of the crusades (cf. Giles Constable, "The Historiography of the Crusades." In Angeliki E. Laiou, and Roy Parviz Mottahedeh, eds. The Crusades from the Perspective of Byzantium and the Muslim World. Washington: Dumbarton Oaks, 2001, 1-22; particularly 14-17). I do not blame the editors for doctrinal commitment but they could have shared the principles behind their actual selection with their audience, especially with regard to the profound changes to be observed in the historiography of the crusades (cf. Thomas F. Madden, ed. The Crusades. The Essential Readings. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2002), which expects the present-day readership to apply new approaches in many respects.

The contents of the book, 104 units of excerpts are divided into ten chapters. Each unit is headed by a short explanatory preamble, which is followed by the specification of the source of the given text/translation. The selections in the reader largely comprise excerpts from already published source-collections, occasionally with revised translations (e.g., doc. 1-2, 4, 8, 13-14, 17, 19, 26-28, 41, 98), and in certain cases one can find sources translated by Emilie Amt (e.g., doc. 26, 47, 51, 55, 65-66). The units are concluded by questions raised in connection with the content of the particular unit. These issues often seem to be very didactical in nature and thus, at times, they rather hinder the interpretation. I would suspect that copyright issues played an excessively determinant role in the selection of texts. I duly note the decision of the editors (or rather that of the publisher) but am not really happy with it. Some additional expenditure could have resulted in the obtainment of the copyright for publishing more reliable texts in certain cases.

Users of the reader undoubtedly will welcome the grouping of the excerpts, in which the editors did not strictly follow the chronological order, giving some preference to the topical distribution (e.g., Chapter V: "The Culture and Logistics of Crusading," VIII: "Conflict and Coexistence in Spain"). The use of the term "document" (doc. #) is misleading in certain cases. Some numbers refer to single documents or an excerpt from a source but others cover several texts (e.g., doc. 46 refers to six documents/excerpts) and this fact is not stated either in the Introduction or in the Table of contents. The situation is made worse by the lack of an Index of topics, thus it is fairly difficult to precisely identify what sources can be found in the reader. For instance, it is unclear, either from the Table of Contents or the Index, which papal letters/bulls are included in this collection of texts. It is not apparent that the letter appearing under the name of Pope Eugenius III (pp. 184-185) is usually referred in the literature (presumably consulted by students) as Quantum predecessores. Similarly, the document to be found in unit 70 is not labeled as the Golden Bull of Rimini, though it clearly comprises a good part of that. Nor is the reader informed that doc. 94 is no other than the Vox in excelso of Pope Clement V. If the target audience is indeed to be sought in higher education circles (as indicated by the strongly didactic questions), this sort of help would be highly appreciated, if not expected, since the English translation omits the "keywords" which would provide the links to the textbooks. Perfect procedure, most likely, does not exist, nonetheless I still prefer the solution of Louise and Jonathan Riley-Smith who indicated the full title and the (exact or approximate) dating of the documents.

The edition and the production of the work is of high standard, very few slips of the pen can be discovered (pp. 205, 234, 236, 284, 320, 429). At the same time, it seems that the choice of illustrations (33 figs.) was largely determined by the evil spirit of the copyright issue. It is incontestable that the illustrations taken from the works of P. Lacroix have particular representative strength; nonetheless, without any sort of iconographical commentary, it may mislead the readers instead of supporting the textual "message" of the work.

In sum, I would like to recommend this reader because its topic (particularly the fact of consulting its sources) is seen as very timely. Undoubtedly 9/11 profoundly changed our ideas concerning the modern world; at the very least, it made many of us conscious of how little we know about different (major and minor) cultures and religions of the world and their modern mediators. If the volume (as well as the whole series) is topical in any sense then it is in emphasizing the ancient imperative: ad fontes. Instead of leading articles of newspapers, superficial or pseudo-scientific literature, the thorough analysis of the (not essentially written) sources of the given period provides a more reliable way towards the knowing of the res gestae for students of history. The present volume of the series undoubtedly provides a great help in such endeavors.