Christopher Neville Jones

title.none: Edbury and Phillips, eds., The Experience of Crusading (Christopher Neville Jones)

identifier.other: baj9928.0502.011 05.02.11

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Christopher Neville Jones, The Open University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2005

identifier.citation: Edbury, Peter and Jonathan Phillips, eds. The Experience of Crusading: Volume Two: Defining the Crusader Kingdom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Pp. xv, 311. $65.00 (hb). ISBN: 0-521-78151-5.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 05.02.11

Edbury, Peter and Jonathan Phillips, eds. The Experience of Crusading: Volume Two: Defining the Crusader Kingdom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Pp. xv, 311. $65.00 (hb). ISBN: 0-521-78151-5.

Reviewed by:

Christopher Neville Jones
The Open University

In the second of the two volume Festschrift presented to Professor Jonathan Riley-Smith, the editors, Peter Edbury and Jonathan Phillips, choose to focus near exclusive attention upon the Latin East in the years before the fall of Acre. Defining the Crusader Kingdom contains seventeen articles divided up amongst four approximately equal sections, People and Politics, Re-Reading the Sources, History and Historiography, and Commerce in Context. The collection is prefaced by an appreciation of Professor Riley-Smith's own extensive contribution to the study of the Latin East. In a neat link to Riley-Smith's 1997 book, The First Crusaders, 1095-1131, the volume opens with a solid, although, as the author himself admits, often speculative, study by Jonathan Shepard tracing the history of Odo Arpin, one of the less well-known participants in the 1101 crusade. Shepard's essay is well chosen as an opening article, not only for its connection to Riley-Smith's work, but because it sets the tone for the volume as a whole. An important theme throughout this collection is the re-examination and re-assessment of individuals, groups and sources, a number of which have remained somewhat obscure and many of which are the subjects of longstanding assumptions among historians.

The People and Politics section of the volume contains, in addition to Shepard's contribution, a further three essays. These, like Shepard's article, seek to re-examine and sketch the history of some of the figures who inhabited the landscape of twelfth-century Palestine: Thomas Asbridge re-examines Alice of Antioch, Rudolf Hiestand sketches the career and influence of Geoffrey, first abbot of the Templum Domini, and Malcolm Barber turns to the career and background of the Master of the Temple, Philip of Nablus. Hiestand's edition of two brief documents issued by Geoffrey usefully complements his outline of the abbot's career, but, of these initial articles, Asbridge's re-assessment of the career of Alice of Antioch is undoubtedly the most interesting. Asbridge makes excellent use of Alice's own charters to explore her self-representation and to question the widely accepted assessment, derived from the work of the chronicler William of Tyre, that Alice had very little support in her attempts to control Antioch after her husband's death. If Asbridge's article suffers at all it is because it does not attempt to explore why William chose to portray Alice in such a negative light. It is also disappointing that no attempt is made to place Alice in the wider context of women who wielded political power in the twelfth century.

The second section of the book, Re-Reading the Sources, begins with Benjamin Kedar's fascinating study of Benincasa's Life of Ranieri, the patron saint of Pisa. In continuing the theme, begun in the first section of the book, of casting new light on somewhat obscure twelfth-century figures, Kedar assesses, first of all, the extent to which Benincasa's Life, written shortly after Ranieri's death, can be used to explore the realities of life in Outremer. In going on to examine Ranieri's miracles, Kedar reveals a truly extraordinary portrait of a man who claimed to be God's second incarnation. Kedar is to be complimented not simply for drawing attention to these claims, but for his efforts to situate Benincasa's Life within its proper context.

From a twelfth-century saint's life, the volume moves on to explore a thirteenth-century work, the Old French translation of William of Tyre's chronicle. Here Bernard Hamilton successfully illustrates the concerns that underpinned the thought of a writer preparing William's chronicle for a lay audience, an audience that was almost certainly less familiar with the practices of the Holy Land and certainly not as interested in theological issues as William. If there are difficulties with Hamilton's article they lie primarily in the fact that the reasons why the translator made specific changes and omissions are not explored in as much depth as they might have been. Where Hamilton might have indulged in a little more speculation, it is the extent of this latter that lies at the heart of the problem with Jaroslav Folda's examination of the imagery in the "Freiburg Leaf." Folda's assessment of his document, "the remnants of some kind of notebook in Latin; an informal assemblage or florilegium" (114), is extremely interesting, and his suggestion that the images depicted there were based on originals in the Holy Land is conceivable, if speculative. However, although similarly thought-provoking, his argument that the leaf formed part of a catalogue of holy sites visited by the artist in Outremer, while to some extent plausible, suffers greatly from the paucity of available evidence to support it. This second section closes with Peter Edbury's own contribution to the volume, an attempt to explain the structure, content and development of John of Ibelin's treatise The Book of the Assises, Usages and Pleas of the High Court of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. While John's work is by no means unknown, such an overview is a laudable aim, given the fact, as Edbury points out, John's work has tended to be treated as a quarry of information rather than as a work in its own right.

The third section of the volume, History and Historiography, contains a more diverse mix of articles than the other parts of the book. Among these only Robert Irwin's contribution, which focuses upon approaches to the study and use of Arabic and other oriental sources from the seventeenth century, seems slightly ill at ease. Irwin's exploration of this topic is certainly of value, but might have fitted rather better in the Retrospective section of the first volume, The Experience of Crusading, 1: Western Approaches, eds. Marcus Bull and Norman Housley (Cambridge 2003). His concluding point, however, that "we shall not fully understand the successes and failures of the crusaders until they are studied in a much wider Islamic context" (230) is a very valid one. It is the one failing of this volume as a whole that little attempt is made to explore the crusader states from a Muslim perspective, or indeed from other non-western Christian viewpoints. It is fortunate, therefore, that Peter Jackson's study of Mongol religious perspectives and the impact they had upon the Mongol approach to dealing with the peoples with whom they came in contact goes some way towards mitigating this. The only contribution to make considered use of Muslim sources is, however, Jean Richard's short but incisive study of John Gale, "knight of Tyre," perhaps the outstanding essay in this collection.

John Gale is, like many of those touched upon in the Edbury and Phillips volume, a less than famous figure. His activities are known only from very brief mention in the chronicles of the Latin East: Upon discovering an illicit affair between his wife and his lord, John killed the latter and, realizing the seriousness of a vassal taking such drastic steps against his lord, promptly fled into Muslim territory. Although given a hospitable welcome by Saladin and a place in the latter's service, John later betrayed his benefactor. When the search for mention of John in official documents proves fruitless, Richard manages to deploy a wide array of sources, including romances and Muslim accounts, to prove not only the plausibility of John's story but also to suggest that he may have re-emerged at the Battle of Hattin and possibly even acted as an adviser to Philippe Auguste. Richard's article proves that one of the keys to exploring the crusades from new and fresh perspectives lies in expanding the sources beyond a small collection of traditional chronicle accounts. This point is reinforced by two very different contributions also included in the third section of the book. Denys Pringle uses an exploration of the geographical distribution of churches in Palestine to re-assess Frankish settlement patterns across the region. Hans Eberhard Mayer re-examines evidence in charters to determine the status of houses gifted by King Fulk to the canons of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and through this determines the king's approach to ensuring that he retained ultimate authority over his part of the city.

Of the four sections of the book, the fourth, Commerce in Context, is undoubtedly the weakest. Nicholas Coureas's account of the trade relations enjoyed by the Templars and the Hospitallers after the fall of Acre seems misplaced. Given its focus upon the role of the military orders in Mediterranean trade and upon the evidence given by merchants at the trial of the Templars, it would almost certainly have fitted better in the rather lightly populated section The Military Orders in volume one of The Experience of Crusading. Another article where the focus appears to drift away from this volume's general theme is David Abulafia's exploration of fifteenth-century piracy and trade in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Although an excellent article, in which the place occupied by the Italian port of Piombino in the wider context of trade between the Italian peninsula and North Africa is explored in great depth, its connection with Defining the Crusader Kingdom seems peripheral at best. Of the remaining two articles in this section, David Jacoby's study of new evidence relating to the War of Saint Sabas, the dispute that broke out between the Venetians, the Pisans and the Genoese in mid-thirteenth century Acre, is the most solidly connected with the crusader states. Here Jacoby successfully uses unpublished Venetian evidence to reconstruct the dispute and its background. In doing so he both demonstrates the deficiencies of accepted chronicle accounts and sheds further light on the Venetian position in Acre. Where Jacoby's article is focused on one particular incident in Acre, Michel Balard's brief contribution takes a wider approach, assessing the impact of the crusade movement upon trade. He seeks to do this by assessing the pre-1099 situation in the East and the Mediterranean and comparing it to the situation that emerged in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

In choosing to focus so closely upon the Latin East, an idea encapsulated in the subtitle Defining the Crusader Kingdom, the editors were, perhaps, seeking a means of addressing the perennial dilemma of any large multi-contributor project: whether to create a volume of individual contributions linked only by the loosest of connections or whether to attempt to create a work with a prominent all encompassing theme. Edbury and Phillips appear to have chosen a middle road between these two possibilities. Their decision to adopt such an approach may have been inspired, at least in part, by the fact that a loosely arranged volume dedicated to the crusades had been published relatively recently, the Festschrift in honor of Jean Richard, Dei gesta per Francos: etudes sur les croisades dediees a Jean Richard: crusade studies in honour of Jean Richard eds. Michel Balard, Benjamin Z. Kedar and Jonathan Riley-Smith (Ashgate 2001). Marcus Bull and Norman Housley, the editors of the first volume of The Experience of Crusading, appear to have attempted a similar middle way, possibly for similar reasons, but they are far less successful than Edbury and Phillips. Although peppered with excellent essays, the first volume remains an amorphous collection of articles which often seem to sit somewhat uncomfortably alongside each other and are united only by the rather vague subtitle Western Approaches.

There certainly remain problems with the second volume of The Experience of Crusading, perhaps the most important of which is the failure to explore Muslim or Byzantine experiences of crusading. Yet, overall, Defining the Crusader Kingdom succeeds admirably in assembling and organizing a coherent volume of essays linked by the general aim of exploring Latin settlement in Outremer. Within this general framework the content of the collection is further linked by the efforts of its contributors to re-visit and illuminate some of the more obscure events and figures of the period, by their efforts to inject new source material and new approaches into debate, and to test long held assumptions. As such, the volume will prove useful not only to historians interested in the Latin East, but to those who wish to consider the potential benefits of exploring topics from new perspectives.