Proteus Unbound: Crusading Historiography

  • Christopher Tyerman


‘Since the creation of the world, what has been more miraculous excepting the mystery of the Cross, than what has happened in modern times in this journey of our Jerusalemites?1 Ever since this extravagant conceit of Robert of Rheims, failed abbot and popular historian of the First Crusade, written some time before 1108, appreciation of the significance, nature, even course of such expeditions and of the importance of the attendant religious, social, political and fiscal mechanisms has depended on interpreters, not witnesses. Most medieval written primary sources were exercises in interpreting reality, not describing it. Even before the transmuting interests of modern historians operate, the record of the past is slanted. Thus perceptions of the First Crusade were created by the historians it inspired as much as by the experiences of those who campaigned. The actions of the latter were set in a precise, explicable context by the former. Not for the last time, the deeds of soldiers were explained to them by non-combatants. The sources, charters as well as chronicles, tend to be self-conscious attempts to explain actions and events according to the intellectual fashions of the time. The First Crusade united observers in astonishment, admiration and awe.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 3.
    Cf. the comments of B. Smalley, Historians of the Middle Ages (London 1974), ch. 9, esp. pp. 122–3.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    David Hume, History of Great Britain (London 1761), i, 209, cf. p. 211.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    E.g. in 1463, D. Wilkins, Concilia Magnae Britannicae et Hibernicae (London 1733–37), iii, 588.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    Registrum Abbatiae Johannis Whethamstede, ed. H. T. Riley, RS (London 1872–73), i, 333–4.Google Scholar
  5. 9.
    In general, R. Schwoebef, The Shadow of the Crescent: The Renaissance Image of the Turk (Nieuwkoop 1967);Google Scholar
  6. J. W. Bohnstedt, The Infidel Scourge of God: The Turkish Menace as seen by German pamphleteers of the Reformation Era, Transactions of the American Philosophical Society (Philadelphia 1968);Google Scholar
  7. K. Setton, Papacy and Levant (Philadelphia 1976–84), vols. ii–iv; Housley, Later Crusades, esp. pp. 99–100, 380, 383–8, 390–1, 393, 398, 409; cf. R. Black, Benedetto Accolti and the Florentine Renaissance (Cambridge 1985), esp. pp. 226–40; R. Black, ‘La Storica della Prima Crociata di Benedetto Accolti’, Archivio Storico Italiano, cxxxi (1973), 2–25. A. S. Atiya, The Crusade in the Later Middle Aces (London 1938), chs ix, xi, xix.Google Scholar
  8. 11.
    Schwoebel, Shadow of the Crescent, p. 217; Setton, Papacy and Levant, iii, 179 n. 28, 189–90 and n. 72; S. A. Fischer-Galati, Ottoman imperialism and German Protestantism (Harvard 1959), esp. pp. 9–10; Heath, Crusading Commonplaces.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 14.
    M. J. Heath, ‘Erasmus and War against the Turks’, Acta Conventus neo-Latini Turonensis, ed. J.-C. Margolin (Paris 1980), pp. 991–9; Heath, Crusading Commonplaces, p. 88;Google Scholar
  10. R. H. Bainton, Erasmus of Christendom (London 1970), pp. 190 and nn. 19, 245; Opus Epistolarum Des. Erasmi Roterodami, ed. P. S. Allen et al, viii (Oxford 1934), no. 2285, pp. 382–5.Google Scholar
  11. 15.
    Fischer-Galati, Ottoman Imperialism, pp. 17–18; Housley, Later Crusades, p. 380; Bohnstedt, Infidel Scourge, pp. 12, 14, 20, 32, 46–51; Heath, Crusading Commonplaces, p. 15; cf. Luther’s original stance attacked in the papal bull Exurge Domine (1520) with his later thoughts, Vom Kriege widder die Türken (1529) and his Exhortation of 1541; on the impact of these changes, Heath, ‘Erasmus and War’, pp. 991–3; J. Pannier, ‘Calvin et les Turcs’, Revue historique clxxx (1937), 268–72.Google Scholar
  12. 16.
    Setton, ‘Leo X and the Turkish peril’, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, cxiii (1969), 367–424;Google Scholar
  13. J. Riley-Smith, The Crusades (London 1990), pp. 248–9; Tyerman, England and the Crusades, pp. 360, 362.Google Scholar
  14. 17.
    Dictionnaire de droit canonique, ed. R. Naz, iv (Paris 1949), col. 781; Setton, Papacy and Levant, iii, iv, chs 12, 13, 18 passim; Housley, Later Crusades, pp. 312–15, 410–20.Google Scholar
  15. 18.
    Quoted by J. Lock, ‘How many Tercios Has the Pope?’, History, lxxxi (1996), 202.Google Scholar
  16. 22.
    F. L. Baumer, ‘England, the Turk and the common corps of Christendom’, American Historical Review, (1944–45), 26–48, esp. 31, 36–8, 43–7; Tyerman, England and the Crusades, pp. 348–50; for James VI’s youthful Virgilian epic of 1585, The Poems of James VI of Scotland, ed. J. Craigie (Edinburgh 1955–58), xlviii, 197–257.Google Scholar
  17. 23.
    A Lytell Cronycle: Richard Pynsons Translation (1520) of HethoumsLa Fleur des histoires de la terre dOrient, ed. G. Burger (Toronto 1988), esp. pp. xxxv–xxxvi.Google Scholar
  18. 25.
    H. Wolter, ‘Elements of Crusade spirituality in St Ignatius’, Ignatius of Loyola; His Personality and Spiritual Heritage, ed. F. Wulf (St Louis 1977), pp. 97–134;Google Scholar
  19. N. P. Tanner, ‘Medieval Crusade decrees and Ignatius’s Meditation on the Kingdom’, Heythrop Journal, xxxi (1990), 505–15. I am grateful to Dr Tanner for bringing these references to my attention.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 26.
    Jacques de Vitry, Historia Orientalis, ed. F. Moschus (Douai 1597), Preface to Reader.Google Scholar
  21. 27.
    J. Foxe, Acts and Monuments, ed. S. R. Cattley (London 1837–41), iv, 18–21, 27–8, 33–4, 38, 52–4, 69, 113, 120–1.Google Scholar
  22. 28.
    Reinerius Reineccius Steinhemius, Chronicon Hierosolymitanum (Helmstadt 1584); Dresser’s commentary appears in Part II.Google Scholar
  23. 34.
    Pierre de Bourdeille, seigneur de Brantôme, Oeuvres completes, ed. L. Lalanne, ix (Paris 1876), 433–4; cf. the pointed comparison of sixteenth-century freedom with how restrictive crusading was for the women left behind, p. 450.Google Scholar
  24. 35.
    The Works of Francis Bacon, ed. J. Spedding et al., vii (London 1859),. pp. 1–36.Google Scholar
  25. 40.
    G. C. Muller, De Expeditione Cruciatis Vulgo Von Kreutz Fahrten (Nuremburg 1709), pp. 3–6, 11, 20, 25–7, 33.Google Scholar
  26. 41.
    J. D. Schoeplin, De Sacris Galliae Regum in Orientem Expeditionibus (Strasbourg 1726).Google Scholar
  27. 43.
    D. Diderot, Dictionnaire Encyclopédique, Oeuvres complètes (Paris 1821), xiv, 496–511.Google Scholar
  28. 44.
    Voltaire, History of the Crusades, English trans. (London 1753), pp. 49, 52, 54, 57, 59, 66, 68, 74, 76, 84–5, 88, 91–2, 95, 108–10, 114, 119, 127.Google Scholar
  29. 45.
    E. Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, chs lviii-lxi; ed. Milman, Guizot and Smith, vol. vii (London 1862), pp. 178–349; cf. F. Schiller, Über Volkwänderung, Kreuzzüge und Mittelalter, Werke, ed. R. Roxberger (Berlin and Stuttgart 1886).Google Scholar
  30. 48.
    For the British dimension, M. Girouard, The Return to Camelot (London 1981);Google Scholar
  31. cf. J. Prawer, Histoire de royaume Latin de Jérusalem (Paris 1969–70), i, 3–5.Google Scholar
  32. 50.
    C. Mills, History of the Crusades (London 1820), i, vi, 33; ii, 341, 371.Google Scholar
  33. 53.
    H. Stebbings, The History of Chivalry and the Crusades (Edinburgh 1830).Google Scholar
  34. 54.
    J. F. Michaud, Histoire des croisades (6th edn, Paris 1841), ii, 206.Google Scholar
  35. 57.
    See nn. 47 and 48 above; cf. the comments of T. S. R. Boase, ‘Recent developments in crusading historiography’, History, xxii (1937), 110–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 59.
    In 1786, Thomas Jefferson called for ‘a crusade against ignorance’, quoted in the Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford 1971 edn), p. 1221; for a recent account of evangelical ‘crusades’, J. Wolfe, The Protestant Crusade in Great Britain (Oxford 1991).Google Scholar
  37. 61.
    On the Courtois forgeries, see R.-H. Bautier, ‘La collection de chartes de croisade dite “Collection Courtois”’, Comptes rendus des scéances de lAcadémie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres (1956), pp. 382–6; cf. the article on Courtois and Bautier’s exposure of him and his accomplices in Bibliothèque de l’École des chartes, cxxxii (1974); D. Abulafia, ‘Invented Italians in the Courtois Charters’, Edbury, Crusade and Settlement. pp. 135–43.Google Scholar
  38. 62.
    J. Gillingham, Richard the Lionheart (London 1978), p. 300.Google Scholar
  39. 63.
    L. Von Ranke, Übungen (Historical Exercises) of 1837;Google Scholar
  40. von Sybel, Geschichte des ersten Kreuzzuges (1st edn, Leipzig 1841). For an interesting early discus-sion of the effect of Sybel’s work, E. Barker, ‘The Crusades’, Encylopaedia Britannica, 11th edn (1910–11), pp. 550–1.Google Scholar
  41. 64.
    Peter der Eremite (Leipzig 1879); Hagenmayer also edited Ekkehard of Aura (Tubingen 1877); the Gesta Francorum (Heidelberg 1890); Fulcher of Chartres, Historia Hierosolymitana (Heidelberg 1913) and letters written during the First Crusade, Epistolae et chartae ad historiam primi belli sacri spectantes (Innsbruck, 1901); Blake and Morris, ‘A hermit goes to war’ of 1984.Google Scholar
  42. 66.
    T. A. Archer and C. L. Kingsford, The Crusades (London 1894).Google Scholar
  43. 68.
    Cf. Siberry, ‘Images of the Crusades’, pp. 384–5; it could be argued that the emphasis on Christian nationhood had academic origins in the late nineteenth century, P. E. Russell, ‘The Nessus-Shirt of Spanish history’, Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, xxxvi (1959), 219–25, or even earlier,Google Scholar
  44. P. Linehan, History and the Historians of Medieval Spain (Oxford 1993), pp. 1–21, but esp. pp. 15–20 for Francoism;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. cf. R. Fletcher, ‘Reconquest and Crusade in Spain’, TRHS 5th ser., xxxvii (1987), 31–3.Google Scholar
  46. 69.
    L. Madelin, ‘La Syrie franque’, Revue des deux mondes (1917);Google Scholar
  47. L. Madelin, Lexpansion française: De la Syrie au Rhin (Paris 1918); Boase, ‘Developments in crusading historiography’.Google Scholar
  48. 70.
    R. Grousset, Histoire des croisades (Paris 1934–36), iii, 763;Google Scholar
  49. cf. comments by J. L. La Monte, ‘Some problems in Crusading historiography’, Speculum, xv (1940), 56–75; Boase, ‘Developments in crusading historiography’.Google Scholar
  50. 71.
    J. Richard, The Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem (English trans. Amsterdam 1979; orig. French edn 1953), i, pp. v, ix; ii, p. 463.Google Scholar
  51. 72.
    J. Prawer, The Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem: European Colonisation in the Middle Ages (London 1972), pp. ix, 524 and, specifically as well as generally, pp. 469–533; Prawer, Histoire du royaume Latin, i, 6–8, esp. p. 8 for clear parallels with modern Israel; cf. ‘The Crusading Kingdom of Jerusalem — The First European Colonial Society? A Symposium’, Horns of Hattin, pp. 341–66 for a discussion of Prawer’s thesis by some crusader heavy weights.Google Scholar
  52. 74.
    Gesta Francorum, ed. R. Hill (London 1962), p. xv.Google Scholar
  53. 75.
    D. Lloyd George, The Great Crusade: Collected War Speeches 1915–18 (London 1919);Google Scholar
  54. D. Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe (London 1948); Siberry, ‘Images of the Crusades’. p. 381–5.Google Scholar
  55. 80.
    S. Runciman, History of the Crusades (Cambridge 1951–54), iii, 480.Google Scholar
  56. 81.
    Riley-Smith, Crusades, pp. 256–7; Mayer, Crusades (1st edn trans. 1972), p. 281.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Christopher J. Tyerman 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher Tyerman
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Hertford CollegeOxfordUK
  2. 2.Harrow SchoolUK

Personalised recommendations