contributor.author: John France

title.none: Lehonten et al., eds., Medieval History Writing (John France)

identifier.other: baj9928.0703.002 07.03.02

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: John France, University of Wales Swansea, j.france@swanswa.ac.uk

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2007

identifier.citation: Lehtonen, Tuomas M.S., Kurt Villads Jensen, Janne Malkki, and Katja Ritari, eds. Medieval History Writing and Crusading Ideology. Studia Fennica Historia, vol. 9. Helsinki: Finish Literature Society, 2005. Pp. 320. ISBN: $43.00 951-746-662-5.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 07.03.02

Lehtonen, Tuomas M.S., Kurt Villads Jensen, Janne Malkki, and Katja Ritari, eds. Medieval History Writing and Crusading Ideology. Studia Fennica Historia, vol. 9. Helsinki: Finish Literature Society, 2005. Pp. 320. ISBN: $43.00 951-746-662-5.

Reviewed by:

John France
University of Wales Swansea
j.france@swanswa.ac.uk

This is a collection of essays about crusading ideas which is definitely not by the usual suspects, by which I mean the pupils and associates of Jonathon Riley-Smith! The contributors are from Northern Europe and though there is some reflection on the history of crusading in the Nordic world, this is not the sole or even the main thrust of the contributions, which concern themselves with crusading in its widest aspects. This is a very welcome perspective and the appearance of such a volume is a tribute to the vigour of crusading studies to which the "usual suspects" have made such a powerful contribution. It is certainly a very substantial volume, comprising a Preface and an Introduction together with 22 essays divided into three sections: "Ideology and Medieval Historiography," "Royal Policies and Violence" and "Crusading Movement at (sic) the Baltic Sea Region and Beyond." This is a well-produced volume, though the maps are rather limited. That for "Scandinavia and the Baltic" lacks detail, while the other is entitled "Medieval Europe and the Mediterranea" [sic] and really tells the reader very little. There is no overall bibliography, though a thorough list of abbreviations is provided. Each essay is immediately followed by its notes, with a list of the sources and secondary works appended. This is a convenient arrangement which makes reference comparatively easy. There are two good indices, one for people and the other for places, and they are a great aid to navigation.

Of course, there would be nothing new about studies of northern crusading. The excellent works of Christiansen and Urban have brought the "Northern Crusades" firmly to scholarly attention. [1] The contributions in this book consider all aspects of crusading. Lars Bigard, for example, discusses the way in which the crusader preaching of Oliver of Cologne transformed one of the Magi into an African. While there is a certain emphasis on the north, the main thrust is to debate the place of the Scandinavian peoples in the wider crusading movement. In his Introduction Kurt Villads Jensen suggests that the northern peoples were excluded from the history of the crusades by the French "hijack" of the movement, and that subsequently they and other small countries cultivated the notion of their separate development, rejecting ideas about the past which appeared to threaten their sense of identity. Lest it be thought that this related to the distant past, it should be noted that in a fascinating essay, "Puzzling Approaches to the Crusading Movement in Recent Scandinavian Historiography," J.H. Lind further explores the highly idiosyncratic treatment of crusading by recent Scandinavian scholars. He particularly attacks the resolute denial that Swedish crusading coercion played a major part in the conversion of the Finns. K.V. Jensen has made a huge contribution to the development of crusading studies in northern Europe, as several of the contributors acknowledge, not least in the "Denmark and the Crusades" projects from which this volume arose. In his own essay "Crusading at the Fringes of the Ocean" he sets out a sustained comparison between Denmark and Portugal, two small states with crusading traditions of their own. In the process he demonstrates their participation in the main stream of European development, albeit in their own particular ways in the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries.

In fact the scope of the volume is best revealed by grouping the essays according to their degree of focus on events in Scandinavia. If this is done, they fall into three groups: those concerned with crusading in the widest sense, those which consider the Nordic experience in the general crusading context and those which focus on events in the north. Apart from Bigard, no less than another ten scholars explore aspects of the crusading movement essentially unconnected to the north. J.M. Jensen in "War, Penance and the First Crusade" argues vigorously that Urban II did not think the crusade was a pilgrimage and argues, somewhat like Marcus Bull, that "taking up arms on behalf of God was considered a penitential practice just like a pilgrimage" (57). S. Niskanen, "St Anselm's Views on Crusade" suggests that the great saint saw pilgrimage and crusade as essentially lay exercises, quite opposed in spirit to monasticism. This is a view somewhat reinforced by the essay of S. Kangas, "Deus Vult," which stresses the importance of the military experience of the First Crusade. T.M.S Lehtonen, "By the Help of God, Because of Our Sins and by Chance," discusses the influences upon the historical ideas of William of Tyre. This is, inevitably, a rather general discussion, but it constitutes an important contribution to our ideas about this most important of crusader historians. A.L. Bysted, "Indulgences, Satisfaction and the Heart's Contrition," considers the evolution of the theology of the crusading indulgence, while R. Palmen, "Peregrinatio Imaginaris," discusses pilgrimage to Jerusalem. It is a pity Palmen had not had the opportunity to read the recent work by C. Morris on the Holy Sepulchre and the medieval West because their ideas are convergent. [2] P. Annala, "Brother Francis and the Fifth Crusade," argues firmly that Francis was opposed to crusading and stresses James of Vitry's inability to accept this. In a fascinating essay, "Pogroms of the First Crusade in Medieval Local Historiography. The Death of Archbishop Eberhard of Trier," T. Heikkilä shows how a local chronicle written half a century after the events presented the pogroms at the start of the First Crusade as being a justified reaction to the murder of this archbishop (actually by his own ministeriales) by the Jews. A. Ruotsala, "The Crusaders and the Mongols. The Case of the First Crusade of Louis IX (1248-54)," is a rather limited discussion which concludes that the whole diplomatic mission to the Mongols had very little chance of success.

Another group of scholars consider the Nordic experience in the light of the wider crusading movement and its ideas. In an interesting contribution to the ongoing debate about crusader motivation A. Nedkvitne, "Why did Medieval Norsemen go on Crusades?" does not dismiss the importance of religion amongst those undertaking crusades, but argues that considerations of status and elite identity may have been a major factor in inclining people to take the cross especially in the north. V. Etting, "Crusade and Pilgrimage," stresses the way in which participation in pilgrimage and crusading brought the Nordic peoples into the mainstream of European development and ideas. The penetration of the ideas of the Templars into Scandinavia is the theme of B. Bandlien's "A New Norse Knighthood? The Impact of the Templars in late Twelfth-century Norway" but the essay says little about the Order itself. Its arrival in the north should be connected with the popularity of the Cistericans in the area. [3] Bandlien examines the impact of the new ideas of knighthood upon portrayals of warriors in secular sources, especially the Sverris Saga.

Finally there is a group of essays which are really very centred on developments in the north. H. Janson, "Aspects of the Formation of Conflicting Identities in the Southern Baltics around the year 1000," cautions us about accepting the sharp difference between "paganism" and "Christianity" which we meet in the sources for this period and which informed nineteenth century ideas about the struggle to "civilize" the Baltic. He suggests that secular considerations drove on violence and conquest, and that this was subsequently given an ideological gloss by St Bernard and others. C.S. Jensen, "The Early Stages of Christianisation in Livonia in Modern Historical Writings and Contemporary Chronicles" discusses the notion that in the early years of the Livonian mission there was a changing emphasis between persuasion and coercion. He concludes that at all times both were employed, but suggests that the crucial development was Bishop Albert's establishment of permanent Germanic settlements in the area. T.K. Nielsen, "Mission and Submission. Societal Change in the Baltic in the Thirteenth Century," focuses on the native "King Caupo" who converted to Christianity, but mediated between the missionaries and the native population, illustrating the massive impact of the new religion upon Livonian and other societies. B. Bombi and I.F. Schmidt examine the attitude of the papacy to the northern crusades under Innocent III and Alexander III respectively. It seems a pity these were not discussed in a single essay, because it is obvious that the papacy vacillated, mainly, one suspects, because of its desire to maintain the special position of the crusade to Jerusalem. T. Lindkvist, "Crusading Ideas in Late Medieval Sweden," is mainly concerned to discuss the crusades in Finland and emphasises the connection, most clearly evident in Spain, between crusading and state-building. In his essay, "The warrior in God's favour. The Image of Alexander Nevskiy as a Hero Confronting the Western Crusaders," M. Isoaho examines the highly conventional nature of his story and details the way in which the myth of this great figure evolved in the light of the political needs of later generations, especially in the sixteenth century.

The essays in this book are generally of good quality and will undoubtedly make a substantial impact on the wider scholarly world, especially those interested in the crusades and Scandinavian history. The book is important in that it clearly reveals the impact of recent debates, particularly in the circle of Jonathon Riley-Smith, about the nature of crusading. However, it is perhaps even more important in that it reveals a whole world of scholarship in Scandinavia emerging from its relative historiographic isolation under the impulse of the "Denmark and the Crusades" project.

1. E. Christiansen, The Northern Crusades. The Baltic and the Catholic Frontier 1100-1525 (London: MacMillan,1980); W.L. Urban, The Baltic Crusade (Dekalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1975), The Livonian Crusade (Washington: University Press of America, 1988).

2. C. Morris, The Sepulchre of Christ and the Medieval West. From the Beginning to 1600 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).

3. T. Nyberg, Monasticism in North-Western Europe, 800-1200. (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000) provides an excellent outline.