Category Archives: Medieval History

The development of the historiography concerning Doge Enrico Dandolo, Byzantine-Venetian relations and the Fourth Crusade

This essay achieved a low 1st in the second year of my undergraduate.

Project Abstract

The diversion of the Fourth Crusade has attracted many eminent Crusade historians, and remains one of the areas where a consensus has still not yet been reached. The debate rages on as to whether the diversion to Constantinople was the product of careful planning or not.

This essay, of 5048 words, is a critical survey of the development of the historiography concerning the relations between Venice –and Enrico Dandolo- and Constantinople and how they affected the course of the Fourth Crusade. The essay begins with a consideration of two primary sources –Geoffrey of Villehardouin and Robert of Clari- and a discussion over their relative contributions to the debate. The conclusion is that Villehardouin is the more useful, although with limitations, and Robert is useful only as a complement.

The next section briefly discusses the existence of a traditionalist school, and assesses the difficulties when trying to catalogue the various developments in the two major schools of thought, the Chance Theory and the Premeditation Theory. The section closes with a consideration of the definition of ‘modern historiography,’ and the idea that de Mas-Latrie should be considered the ‘traditionalist school.’

What follows is a detailed, critical survey of the development of the Byzantinist School, the Chance School and the so-called ‘Post-Revisionist’ School in turn, followed by a brief summary of my own view. The validity and credibility of various aspects of each are questioned. When various parts of the more general argument came in is also tracked.

Overall, the development of the historiography is assessed, with comments and discussion on the problems faced when conducting this task. It assesses whether or not the Premeditation Theory is in fact dead, or if indeed a consensus has been reached, which it quickly becomes clear has not.

The development of the historiography concerning Doge Enrico Dandolo, Byzantine-Venetian relations and the Fourth Crusade

The Fourth Crusade remains, to this day, one of the most contentious areas of the Crusades, itself an already polemical topic. The debate over whether or not the events of 1201-4 were an accident is one area of historical discussion which shows no signs of abating, so much so that Claster has simply given up, claiming that ‘assessing blame is unimportant.’[1] The debate centres on interpretation of the primary sources, the most significant of which shall be examined below, and include Geoffrey of Villehardouin and Robert of Clari, both of whom have diverse viewpoints and varying levels of reliability.

It is generally accepted that there are two clear schools of thought: Byzantinists and proponents of the ‘Theory of Accidents,’ also known as the ‘Chance Theory.’[2] Despite this, it remains difficult categorise them into the commonly used traditionalist and revisionist schools. However it is still perhaps possible to identify a ‘post-revisionist,’ school, which is neither Byzantinist nor Chance Theory in nature.[3] By and large, the Byzantinist view is negative about western Christendom, the Venetians and Dandolo specifically, with the Theory of Accidents being a defence against this. The different schools all have some useful points; the most convincing argument takes something of each and combines them: the longer term context and strained Byzantine-Venetian and wider relations between the Empire and the west caused the development of a certain hostile mind-set. This would imply that, while the expedition was not a series of accidents, it was also not one big conspiracy.

Primary Sources

Perhaps the most significant historians of the Fourth Crusade are those who were contemporaries of it. While some might not consider these sources as part of the historiography, both authors form records of events and are each affected by various influences much like any other historian, and so must be considered. More than this though, the contemporary historians form the basis for the main viewpoints considered below, and a lot of the debate centres around their relative reliability.[4] There is an abundance of source material surrounding the expedition, but perhaps the most useful are the accounts of two knights who took part: Geoffrey de Villehardouin, and Robert of Clari.[5] Widely considered the most accessible account, Villehardouin’s has been considered the more significant, with Angold going so far as to state that modern historiography has reached the point where it now revolves around the reliability and accuracy of his account.[6] Possibly a slight exaggeration, the two accounts are of most benefit when used alongside each other – they complement each other due to their contrasting points of view. While Villehardouin was the Marshall of Champagne, Robert of Clari was a poor knight, and his account is often regarded as reflecting the opinion and feeling in the ranks of the Crusade.[7]

Villehardouin’s account is valuable largely due to his high standing in the Crusade, a quality which is emphasised by ‘Chance’ historians but criticised by the likes of Byzantinists such as Alphandéry, Brand, Pears and Riant. While Villehardouin must be considered a key historian due to his position and resultant intimate knowledge of the negotiations and treaties undertaken in the course of the campaign, the aforementioned Byzantinists have criticised this as being an ‘official point of view.’[8] In terms of his accuracy regarding the events of the campaign, its precise and specific nature is praised by supporters and critics alike, with some earlier historians such as Michaud (1767-1839) doing little more than summarising Villehardouin.[9]

The account does have problems however, not least the fact that it was written in medieval French, translation from which has inevitably thrown up problems and errors with mistranslations.[10] As well as this practical consideration, Burrow considers Villehardouin to be biased by his involvement in the campaign, embodied by a certain tone of self-justification which arguably shapes the narrative.[11] There is also the argument made by Beer and Dufournet that Dandolo was romanticised by Villehardouin, and framed in a ‘typical epic-hero mold’ like that of La Chanson de Roland, which seems plausible when one considers his account of the assault on Constantinople.[12] Villehardouin claims that Dandolo personally led the attack up the beach at Constantinople, despite his physical handicaps.[13] While there are obvious advantages to having such an eyewitness account as Villehardouin’s, the idea that the events of the Fourth Crusade were a series of accidents is far too simplistic. Such an inane view is perhaps symptomatic of the fact that Villehardouin was a soldier, not a historian in the modern sense of the word.[14]

Robert’s account by contrast is a view from the ranks, and reflects the more general feeling of the crusaders. While this makes it more useful in some ways than Villehardouin’s account, it does also mean that Robert was not particularly well-informed about the private meetings and negotiations which Villehardouin took part in.[15] This inevitably has led to inaccuracies in his account, which are shown in the numbers he reports for the deficit, and the projected size of the Crusade, which Villehardouin puts at 33,500 but Robert states is 104,000.[16] While Queller almost dismisses this as Robert having ‘no head for figures,’ it remains an issue, if a minor one, considering these are the only two points at which Robert is different when compared to Villehardouin.

Robert’s account suffers from similar limitations to that of Villehardouin in terms of translation and bias. Bagley has also argued that Robert divides the participants into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ individuals, although it has been done very generally, with the Venetians being ‘good’ and the leaders being ‘bad.’[17] While this is useful because it likely shows the feeling in the camp, the strength of Robert’s feeling may have led him to exaggerate somewhat. Robert is useful only in complementing to Villehardouin because of how removed he was from the centre of power – it is both a strength and a weakness. Even if he is of less use than Villehardouin, Robert likewise supports the ‘Theory of Accidents’ idea.

The ‘Traditionalist’ School

The existence of a ‘traditionalist school’ is potentially contentious, as there are at least five distinct phases of Fourth Crusade historiography. The first phase lasted from 1204-1861 uncontested, and was based largely upon Villehardouin’s account – a proponent of the Theory of Accidents. Following this, from 1861-1877 came the first incarnation of the Byzantinist Premeditation Theory led by Louis de Mas-Latrie, and later supported and expanded by the likes of Hopf and Riant.[18] In the early 20th century, Norden put forward a modified Chance Theory, where he argued that the Fourth Crusade was not quite a series of accidents, but certainly not premeditated, arguing that it was the product of a certain mind-set prevalent in the west.[19]

Following this, in what is perhaps considered ‘modern historiography,’ Runciman and Mayer took up the argument from a Byzantinist point of view, which meant a return to the Premeditation or ‘Intrigue’ Theory, starting in 1954 with the publishing of Runciman’s History of the Crusades.[20] The idea seemed to have returned to prevalence until 1977 when Queller returned to Norden’s idea of a modified Chance Theory. Ever since, the two ideas have remained alongside each other, despite Madden’s claims that by the end of the twentieth century, the Chance Theory was ‘unknown in academic scholarship.’[21] Some Byantinist historians such as Brand and Nicol retain their views in spite of Queller’s conclusions, however others such as Browning and Runciman ignore them altogether.[22] More recently in 2003 Harris and Angold have begun to form alternative theses, placing more emphasis on the long term causes of the diversion from Egypt.[23]

The discussion over the existence of a ‘traditionalist’ school then might seem simple: the Theory of Accidents put forward by Villehardouin is the traditionalist school – the argument stood largely unchallenged until 1861, with other contemporary accounts being largely dismissed due to their more obvious bias.[24] The most obvious examples of these are the accounts of Nicetas Choniates and the Gesta Innocentii, which are skewed strongly in favour of the Byzantine Empire and the papacy respectively.[25]  There are however those who would argue that Villehardouin and other authors of the primary sources should not be considered historians and should therefore not be included in the historiography. This would make de Mas-Latrie and his Premeditation Theory the traditionalist school.

Still more problems arise when one considers the definition of ‘modern historiography,’ as many Crusade historians, including Madden earlier in his career, refer to Runciman in 1954 as the significant commencement of the debate over the Fourth Crusade.[26] Only thorough surveys include the debate beginning in 1861, but it seems impossible to leave out the roots of the more modern points of view, and de Mas-Latrie should be considered the beginning of modern historiography. Therefore the Premeditation Theory of de Mas-Latrie should be considered the traditionalist school of modern Fourth Crusade historiography. The argument would be that although Villehardouin and other contemporaries must be considered historians, their viewpoints should not be taken into account as part of the historiography precisely because of their contemporary nature – many perceptions come with the benefit of hindsight, and knowledge of the wider context.

The Byzantinist School

The first point at which the Byzantinist school singled out the Venetians for blame in diverting the Fourth Crusade was in 1861. It started with Louis de Mas-Latrie based his argument on the accounts of Nicetas Choniates, a Byzantine politician, Ernoul the Cypriot chronicler and the Chronicle of Novgorod.[27] All of these accounts are decidedly anti-Venetian in nature, with Choniates perhaps being the more widely studied. De Mas-Latrie’s thesis was essentially that the Venetians as an entity were responsible for the diversion of the Fourth Crusade, due to their commercial interests in Egypt, and their relations with the Byzantine Empire – de Mas-Latrie claims they were on the verge of war anyway.[28] Much of the evidence for this thesis is based on the account of Nicetas Choniates, whose somewhat extreme Byzantinist views form an obvious basis for a Premeditation Theory with its stereotyped description of Latins.[29] That the Venetians are those held to account is beyond doubt, as is stated by Angold.[30] Even Byzantinist historians such as Nicol recognise that there is a certain amount of bias present in Choniates’ account, who argues that Venetian competition with Genoa and Pisa led them to seek ‘monopoly through conquest.’[31] By extension, Choniates has a somewhat negative view of Doge Enrico Dandolo, although it is more as a face of the Venetian entity than the Doge personally – the ideas of Dandolo harbouring personal grudges against Byzantium came in later.[32]

It is easy to see why such significance is placed on Choniates’ account as he was a Byzantine senator as well as chronicler, which means he would have been close to the centre of Byzantine power and so would have been a near eyewitness account, particularly following 1175. Magdalino argues specifically that Choniates’ combination of power, nuance, acuity and high moral tone make the account hard to refute initially, although he goes on to argue more credibly that the merits which make the account so convincing also make him a ‘sophisticated manipulator of the facts.’[33] This idea is supported by many of the Chance theorists, who point out that Choniates description of Dandolo in particular is second-hand – how could he have had such insights into a Doge he had never met?[34]

The argument gained further support in 1867 when Karl Hopf appeared to have dated a commercial treaty between Venice and Egypt to just prior to the onset of the Fourth Crusade. This seemed to put the idea that the Venetians had diverted the Crusade knowingly from Egypt to Constantinople.[35] Although this dating was later definitively disproved in 1877 by Hanotaux, the idea has survived in both popular works and those of some scholars.[36] Many of the more modern Byzantinists have argued that the Venetians did not need the excuse of a non-aggression treaty with the Egyptians in order to steer the Crusade to Constantinople, which would therefore incorporate Hanotaux. As mentioned above however, the story has persisted.

The next development in the theory of Premeditation came in the 1950s with Runciman, although he labelled it the ‘clash of civilisations’ theory. Others quickly adopted and modified the idea, emphasising different parts of it. The emphasis of the ‘clash’ theory itself is on the gradually deteriorating relations between western and eastern Christendom. Runciman particularly marked out the expulsion of the Venetians in 1171, the 1182 massacre and the 1185 sack of Thessalonica as significant points, while others such as Vasiliev, Gibbon and Ostrogorsky  have pointed as far back as 1054.[37] In the short term, the claim is that this animosity manifested most strongly in Doge Dandolo and the Venetians, and the theories as to their motivations vary widely, but equally negatively. It is similar to de Mas-Latrie’s original thesis, although placed in the context of gradually deteriorating relations between Byzantium and Venice.[38] While it is important to examine the long-term context, it is unwise to over-interpret events, as many Byzantinists appear to have.

Something which is a feature of this development, and was not part of de Mas-Latrie’s is the focus on Dandolo personally, and his supposed hatred of Byzantium. Theories of varying credibility began to circulate about the circumstances of Dandolo’s blinding and how it caused his hatred of the Empire, including the most imaginative: that the Byzantine Emperor Manuel used a burning glass on his eyes.[39] The more believable accounts draw upon Villehardouin’s claim that Dandolo’s blindness was the product of a blow to the head, although some take this further with only limited evidence, claiming that he sustained this injury during the embassy to Constantinople in 1172, during a brawl. While some Chance theorists claim a complete lack of evidence for this, the idea has been traced to the Chronica Venetum of Andrea Dandolo written over a century later, between 1344-51.[40] Understandably, this source has been granted less weight than that of Villehardouin, who claims that Dandolo had his sight until 1176.[41]

The argument is that Dandolo planned the course of the Fourth Crusade from the outset, including the supposed extortion of the crusaders so they would be in his debt. The counter to this is more than plausible; such planning would have relied on superhuman prescience.[42] Much of this debate within the Byzantinist school developed in the twenty years after Runciman first put forward the idea, but was only seriously challenged in 1977 with the emergence of Queller’s modified Chance Theory. While Brand and Nicol have tried to form counters to this latest incarnation of the thesis, Runciman and Browning have simply ignored it and others have considered it of similar weight to populist works.[43]

The ‘Theory of Accidents’

By contrast the ‘Theory of Accidents’ has its origins in the Crusade itself, with the accounts of Villehardouin and Robert of Clari, although the argument is potentially compromised, as is mentioned above. The first major development in the thesis came in direct opposition to de Mas-Latrie’s Byzantinist thesis of 1861 with Norden suggesting a ‘modified Chance Theory,’ in 1898. Norden essentially synthesised the Chance Theory set forward by Villehardouin and the Premeditation Theory, arguing that relations had been deteriorating between Byzantium and the Latin west, but that the expedition itself was not the victim of a conspiracy. If anything he casts the ‘blame’ on the crusaders rather than the Venetians, arguing that the crusaders were confronted with a series of opportunities, which they took.[44] It must be stressed that it is far from the simple and short-sighted approach of Villehardouin, but it does have similar fundamentals.[45]

Once again, the development of the school relied on that of the Byzantinist view. Following Runciman’s thesis of 1954, the next expansion of the Chance Theory came in 1977 with Queller, and later supported by the Riley-Smith and then his own student Madden, as well as Tyerman and Phillips.[46] The main points of the argument are similar to those of Norden, and the two theses are often compared.[47] Many of Queller’s other points are direct counters to those of the Byzantinists – there are arguments against the negative state of Byzantine-Venetian relations, Dandolo’s cynical nature and the mercantile opportunism of the Venetians in general.[48]

Much of the argument rests on the comparative reliability of Villehardouin and Robert of Clari against Nicetas Choniates, and the flaws and assumptions made by the ‘clash’ theory. Madden makes the point that, particularly in the case of Dandolo, Choniates is contradicted by a diverse body of contemporary witnesses.[49] The good point is made that Villehardouin and Robert of Clari are both eyewitnesses, while Choniates never met Dandolo, and is only really reliable for events between 1175 and the sack in 1204 – even then only from a Byzantine point of view. Queller and Harris both argue that the Byzantinist school rests on a series of assumptions or flaws, depending on which article you read. The assumptions which Queller points out he then proceeded to argue against, and form his central thesis. He argues for Venetian crusading motives, that the target of Egypt was certainly advantageous, and that Venice had no interest in diverting the Crusade to Constantinople.[50] By contrast, Harris opposes the Byzantinist view of the wider context of East-West relations, arguing that the two civilisations were in fact closely intertwined through intermarriage and the Byzantine reliance on western manpower, and that there was in fact a causal link between the growing tension and the sack.[51] Another criticism which is more than credible is Phillips’ point that the sense of outrage among Byzantinist historians overshadows the broader critical approach, which would mean they are not as objective as other historians at the time perhaps were.

The Chance theorists have been if anything helped by the arrival of populist works which support the Byzantinist school. There are numerous populist works, and they almost exclusively support the outdated view set forward by Runciman. Amongst the most heavily criticised are those of Godfrey, Bradford and Sayers, with Madden stating that there are few footnotes, errors of fact, and limited depth of reading.[52] If anything, these unscholarly books have only detracted from the Byzantinist argument and thus added to the Chance Theory as they generally draw from each other, leading them to simply deteriorate, with the repetition of myths, or conjecture lacking evidence.

‘Post-Revisionism’

While Harris is a self-styled ‘post-revisionist,’ it has been shown above that his argument is nearer to that of the Chance theorists than is perhaps thought.  Harris considers Angold another whose viewpoint is not strictly Chance Theory or Premeditation.[53] These theses have developed in the last two decades, with both Harris and Angold publishing books in 2003 which put forward their new ideas. Although they are generalised as ‘post-revisionism,’ the ideas are somewhat different. Harris’ argument is essentially that of a failure of Byzantine foreign policy, a view which is not as original as he might claim – Brand made a similar point almost thirty years prior and Richard’s argument is also comparable.[54]

Angold’s argument is somewhat different, as he examines both long- and short-term accidents. In a sense his theory is also one of accidents, but he looks further back, at the history of Byzantine-Venetian relations, as well as Byzantine relations with the wider western Christian world, and the accidents which took place. In his thesis, one can clearly discern aspects of other arguments. As an example, he argues that the expedition itself was a series of accidents – he does however also argue that Byzantine relations with Venice were poor at the inception of the Crusade.[55] In general, his thesis is somewhere between Byzantinist and Chance theorist in nature when considering the period preceding the Crusade. While he argues that relations were indeed poor, he challenges the premise that taking Byzantium was the answer to Venetian troubles, something that can perhaps be considered a legacy of Queller’s initial thesis.[56] However when considering the campaign itself, his argument aligns more with the Theory of Accidents, including with regards to Dandolo himself.

My own view does not fit neatly into one or another of the broad schools discussed above, although it perhaps comes closer to the Chance Theory than the Byzantinist viewpoint. Byzantine-Venetian relations certainly were strained, for all the claims that eighty-five per cent of reparations for 1171 had been paid by 1203, and relations had been fully repaired.[57] The mistake of many historians has been to consider only the most well-known events, those of 1171 and 1182. What is perhaps more important is study of the chrysobulls through the two centuries before the Fourth Crusade, the trade negotiations entered into with the other Italian cities, and the tension that created throughout Europe, as Emperors attempted to manipulate not just the Italian cities, but also the Holy Roman Empire and the Normans in Sicily. It is, however unlikely that relations were quite as bad as has been suggested by such Byzantinists as Brand.[58]

What is equally clear is that the expedition was not planned out, by Dandolo or anyone else. For the expedition to be following a plan, there were too many variables; too many contingencies had to fall into place. Such planning would have relied upon near-supernatural intelligence. While possible, it remains unlikely. Most compelling of all is the argument put forward by Pryor, about the composition of the Venetian fleet. The fleet was suited for a campaign to Egypt, much more so than Constantinople, as the ships did not lend themselves to an amphibious assault of the type which later took place.[59] Many would probably not have noticed the subtle difference, and so there would have been no reason to jeopardise the campaign for the sake of a cover.

Although the course of the Crusade was not premeditated, it would be inaccurate to call it a series of accidents. An argument among some historians is that there was a gradual decline in relations between Byzantium and both Venice and western Christendom – that there was a development of a certain mind-set alongside and perhaps as part of Crusader ideals. Magdalino in particular talks of the diversion being ‘a reversion to a prevailing tendency,’ claiming that the ‘sack expressed and deepened old hatreds,’ but he is not the only one. Phillips makes a similar point, and Tyerman describes it as a product of policy, not conspiracy, and overall the argument is more than credible.[60] In short, the events of the Crusade itself should be framed within wider, longer term causes as has been argued by Kindlimann, although they should not be considered accidents, as Angold suggests.[61]

Conclusion

Overall then the debate seems no closer to coming to a conclusion than when it opened in 1861, despite Chance theorist claims that the Premeditation Theory is unknown in academic scholarship. One might make the mistake of assuming that, because Queller’s thesis has survived without any serious challenge since 1977, it means that his is the standard work. It is far more complicated than this however – there are both Byzantinist and Chance Theory arguments which are currently alive and well, as has been mentioned above. Despite this, some important conclusions can be drawn through the above analysis of the development of the historiography. The contemporary authors should certainly be considered historians despite their flaws and potentially compromised viewpoints, and as such, Villehardouin and the simple Theory of Accidents are to be considered the traditionalist school.[62]

Therefore, this makes de Mas-Latrie’s Premeditation Theory the revisionist school. It is possible to argue that Norden’s argument is far enough away from the original Theory of Accidents to warrant it being named post-revisionism. However his main influence was Villehardouin, and as such he should only be considered to be revisiting traditionalism, or at least his own interpretation of it. Similarly, Runciman and the like merely re-interpret and expand on de Mas-Latrie’s argument, and so true post-revisionism should be restricted to Angold’s view, alongside which the thesis above should perhaps be placed. Although these broad schools do exist, there are many ideas which do not fit entirely into one school or another, and there will continue to be for as long as the debate continues. This essay has by no means been exhaustive in its examination of the different arguments, as there are too many myriad aspects of the Fourth Crusade and its context. It has however examined the more significant facets of the development of the historiography concerning the Fourth Crusade and its background of Byzantine-Venetian tension. As Luchaire said in 1907 ‘the issue will likely never be settled,’ but it seems premature to resign oneself to that fact, without at least trying for some sort of consensus.[63]

Word limit: 5,048

[1] J.N. Claster, Sacred Violence: The European Crusades to the Middle East, 1095-1396 (Toronto, 2009), p.214.

[2] For a brief summary, see J. Harris, ‘The Debate on the Fourth Crusade,’ History Compass 2 (2004), pp.1-10.

[3] An example of this is perhaps M. Angold, The Fourth Crusade (Great Britain, 2003), although Harris also counts himself as such, see Harris, ‘Debate,’ p.6.

[4] T.F. Madden (ed.), The Fourth Crusade: Event, Aftermath and Perceptions (Aldershot & Burlington, 2008), p.viii, D.M. Nicol, Byzantium and Venice: A Study in Diplomatic and Cultural Relations (Cambridge, 1988), p.125.

[5] For a comprehensive list, see D.E. Queller and I.B. Katele, ‘Attitudes towards the Venetians in the Fourth Crusade: The Western Sources,’ The International History Review 4 (1982), pp.1-36.

[6] Angold, Fourth Crusade, p.11, see also N. Jaspert, The Crusades (New York & London, 2006), p.52.

[7] D.E. Queller, ‘Review of “La Conquista di Constantinopoli (1198-1216),” by Roberto di Clari (trans. Nada Petrone),’ Speculum 49 (1974), p.719.

[8] Queller and Katele, ‘Attitudes,’ p.8-9, see also J. Burrow, A History of Histories: Epics, Chronicles, Romances and Inquiries from Herodotus and Thucydides to the Twentieth Century (London, 2007), p.261.

[9] J.J. Norwich,  A Short History of Byzantium (London, 1997), p. 299, Harris, ‘Debate,’ p.2, D.E. Queller and T.F. Madden, The Fourth Crusade: The Conquest of Constantinople (Philadelphia, 1997), p.18.

[10] J.L. La Monte, ‘Some Problems in Crusading Historiography,’ Speculum 15 (1940), p.63.

[11] J. Shepard, ‘Review of “The Fourth Crusade: Event and Context” by Michael Angold,’ The International History Review 27 (2005), p.348, Burrow, History, p.262, D.E. Queller and T.F. Madden, The Fourth Crusade: The Conquest of Constantinople (Philadelphia, 1997), p.18.

[12] Queller and Katele, ‘Attitudes,’ p.11.

[13] Geoffrey of Villehardouin, Chronicle of The Fourth Crusade and the Conquest of Constantinople, ch.42, http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/villehardouin.asp accessed 19/3/13.

[14] Queller and Madden, Fourth Crusade, p.18.

[15] Queller and Katele, ‘Attitudes,’ p.13.

[16] Robert of Clari, The Conquest of Constantinople in eds. S.J. Allen and E. Amt, The Crusades: A Reader (Toronto, 2003), p.227.

[17] Queller and Katele, ‘Attitudes,’ p.16.

[18] A.A. Vasiliev, History of the Byzantine Empire, 324-1453, vol.2 2nd edn. (Madison & London, 1952), p.456, J. Harris, Byzantium and the Crusaders (London, 2003), p.xiv, H.E. Mayer, The Crusades Second Edition (Oxford, 1988), pp.201-2.

[19] For a broad overview of the earlier historiography, see Mayer, Crusades, pp.201-2, D.E. Queller and G.W. Day, ‘Some Arguments in Defense of the Venetians on the Fourth Crusade,’ The American Historical Review 81 (1976), pp.717-8.

[20] S. Runciman, A History of the Crusades, vol.3: The Kingdom of Acre (Cambridge, 1954), pp.114-5.

[21] T.F. Madden (ed.), The Fourth Crusade: Event, Aftermath and Perceptions (Aldershot & Burlington, 2008), p.ix.

[22] T.F. Madden, ‘Outside and Inside the Fourth Crusade,’ The International History Review 17 (1995), p.734.

[23] Harris, ‘Debate,’ pp.6-7.

[24] Argued by Vasiliev, History, p.456.

[25] Queller and Katele, ‘Attitudes,’ pp.21-3.

[26] Madden, ‘Outside,’ p.730, Angold, Fourth Crusade, p.4.

[27] Mayer, Crusades, p.201, Madden, ‘Outside,’ p.732.

[28] J. Richard, The Crusades, c.1071-c.1291, trans. J. Birrell (Cambridge & New York, 1999), p.248.

[29] A. Kazhdan, ‘Latins and Franks in Byzantium: Perception and Reality from the Eleventh to the Twelfth Century,’ in eds. A.E. Laiou and R.P. Mottahedeh, The Crusades from the Perspective of Byzantium and the Muslim World (Washington, 2001), p.88, C. Tyerman, God’s War (London & New York, 2006), p.515.

[30] Angold, Fourth Crusade, p.8.

[31] Nicol, Byzantium, p.88, Queller and Day, ‘Some Arguments,’ pp.734-6.

[32] Nicetas Choniates in C.M. Brand, Byzantium confronts the West, 1180-1204 (Cambridge, 1968), pp.203-4.

[33] P. Magdalino, ‘The Byzantine Empire, 1118-1204,’ in eds. D. Luscombe and J. Riley-Smith, The New Cambridge Medieval History, vol.4: c.1024-c.1198 (Cambridge, 1995-2005), p.613.

[34] J.H. Pryor, ‘The Venetian Fleet for the Fourth Crusade and the Diversion of the Crusade to Constantinople,’ in eds. M. Bull and N. Housley, The Experience of Crusading (Cambridge, 2003), p.106, T.F. Madden, Enrico Dandolo and the Rise of Venice (Baltimore, 2003), p.118.

[35] Queller and Madden, Fourth Crusade, p.51, Harris, Byzantium, p.xiv.

[36] J. Phillips, The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople (London, 2005), p.70, Madden (ed.), Fourth Crusade, p.ix, J. Phillips, Holy Warriors: A Modern History of the Crusades (London, 2009), p.174, Queller and Day, ‘Some Arguments,’ p.729, Mayer, Crusades, pp.201-2, Harris, Byzantium, p.xiv.

[37] Harris, Byzantium, pp.xiv-xv.

[38] R. Browning, The Byzantine Empire Rev. Ed. (Washington, 1992), p.176, for a more complete detailing of the decline, see Nicol, Byzantium, pp.70-111.

[39] E. Bradford, The Great Betrayal: Constantinople 1204 (London, 1967), p.31, see also, Phillips, Fourth Crusade, p.58.

[40] J.J. Norwich, A History of Venice (London, 1982), p.124, Harris, Byzantium, p.115, Queller and Katele, ‘Attitudes,’ p.7.

[41] Norwich, Venice, p.125.

[42] Queller and Madden, Fourth Crusade, p.55.

[43] See Madden, ‘Outside,’ pp.734-6.

[44] Harris, ‘Debate,’ p.4, E. Sakellariou, ‘Byzantine and Modern Greek Perceptions of the Crusades,’ in ed. H.J. Nicholson, Palgrave Advances in the Crusades (London, 2005), p.254, Vasiliev, History, p.458.

[45] M. Angold, ‘The road to 1204: the Byzantine background to the Fourth Crusade,’ Journal of Medieval History 25 (1999), p.257.

[46] Madden, ‘Outside,’ pp.733-4, Tyerman, God’s War, p.543.

[47] G.A. Zinn Jr., ‘Review of “The Fourth Crusade: The Conquest of Constantinople, 1201-1204” by Donald E. Queller,’ Church History 48 (1979), p.337.

[48] Queller and Madden, Fourth Crusade, p.10, Angold, Fourth Crusade, p.58, Phillips, Holy Warriors, pp.173-8, for on overview of the thesis, see Queller and Day, ‘Some Arguments,’ pp.717-37.

[49] Madden, Enrico Dandolo, pp.118-9.

[50] Queller and Day, ‘Some Arguments,’ p.718.

[51] Harris, Byzantium, pp.xv-xvi, ‘Debate,’ pp.5-6.

[52] Madden, ‘Outside,’ pp.735-6.

[53] Harris, ‘Debate,’ pp.6-7.

[54] See Sakellariou, ‘Byzantine,’ p.254, Richard, Crusades, p.248.

[55] Angold, Fourth Crusade, p.88.

[56] Queller and Day, ‘Some Arguments,’ p.732.

[57] T.F. Madden, ‘Vows and Contracts in the Fourth Crusade: The Treaty of Zara and the Attack on Constantinople in 1204,’ The International History Review 15 (1993), p.445.

[58] Brand, Byzantium, p.195.

[59] See Pryor, ‘Venetian Fleet,’ pp.103-23.

[60] Magdalino, ‘Byzantine,’ pp.611, 633, Phillips, Fourth Crusade, p.xxii, C. Tyerman, Fighting for Christendom: Holy War and the Crusades (Oxford, 2004), p.59.

[61] Sakellariou, ‘Byzantine,’ p.254.

[62] Vasiliev, History, p.456

[63] Madden, ‘Outside,’ p.738.

Bibliography

Primary Sources                                                                

Geoffrey of Villehardouin, The Conquest of Constantinople, in Allen, S. J., and E. Amt (eds.), The Crusades: A Reader (Toronto, 2003)

Geoffrey of Villehardouin, Chronicle of The Fourth Crusade and the Conquest of Constantinople http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/villehardouin.asp accessed 19/3/13

Robert of Clari, The Conquest of Constantinople, in Allen, S. J., and E. Amt (eds.), The Crusades: A Reader (Toronto, 2003)

Robert of Clari, Chapters 1-30 http://web.archive.org/web/20110605020855/http://www.deremilitari.org/RESOURCES/SOURCES/clari1.htm accessed 18/3/2013 accessed 18/3/13

Robert of Clari, Chapters 31-60 http://web.archive.org/web/20110605021016/http://www.deremilitari.org/RESOURCES/SOURCES/clari2.htm  accessed 18/3/13

Robert of Clari, Chapters 61-90 http://web.archive.org/web/20110605021005/http://www.deremilitari.org/RESOURCES/SOURCES/clari3.htm accessed 18/3/13

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Andrea, A. J., ‘Innocent III, the Fourth Crusade and the Coming Apocalypse,’ in S. J. Ridyard (ed.), The Medieval Crusade (Woodbridge, 2004), pp.97-106

Angold, M., ‘The Road to 1204: the Byzantine background to the Fourth Crusade,’ Journal of Medieval History 25 (1999), pp.257-278

Angold, M., The Byzantine Empire 1025-1204: A Political History (London & New York, 1984)

Angold, M., The Fourth Crusade (Great Britain, 2003)

Bartlett, W. B., God Wills It! An Illustrated History of the Crusades (Stroud, 1999)

Bradford, E., The Great Betrayal: Constantinople 1204 (London, 1967)

Brand, C. M., ‘A Byzantine Plan for the Fourth Crusade,’ Speculum 43 (1968), pp.462-475

Brand, C. M., Byzantium confronts the West, 1180-1204 (Cambridge, 1968)

Brown, H. F., ‘The Venetians and the Venetian Quarter in Constantinople to the Close of the Twelfth Century,’ Journal of Hellenic Studies 40 (1920), pp.68-88

Browning, R., The Byzantine Empire, revised edition (Washington, 1992)

Brundage, J. A., ‘Recent Crusade Historiography: Some Observations and Suggestions,’ The Catholic Historical Review 49 (1964), pp.493-507

Brundage, J. A., The Crusades: A Documentary Survey (Milwaukee, 1962)

Burrow, J., A History of Histories: Epics, Chronicles, Romances and Inquiries from Herodotus and Thucydides to the Twentieth Century (London, 2007)

Claster, J. N., Sacred Violence: The European Crusades to the Middle East, 1095-1396 (Toronto, 2009)

Constable, G., ‘The Historiography of the Crusades in A. E. Laiou and R. P. Mottahedeh (eds.), The Crusades from the Perspective of Byzantium and the Muslim World (Washington, 2001), pp.1-22

David, C. W., ‘American Historiography of the Middle Ages, 1884-1934,’ Speculum 10 (1935), pp.125-137

Dennis, G. T., ‘Defenders of the Christian People: Holy War in Byzantium,’ in A. E. Laiou and R. P. Mottahedeh (eds.), The Crusades from the Perspective of Byzantium and the Muslim World (Washington, 2001), pp.31-40

Fotheringham, J. K., ‘Genoa and the Fourth Crusade,’ The English Historical Review 25 (1910), pp.26-57

Godfrey, 1204: The Unholy Crusade (Oxford & New York, 1980)

Gregory, T. E., A History of Byzantium (Oxford, 2005)

Harris, J., ‘The Debate on the Fourth Crusade,’ History Compass 2 (2004), pp.1-10

Harris, J., Byzantium and the Crusades (London, 2003)

Harris, J., Constantinople: Capital of Byzantium (London, 2007)

Hendy, M. F., ‘Byzantium, 1081-1204: an economic reappraisal,’ in A. Jotischky, The Crusades: Critical Concepts in Historical Studies, vol.1 (Abingdon & New York, 2008), pp.169-186

Hillenbrand, C., The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives (Edinburgh, 1999)

Hodgman, A. W., ‘The Fourth Crusade,’ The Classical Journal 43 (1948), pp.225-228

Housley, N., ‘Crusades against Christians: Their Origins and Early Development c.1000-1216,’ in T. F. Madden (ed.), The Crusades (Oxford, 2002), pp.69-98

Housley, N., The Crusaders (Stroud, 2002)

http://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/01/crusaders-and-historians-42    accessed 9/2/13

Hussey, J. M., ‘Byzantium and the Crusades, 1081-1204,’ in K. M. Setton, A History of the Crusades, vol.2: The Later Crusades, 1189-1311 (Madison & London, 1969), pp.123-151

Jaspert, N., The Crusades (New York & London, 2006)

Jordan, W. C., ‘Review of “An Ungodly War: The Sack of Constantinople and the Fourth Crusade” by W. B. Barlett,’ Church History 71 (2002), pp.185-186

Kacznski, B. M., ‘Review of “Medieval Diplomacy and the Fourth Crusade” by Donald E. Queller,’ The International History Review 4 (1982), pp.152-154

Kazhdan, A., ‘Latins and Franks in Byzantium: Perception and Reality from the Eleventh to the Twelfth Century,’ in A. E. Laiou and R. P. Mottahedeh (eds.), The Crusades from the Perspective of Byzantium and the Muslim World (Washington, 2001), pp.83-100

Kostick, C., The Crusade and the Near East: Cultural Histories (Abingdon, 2011)

La Monte, J. L., ‘Some Problems in Crusading Historiography,’ Speculum 15 (1940), pp.57-75

Laiou, A. E., ‘Byzantine Trade with Christians and Muslims and the Crusades,’ in A. E. Laiou and R. P. Mottahedeh (eds.), The Crusades from the Perspective of Byzantium and the Muslim World (Washington, 2001), pp.157-196

Lane, F. C., Venice: A Maritime Republic (Baltimore, 1973)

Lock, P., The Routledge Companion to the Crusades (Abingdon, 2006)

MacEvitt, C., The Crusades and the Christian World of the East: Rough Tolerance (Philadelphia, 2008)

Macrides, R., ‘Constantinople: the crusaders’ gaze,’ in R. Macrides (ed.), Travel in the Byzantine World: Papers from the Thirty-fourth Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies, Birmingham, April 2000 (Aldershot & Burlington, 2002), pp.193-212

Madden, T. F. (ed.), The Fourth Crusade: Event, Aftermath and Perception (Aldershot & Burlington, 2008)

Madden, T. F., ‘Outside and Inside the Fourth Crusade,’ The International History Review 17 (1995), pp.726-743

Madden, T. F., ‘Venice, the Papacy and the Crusades before 1204,’ in S. J. Ridyard (ed.), The Medieval Crusade (Woodbridge, 2004), pp.85-96

Madden, T. F., ‘Vows and Contracts in the Fourth Crusade: The Treaty of Zara and the Attack on Constantinople in 1204,’ The International History Review 15 (1993), pp.441-468

Madden, T. F., Enrico Dandolo and the Rise of Venice (Baltimore, 2003)

Magdalino, P., ‘The Byzantine Empire, 1118-1204,’ in D. Luscombe and J. Riley-Smith (eds.), The New Cambridge Medieval History, vol.4: c.1024-c.1198 (Cambridge, 1995-2005), pp.611-643

Magdalino, P., ‘The Phenomenon of Manuel I Komnenos,’ in J. D. Howard-Johnston (ed.), Byzantium and the West, c.850-c.1200: Proceedings of the XVIII Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies (Amsterdam, 1988), pp.171-200

Marin, S., ‘Between Justification and Glory: The Venetian Chronicles’ View of the Fourth Crusade,’ in T. F. Madden (ed.), The Fourth Crusade: Event, Aftermath and Perception (Aldershot & Burlington, 2008), pp.113-121

Marshall, C., ‘The Crusading motivation of the Italian City Republics in the Latin East, 1096-1104,’ in M. Bull and N. Housley (eds.), The Experience of Crusading (Cambridge, 2003), pp.60-79

Martin, M., ‘The Venetians in the Byzantine Empire before 1204,’ in J. D. Howard-Johnston (ed.), Byzantium and the West, c.850-c.1200: Proceedings of the XVIII Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies (Amsterdam, 1988), pp.201-214

Mayer, H. E., The Crusades Second Edition (Oxford, 1988)

McNeal, E. H., and R. L. Wolff, ‘The Fourth Crusade,’ in K. M. Setton, A History of the Crusades, vol.2: The Later Crusades, 1189-1311 (Madison & London, 1969), pp.153-186

Moore, J. C., Pope Innocent III: To Root up and Plant (Aldershot, 2011)

Murray, A. V., The Crusades: an encyclopedia (Oxford, 2006)

Nicol, D. M., Byzantium and Venice: A Study in Diplomatic and Cultural Relations (Cambridge, 1988)

Norwich, J. J., A History of Venice (London, 1982)

Norwich, J. J., A Short History of Byzantium (London, 1997)

Oldenbourg, Z., The Crusades (trans. A. Carter) (London, 2001)

Paine, M., The Crusades (Harpenden, 2001)

Phillips, J., Holy Warriors: A Modern History of the Crusades (London, 2009)

Phillips, J., The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople (London, 2005)

Powell, J. M., ‘Rereading the Crusades: An Introduction,’ The International History Review 17 (1995), pp.663-669

Pryor, J. H., ‘The Maritime Republics,’ in D. Abulafia (ed.), The New Cambridge Medieval History, vol.5: c.1198-c.1300 (London, 1999), pp.419-446

Pryor, J. H., ‘The Venetian Fleet for the Fourth Crusade and the Diversion of the Crusade to Constantinople,’ in M. Bull and N. Housley (eds.), The Experience of Crusading (Cambridge, 2003), pp.103-123

Qadir, K., ‘Modern Historiography: The Relevance of the Crusades,’ Islamic Studies 46 (2007), pp.527-528

Queller, D. E., ‘Review of “La conquista di Constantinopoli (1198-1216)” by Robert of Clari,’ Speculum 49 (1974), pp.719-722

Queller, D. E., and G. W. Day, ‘Some arguments in defence of the Venetians on the Fourth Crusade,’ The American Historical Review 81 (1976), pp.717-737

Queller, D. E., and I. B. Katele, ‘Attitudes towards the Venetians in the Fourth Crusade: The Western Sources,’ The International History Review 4 (1982), pp.1-36

Queller, D. E., and T. F. Madden, The Fourth Crusade: The Conquest of Constantinople (Philadelphia, 1997)

Queller, D. E., T. K. Compton and D. A. Campbell, ‘The Fourth Crusade: the Neglected Majority,’ Speculum 49 (1974), pp.441-465

Richard, J., The Crusades, c.1071-c.1291, trans. J. Birrell (Cambridge & New York, 1999)

Ridyard, S. J. (ed.), The Medieval Crusade (Woodbridge, 2004)

Riley-Smith, J., The Crusades: A Short History (New Haven & London, 1987)

Rist, R., The Papacy and Crusading in Europe, 1198-1245 (London & New York, 2009)

Runciman, S., ‘Byzantium and the Crusades,’ in T. F. Madden (ed.), The Crusades (Oxford, 2002), pp.211-220

Runciman, S., A History of the Crusades, vol.3: The Kingdom of Acre (Cambridge, 1954)

Sakellariou, E., ‘Byzantine and Modern Greek Perceptions of the Crusades,’ in H. J. Nicholson (ed.) Palgrave Advances in the Crusades (London, 2005), pp.245-269

Schmandt, R. H., ‘The Fourth Crusade and the Just-War Theory,’ The Catholic Historical Review 61 (1975), pp.191-221

Shepard, J., ‘Review of “The Fourth Crusade: Event and Context” by Michael Angold,’ The International History Review 27 (2005), pp.347-350

Throop, S. A., Crusading as an Act of Vengeance 1095-1216 (Farnham, 2011)

Tyerman, C., Fighting for Christendom: Holy War and the Crusades (Oxford & New York, 2004)

Tyerman, C., God’s War (London & New York, 2006)

Tyerman, C., The Debate on the Crusades (Manchester & New York, 2011)

Vasiliev, A. A., History of the Byzantine Empire, 324-1453, vol.2, Second Edition (Madison & London, 1952)

Vryonis Jr., S., Byzantium and Europe (London, 1967)

Wright, C., ‘On the margins of Christendom: the impact of the Crusades on Byzantium,’ in C. Kostick (ed.), The Crusades and the Near East (Abingdon, 2011), pp.55-82

Zinn Jr., G. A., ‘Review of “The Fourth Crusade: The Conquest of Constantinople, 1201-1204” by Donald E. Queller,’ Church History 48 (1979), pp.337-338

Feedback:

70%

All the following feedback is rated on the following scale: Outstanding-Excellent-Good-Competent-Pass-Fail.

Choice and definition of topic: Excellent

Range of resources used: Outstanding-Excellent

Organization of the material: Excellent-Good

Critical approach to historiography: Excellent

Lucidity and cogency of argument: Excellent-Good

Depth of understanding and insight: Excellent

Factual accuracy: Excellent

Comprehensiveness of coverage: Excellent-Good

Fluent and correct English: Excellent-Good

Accurate spelling/proof reading: Excellent-Good

Sources cited correctly: Good-Competent

General Comments and Advice: This essay demonstrates a good understanding of the medieval and modern historiography, and a very impressive amount has been read and used, and it is well evaluated. The two chronicles are nicely compared. You have a good array of the more marginal sources too, and rightly give a good deal of attention to the 19th century historians. You say some important things about what the various schools/historians say about and other, and you categorise them intelligently. Lovely conclusion, but the preceding section on your own view should go there too.

I got a bit lost trying to keep track of the various terms used for schools of thought, but aside from that you address the various positions, with their various ‘sub-positions’ and variants/modifications well. You understand their development over time well. You could have said more about historians not wanting to clarify the primary sources as part of the historiography. Presumably it is more to do with the fact that the chronicles, especially Villehardouin, influenced events?

Nicely written. In fact a great deal of care has been taken of content and style. But you could have said more about the Doge, as per the title.

 

Seminar Report: Why did the nobility go on the First Crusade?

This report achieved a low 2:1 in the second year of my undergraduate.

Seminar Report – Why did the nobility go on the First Crusade?

 

The debate concerning the motivations of the lay elite on the First Crusade is a widely contested one. Many consider the roots of the historiography to be with Runciman in the 1950s, and it has since progressed through revisionism with such as Tyerman and Riley-Smith, all the way to the newest ‘post-revisionism,’ with the contrasting views of Throop and Murray. Traditionalists led by Runciman argue for material motives, while revisionists argue for genuine piety. So-called ‘post-revisionists’ argue a variety of motivations, though the most well-received have been Throop arguing for crusading being an act of vengeance, and Murray arguing the importance of familial ties and feudal obligations. Most convincing would be the argument that there was no single incentive for all the participants – different nobles had different motivations.

The traditionalist viewpoint, which has been largely dismissed as the historiography has developed, has developed from Runciman’s initial thesis that the younger sons of the European nobility lacked opportunities to inherit, and they saw the Crusades as a way to gain wealth and land in the Levant. Mayer later expanded this by arguing that poor economic conditions, combined with the internecine warfare of Europe made the nobility more open to the idea of the Crusades, especially preached as it was – to present the Holy Land as affluent. Both historians include the examples of the sack of Jerusalem in 1099, and the Jewish Pogroms on the journey to the Holy Land as evidence that the crusaders were motivated purely by greed.

This view has been strongly challenged by the likes of Riley-Smith, Phillips and Constable, who emphasise through the analysis of charters that many of the crusading nobles sold all they had to pay for their pilgrimage to the Holy Land. While the evidence would seem indisputable due to its physical nature, it could be argued that it was a calculated gamble; that they sold their possessions in Europe in the hope of gaining more in the Holy Land. More convincing though is the more obvious argument that genuine piety existed among the elite of Europe, that they felt it their religious duty to free the Holy Land, even at great personal cost.

The challenge to the traditionalist view ties in with the revisionist school, which argues that the crusaders were motivated by the prospect of redemption of their sins. Revisionist historians all have a different take on the same general argument, with Oldenbourg stating that the knightly classes were aware of the poor situation their souls were in, considering the almost constant warfare they were involved in, throughout Europe. Meanwhile, Riley-Smith emphasises the growth of contemporary hagiography, especially those accounts based on military saints, such as St. George and St. Michael. Alongside this, Tyerman has argued for the promotion of the theory of the ‘just war,’ which would obviously have made the Crusades appealing for professional soldiers such as much of the nobility were. The offering of papal indulgence to those who fought on Crusade meant that nobles could now fight and be absolved of their sins simultaneously. This would then seem to be a convincing argument for religious fervour being crucial in terms of motivating the nobility of Europe.

Although one can term the last school as ‘post-revisionist,’ this is potentially inaccurate, as there is no real unifying theme among the various historians’ arguments. As mentioned before, Throop argues that crusading was an act of vengeance, although she does qualify the idea with the point that it was nowhere near as prevalent as in the later Crusades. She does concede that the First Crusade planted the ‘roots’ for the idea though. Both Riley-Smith and Murray have argued differently, for the importance of familial ties and feudal obligation. The argument is that many people were obliged to make a pilgrimage simply as a result of their ties to other crusaders, and not for any of the other factors listed above.

It seems counter-productive to raise one factor above the others as the sole motivation of the early crusading nobility, as that act would oversimplify the diverse nature of the first crusaders themselves. While some nobles, such as Bohemond of Taranto and his second, Tancred, quite obviously went in search of material gain, the most convincing argument is that the majority of the noble participants, including Godfrey de Bouillon and Raymond of Toulouse went for genuine religious reasons. As France has said, what else could compel so many to travel so far in the eleventh century?

Feedback:

62%

All the following feedback is rated on the following scale: Outstanding-Excellent-Good-Competent-Pass-Fail.

 

Understanding and Insight: Excellent-Good

Critical approach to historiography: Good

Breadth and depth of reading: Good

Use of evidence and examples: Competent

Reflection on seminar performance: Excellent-Good

Sources cited correctly: Fail

Fluent and correct English: Excellent

Relevance: Excellent

General Comments and Advice: A good report, and well written. You didn’t manage to say much that was original, but it was a good survey nonetheless. It lacks footnotes however and a bibliography.

 

Did the conquerors of the Baltic lands put colonisation before conversion?

This essay achieved a mid-2:1 in the second year of my undergraduate.

Did the conquerors of the Baltic lands put colonisation before conversion?

The Baltic was conquered in a series of brutally efficient campaigns, initially led by the local elite, and later by military orders, in a process with spanned over two centuries. The conquerors of the Baltic lands almost exclusively considered themselves –or claimed to be- crusaders. While the wording of the question might not suggest it, the definition of a Crusade is crucial in determining the motives and aims of the majority of the conquerors of the Baltic. There are several significant distinctions to be made before one approaches the issue of ‘colonisation versus conversion,’ such as those between crusaders and clergy, and crusaders and pilgrims, as different groups moved into the area for a variety of reasons, and not all took part in the conquest of the Baltic.[1] Before any of the questions over the motives of the conquerors can be assessed however, the legitimacy of the Baltic ‘Crusades’ should be questioned, as this would perhaps give a greater insight into the character of the participants, especially in a region where religious identity played such a role. At first evaluation, the more likely argument is that the conquerors did indeed place colonisation, and by extension their own material and temporal welfare, before conversion.

As has been explained, the definition of what exactly constituted a Crusade is important for the discussion of whether or not the expeditions in the Baltic were Crusades or not. Perhaps the best summary of the general debate has been set forward by Constable, who states that there are four schools of thought. Traditionalists, such as Mayer, argue that only campaigns which set Jerusalem as the ultimate goal can be considered Crusades, though this has been challenged by Pluralists, championed by Riley-Smith, who place greater emphasis on the initiation of the expeditions: on the vows and indulgences of the participants. These two schools have later been joined by the Populists such as Alphandéry and Delaruelle, who focus on the collective prophetic and eschatological elements of the campaign, and Generalists such as Hehl, who class any act of holy war as a Crusade, and is almost all-encompassing.[2] More specific to the Baltic, perhaps the most convincing argument is that initial expeditions were supported by specific papal Bulls, such as the 1147 Divina dispensatione and as such can be considered true Crusades.[3] By contrast, while the later ‘crusaders’ considered themselves so, they had corrupted the ideal. They may have seemed ‘official’ Crusades to spectators, but they were not worthy of the name.[4]

The obvious argument that conversion was just as important as colonisation if not more so, is that as Crusades, the campaigns had religion at their core, something shown most in the earlier Crusades against the Wends, the Livs and arguably the Prussians. Taylor in particular argues that Eugenius III’s actions in the lead up to 1147 were crucial. She argues that the remission of sins was only offered in exchange for conversion rather than subjugation, and that Eugenius put a lot of effort into promoting this idea.[5] Later, in the Livonian Crusade, Celestine III and later Innocent III granted indulgences to those who went on Crusade in defence of the Livonian church, which implies that, at least under that Pope, the campaigns were seen as defensive wars, and as such the focus was not at all on colonisation.[6] Maschke argues that the Prussian Crusade was one of the so-called ‘missionary Crusades,’ and had far more religious roots than the later war against the Lithuanians.[7] Ehlers argues along similar lines, but it should be stressed that it is only deemed a genuine Crusade by comparison with the later Lithuanian conflict, the nature of which many historians have cast aspersions on.[8] The strongly religious nature of the early campaigns would suggest that conversion was more of an aim than colonisation.

Many historians argue that all ventures in the region which had been legitimized by the papacy were to convert the population, something which has led to them being labelled ‘missionary crusades.’[9] Including the likes of Jakštas, Riley-Smith and Paravicini, these historians argue that colonisation was parallel to, or a product of conversion – a view which has been heavily criticised by some, addressed below.[10] The argument is supported by the idea that great numbers of the clergy participated in the movement east, and their main aim was in fact conversion, and also by the evidence of widespread church-building in the conquered regions.[11] As well as this, Ekdahl argues that Riga was founded as a base for missions rather than campaigns, and that it was to be a centre of cultural rather than military expansion, which shows that the intent was to convert the population, rather than subjugate them.[12] Preceding this, there is considerable debate over Bernard’s preaching of the Wendish Crusade, during which he seemed to advocate forced conversion, something prohibited in the Bible. This could be seen as an example of the lengths to which the westerners were willing to go to convert the local pagans.[13] The argument for conversion being more of a motive than colonisation would therefore seem to be a convincing one, but it has been widely challenged.

The direct challenge comes in the form of the argument that conversion attempts proved ineffectual. Kala makes the good point that the heathens stayed heathen until the 13th century, and Spence gives a possible reason for this as papal neglect.[14] On the other hand, Taylor goes so far as to say that in 1147, the entire venture was a complete failure, both in terms of colonisation and conversion.[15] While the latter evaluation is a little harsh, the former is stark evidence that conversion was probably not the main aim of the conquerors of the Baltic: they did manage to conquer the majority of the Baltic but as Kala argues, they failed for a long time to convert the newly-subjugated population. Tyerman has also argued along these lines that conversion attempts rested on the desire of the local nobles for land: if they wanted to expand, the target population would be left pagan, in an attempt to legitimise any warfare under the guise of a Crusade.[16]

Colonisation was important to the conquerors of the Baltic, potentially more so than the conversion of its inhabitants. Historians such as Phillips, Housley and Tyerman argue that the local nobility in particular were motivated by a desire for land, rather than religious zeal.[17] There is ample evidence for this, particularly in the 1147 campaign, but also throughout the period. Palmer has pointed out that campaigns to occupy territories had been taking place in the region much earlier, for example under Adolf II of Holstein in 1140, and that the ‘Crusades’ were such ventures with papal legitimization.[18] The siege of Stettin in 1147 is perhaps the most overt example, as it was a Christian city, and yet the crusaders still very nearly attacked it, for their own strategic benefit.[19] Taylor and Ekdahl consider the wider period, citing the Saxon colonialism and the sheer number of new settlements – in the period, Ekdahl claims 100 new cities and 1400 new villages were created.[20] While these examples do not show that colonisation was considered more important than conversion, they do show that colonisation was deemed significant.

In support of this argument for material motives over religious, trade is obviously cited as an important motive. The majority of historians including Blomqvist argue that this perhaps above all else shows that there was more concern with material wealth than spiritual reward.[21] Tyerman and Palmer also specify, citing some of the later campaigns, when the crusaders came into contact with Russian interests, and the rich trade in fur, fish, amber, wax and slaves.[22] Concern over trade was a motive elsewhere during the Crusades, most notably in Antioch during the First Crusade, so it is only reasonable to suppose that such factors were motivating other participants in the Baltic, and while not directly colonisation, the influx of traders would naturally have led to the establishment of colonies. As such trading considerations can be counted as in line with colonisation attempts.

Twentieth century historiography on the Baltic Crusades focused on the ideological aspect of the campaigns, and historians such as Maschke and Purcell have argued that the Crusade ideology was only used for the purpose of legitimisation.[23] This argument has been supported more recently by Tyerman and Spence, who have both expanded on it somewhat. Spence states that the newly-baptised were not treated as equals by the conquerors and this would suggest that they still considered them unsophisticated if not pagan.[24] Tyerman argues that the 1147 Wendish Crusade was ‘regional warfare under a new flag of convenience,’ and that later Danish colonising attempts only had formal Crusade Bulls attached sporadically.[25] Tyerman’s argument in particular would support the view that colonisation was of more concern than conversion, as it would suggest that the Crusades were simply a continuation of earlier internecine warfare. The fact as well that the colonisation attempts continued even without papal authorisation shows that the illusion of papal direction was thin at best.

Potentially the most convincing argument for colonisation over conversion however, is the challenge to the point above that colonisation was a result of conversion. Many historians argue in a variety of ways that the opposite was in fact true – that conversion was made possible only through colonisation.[26] Lotter’s argument is particularly interesting, as he states that Bernard’s call to convert the pagans or destroy them was somewhat metaphorical, and that he only meant a cultural destruction so as to facilitate conversion.[27] It is perhaps dangerous to read too much into Bernard’s words, but the theory is a plausible one, and offers an explanation as to why he preached such a direct contradiction to the Bible. Alongside this, Phillips argues that the fighting was not a brutal as it might have been, because the would-be conquerors had no desire to kill potential subjects.[28] While this makes sense, it contradicts other historians such as Herder, Baczko and Kotzebue, who state that the activity of colonisation involved the extermination of many of the inhabitants, and so cannot necessarily be considered as evidence that the crusaders’ priority was colonisation.[29] As well as this, one could argue that the reason the crusaders were not overly brutal was so that they could convert them. The more simple arguments however are more convincing, that colonisation was necessary for conversion to take place, and that contemporaries recognised this and acted accordingly.

Similar to this, there is the argument that the conversion was only made possible by colonisation.[30] Cited as evidence is the destruction of pagan religious sites, which could be considered part of a campaign of cultural destruction, as Lotter might suggest.[31] While it is possible to argue that this points to religious motives as being important, what seems more likely is that in fact religious sites were either more affluent targets. More cynically, one could argue that the crusaders wanted to maintain the appearance of the war being for religious purposes by attacking the centres of the Slavic religion. Overall then, conversion was perhaps considered difficult when independent of colonisation, which arguably contributed to its primacy as an aim among the conquerors of the Baltic lands.

The approach the crusaders took to the conquest of the Baltic would also point to colonisation being a primary objective. The focal point of this argument is the establishment of Riga and the use of it as a military base for expansion in the years after its foundation.[32] Plakans talks as well about the fact that some of the littoral peoples took the side of the crusaders at various points, despite the fact that they were pagans, and the fact that there was a lot of focus on strategic security rather than religion.[33] Other historians including the likes of Jensen and Tyerman point to the tactics of the crusaders, or more specifically their brutality. They argue that the brutality shown perhaps more by the later crusaders is indicative of a campaign for dominance rather than conversion, and Bacon has argued that such a operation in fact made the activity of conversion all the more difficult.[34] Since the aim of colonisation is to subjugate the inhabitants of the target area, it seems certain that these brutal campaigns of dominance were with colonisation in mind rather than conversion.

In short then, there was a great diversity of motives present in the Baltic littoral right from the outset of the legitimised Crusades.[35] Perhaps shown best in the disjunction between preaching and local aspirations, this makes it difficult to make a generalised answer to the question, as there were different factions on the Crusades, and even among the conquerors.[36] Assigning one motive to the whole movement would therefore mean dismissing many of these factions. In spite of this however, there were overarching themes to the period, and the general consensus is that the Crusades in the Baltic degenerated into a sham, and only served personal, local interests rather than converting the population.[37] What can be considered definitive evidence that the majority of crusaders in the Baltic did put colonisation before conversion are the circumstances surrounding the 1386-7 Christianisation of Lithuania. Taking place independently of the actions of the Teutonic Order, it shows that had the crusaders wanted only to convert the populace, it was entirely possible to do so, and the colonisation which took place only complicated the situation.[38] Insomuch as one can generalise then, the majority of the conquerors of the Baltic lands did indeed put their own, colonising interests before those of the clergy and the papacy.

Word Count : 2,950

[1] C. Tyerman, God’s War (London & New York, 2006), p.684, A. Ehlers, ‘The Crusade of the Teutonic Knights against Lithuania Reconsidered,’ in ed. A.V. Murray, Crusade and Conversion on the Baltic Frontier, 1150-1500 (Aldershot & Burlington, 2001), p.33.

[2] See C. Tyerman, The Debate on the Crusades (Manchester & New York), p.225.

[3] J. Phillips, Holy Warriors: A Modern History of the Crusades (London, 2009), p.85, P. Taylor, ‘Moral Agency in Crusade and Colonization: Anselm of Havelberg and the Wendish Crusade of 1147,’ The International History Review 22 (2000), p.758.

[4] Ehlers, ‘The Crusade,’ pp.21, 23-4, Tyerman, God’s War, p.712.

[5] Taylor, ‘Moral Agency,’ p.772.

[6] J. Riley-Smith, The Crusades: A Short History (New Haven & London, 1987), pp.130, 131, see also for the Prussian Crusade as a defensive war: L. Pósán, ‘Prussian Missions and the Invitation of the Teutonic Order into Kulmerland,’ in eds. Z Hunyadi and J. Laszlowsky, The Crusades and the Military Orders: Expanding the Frontiers of Medieval Latin Christianity (Budapest, 2001), pp.432-3, M. Starnawska, ‘Military Orders and the Beginning of Crusades in Prussia,’ in eds. Z Hunyadi and J. Laszlowsky, The Crusades and the Military Orders: Expanding the Frontiers of Medieval Latin Christianity (Budapest, 2001), pp.421-2.

[7] Ehlers, ‘The Crusade,’ p.23.

[8] Ehlers, ‘The Crusade,’ pp.36-7, 42.

[9] Taylor, ‘Moral Agency,’ p.759.

[10] S. Ekdahl, ‘Crusades and Colonization in the Baltic,’ in ed. H.J. Nicholson, Palgrave Advances in the Crusades (Basingstoke, 2005), p.172, Taylor, ‘Moral Agency,’ p.757, see also Ehlers, ‘The Crusade,’ p.24.

[11] For the clergy, see Phillips, Holy Warriors, p.99, R. Spence, ‘Pope Gregory IX and the Crusade on the Baltic,’ Catholic Historical Review 69 (1983), pp.7-9. For church-building, see Taylor, ‘Moral Agency,’ p.784, A. Palmer The Baltic: A New History of the Region and its People (Woodstock & New York, 2006), p.45, A. Plakans, A Concise History of the Baltic States (Cambridge, 2011), p.38.

[12] Ekdahl, ‘Crusades,’ p.174.

[13] J. Phillips, The Crusades, 1095-1197 (London, 2002), p.72, Holy Warriors, p.85, N. Housley, Contesting the Crusades (Oxford, 2006), p.110.

[14] T. Kala, ‘The Incorporation of the Northern Baltic Lands into the Western Christian World,’ in ed. A.V. Murray, Crusade and Conversion on the Baltic Frontier, 1150-1500 (Aldershot & Burlington, 2001), pp.19-20, Spence, ‘Pope Gregory,’ pp.2-3.

[15] Taylor, ‘Moral Agency,’ p.784.

[16] Tyerman, God’s War, p.679.

[17] Phillips, Holy Warriors, p.99, Ehlers, ‘The Crusade,’ p.23, Spence, ‘Pope Gregory,’ p.4, Tyerman, God’s War, p.676, Housley, Contesting, p.112.

[18] Palmer, The Baltic, p.38.

[19] Palmer, The Baltic, p.39, Phillips, Holy Warriors, p.100, The Second Crusade: Expanding the Frontiers of Christendom (New Haven & London, 2007), p.242.

[20] Taylor, ‘Moral Agency,’ p.784, Ekdahl, ‘Crusades,’ p.177.

[21] Palmer, The Baltic, p.43, Plakans, A Concise History, p.39, Ekdahl, ‘The Crusade,’ p.174, Kala, ‘Incorporation,’ p.20, Taylor, ‘Moral Agency,’ p.762, see also Phillips, The Second Crusade, p.241, J.W. Thompson, ‘Early Trade Relations between the Germans and the Slavs,’ Journal of Political Economy 30 (1922), p.550.

[22] Tyerman, God’s War, p.685, Palmer, The Baltic, p.48.

[23] See Ehlers, ‘The Crusade,’ p.23.

[24] Spence, ‘Pope Gregory,’ pp.13-14.

[25] Tyerman, God’s War, pp.680, 685.

[26] Plakans, A Concise History, pp.38, 39, Taylor, ‘Moral Agency,’ p.762, Tyerman, God’s War, p.683, Housley, Contesting, p.110.

[27] F. Lotter, ‘The crusading idea and the conquest of the region east of the Elbe,’ in eds. R. Bartlett and A. MacKay, Medieval Frontier Societies (Oxford, 1989), pp.289-90.

[28] Phillips, Holy Warriors, p.100, The Second Crusade, pp.241, 243.

[29] See Ekdahl, ‘Crusades,’ p.177.

[30] Thompson, J.W., ‘The German Church and the Conversion of the Baltic Slavs: Concluded,’ The American Journal of Theology 20 (1916), p.386.

[31] Tyerman, God’s War, p.678, Thompson, ‘German Church,’ p.388.

[32] Plakans, A Concise History, pp.36-7, Palmer, The Baltic, p.43.

[33] Plakans, A Concise History, p.40.

[34] See Tyerman, God’s War, p.688, K.V. Jensen, ‘Introduction,’ in ed. A.V. Murray, Crusade and Conversion on the Baltic Frontier, 1150-1500 (Aldershot & Burlington, 2001), p.xxii, Palmer, The Baltic, p.44.

[35] In general, see Ehlers, ‘The Crusade,’ p.22, Kala, ‘Incorporation,’ p.20, Taylor, ‘Moral Agency,’ p.761. For 1147, see Phillips, Holy Warriors, p.99, The Crusades, p.72, The Second Crusade, p.241, Thompson, ‘German Church,’ p.381. For 1200s, see Palmer, The Baltic, p.40, Spence, ‘Pope Gregory,’ p.6.

[36] Phillips, Holy Warriors, p.100, Taylor, ‘Moral Agency,’ p.774, Spence, ‘Pope Gregory,’ p.4.

[37] Tyerman, God’s War, p.712.

[38] Ekdahl, ‘Crusades,’ p.174, Tyerman, God’s War, p.688.

Bibliography

Ehlers, A., ‘The Crusade of the Teutonic Knights against Lithuania Reconsidered,’ in ed. A.V. Murray, Crusade and Conversion on the Baltic Frontier, 1150-1500 (Aldershot & Burlington, 2001), pp.21-44

Ekdahl, S., ‘Crusades and Colonization in the Baltic,’ in ed. H.J. Nicholson, Palgrave Advances in the Crusades (Basingstoke, 2005), pp.172-203

Housley, N., Contesting the Crusades (Oxford, 2006)

Jensen, K.V., ‘Introduction,’ in ed. A.V. Murray, Crusade and Conversion on the Baltic Frontier, 1150-1500 (Aldershot & Burlington, 2001), pp.xvii-xxv

Kahl, H-D., ‘Crusade Eschatology as seen by St. Bernard in the years 1146 to 1148,’ in ed. M. Gervers, The Second Crusade and the Cistercians (New York, 1992), pp.35-47

Kala, T., ‘The Incorporation of the Northern Baltic Lands into the Western Christian World,’ in ed. A.V. Murray, Crusade and Conversion on the Baltic Frontier, 1150-1500 (Aldershot & Burlington, 2001), pp.3-20

Kreem, J., ‘The Teutonic Order in Livonia: Diverging Historiographic Traditions,’ in eds. Z. Hunyadi and J. Laszlovsky, The Crusades and the Military Orders: Expanding the Frontiers of Medieval Latin Christianity (Budapest, 2001), pp.467-480

Lotter, F., ‘The crusading idea and the conquest of the region east of the Elbe,’ in eds. R. Bartlett and A. MacKay, Medieval Frontier Societies (Oxford, 1989), pp.267-306

Palmer, A., The Baltic: A New History of the Region and its People (Woodstock & New York, 2006)

Phillips, J., Holy Warriors: A Modern History of the Crusades (London, 2009)

Phillips, J., The Crusades, 1095-1197 (London, 2002)

Phillips, J., The Second Crusade: Expanding the Frontiers of Christendom (New Haven & London, 2007)

Plakans, A., A Concise History of the Baltic States (Cambridge, 2011)

Pósán, L., ‘Prussian Missions and the Invitation of the Teutonic Order into Kulmerland,’ in eds. Z. Hunyadi and J. Laszlovsky, The Crusades and the Military Orders: Expanding the Frontiers of Medieval Latin Christianity (Budapest, 2001), pp.429-448

Riley-Smith, J., The Crusades: A Short History (New Haven & London, 1987)

Spence, R., ‘Pope Gregory IX and the Crusade on the Baltic,’ Catholic Historical Review 69 (1983), pp.1-19

Starnawska, M., ‘Military Orders and the Beginning of Crusades in Prussia,’ in eds. Z. Hunyadi and J. Laszlovsky, The Crusades and the Military Orders: Expanding the Frontiers of Medieval Latin Christianity (Budapest, 2001), pp.417-428

Taylor, P., ‘Moral Agency in Crusade and Colonization: Anselm of Havelberg and the Wendish Crusade of 1147,’ The International History Review 22 (2000), pp.757-784

Thompson, J.W., ‘Early Trade Relations between the Germans and the Slavs,’ Journal of Political Economy 30 (1922), pp.543-558

Thompson, J.W., ‘The German Church and the Conversion of the Baltic Slavs: Concluded,’ The American Journal of Theology 20 (1916), pp.372-389

Throop, S.A., Crusading as an Act of Vengeance, 1095-1216 (Farnham & Burlington, 2011)

Tyerman, C., God’s War (London & New York, 2006)

Tyerman, C., The Debate on the Crusades (Manchester & New York, 2011)

Feedback:

65%

All the following feedback is rated on the following scale: Outstanding-Excellent-Good-Competent-Pass-Fail.

Breadth of Reading: Excellent-Good

Critical approach to historiography: Outstanding-Excellent

Focus on question: Excellent

Organization of the material: Good

Depth of understanding and insight: Good

Use of examples: Excellent-Good

Introduction and Conclusion: Good

Factual accuracy: Good

Comprehensiveness of coverage: Excellent

Fluent and correct English: Good

Accurate spelling/proof reading: Excellent

Sources cited correctly: Excellent

General Comments and Advice: This is a very well-informed and thoughtful essay, using an impressive range of secondary material and with good coverage geographically and chronologically.

It lacks something in terms of structure, with ideas being reiterated, and the distinction between different schools of thought not being well reflected.

Some conceptual issues in the introduction – who are the ‘local elite’ as distinct from conquerors? Sound conclusion, relating to the introduction – the clergy were part of the conquest. In future, progress to using primary sources. There are a couple of places where they could have been quoted.

 

How sustainable were the polities created by the crusaders in the Holy Land?

This essay achieved 60% in the first year of my undergraduate.

How sustainable were the polities created by the crusaders in the Holy Land?

It is almost exclusively argued that, in hindsight, the Crusader states were not at all sustainable. The basis of this argument is that there were many long term problems caused by the Western presence in Outremer, as well as the political situation in Europe throughout the period. This political instability in Europe translated to the Holy Land in the form of political dissension among the leaders of the various crusades. As well as this, there was also the ongoing tension between the Norman leaders (traditionally those of Antioch) and the Byzantine Empire[1] which culminated in the Norman defeat at Durazzo in 1107[2]. The other main arguments include the lack of support for Jerusalem[3], as well as lack of manpower[4], the debatable lack of strong leadership[5], and to a certain extent the arrogance of the Crusaders[6]. By contrast to this, the Muslims benefitted from strong leadership at various points throughout the period, perhaps most notably the likes of Il-Ghazi (1119-22), Zengi (1128-46), Nur-ad Din (1146-74) and Saladin (1174-93)[7].

There are however some significant counter examples to this, and it is argued by some that rather than being doomed to inevitably fail, the fall of the Crusader states was based on a few major turning points. These are widely considered the battle of the ‘Field of Blood’ in 1119, the fall of Edessa in 1144, the breaking of the alliance with Damascus in 1148[8] and finally and perhaps more obviously the Battle at Hattin[9] in 1187. Most historians[10] follow the argument that there were certain important points, but many simultaneously argue that the fall of the Crusader states was inevitable.

If they are looked for, the stages which led to the fall of Jerusalem have their roots in problems present since the creation of the states. Of these, and perhaps the most important were the divisions in many aspects of the Crusader polities. There were both divisions among the secular rulers as well as those inevitably between the secular rulers and the church. As well as these internal problems, there were also the potentially more damaging divisions between the Normans who made up a good proportion of the Crusaders and the Byzantine Empire which was the nearest Christian state. These divisions effectively crippled Crusader polities at one time or another, with those among the secular rulers primarily causing crises at any succession, although these gradually receded as the states became more established. The initial dispute[11] between the secular leaders and the church as to the nature of the emergent state[12] meant that even after it was clear that it was to be a secular state, there was constant tension between the two groups. These somewhat crippling internal disputes had lasting effects in that they caused a certain degree of introversion, in place of the required focus on external enemies[13].

However, the external tension between the Crusader polities and the Byzantine Empire, as well as the far more explicit manifestation of this with the Normans were arguably far more damaging, due to the fact that a strong and good relationship would have made the Crusader states far more sustainable. This is because the Byzantine Empire, as the closest Christian state would have been able to provide the supplies and manpower which the Crusader polities so sorely needed[14]. As well as these external political problems, the crusaders suffered from an almost chronic lack of support from their European parent states, as is shown by the fact that a Crusade was only arguably[15] launched in response to one of as many as nineteen appeals between 1099 and 1186[16]. The sustainability of the Crusader states was impossible due to these divisions, as it meant that there was not the influx of men, supplies and support necessary for their survival.

This is because there were conflicting objectives between the flow of support from Europe (under Papal direction) and the feudal, secular states in Outremer, the most explicit of these being the actions of the crusaders during the Second Crusade, with the breaking of the Damascene alliance in 1148[17]. The ‘native’ Franks were far more aware of how precarious their position was, and were more realistic about the need for local alliances, while the new crusaders from Europe were still filled with the religious fervour by virtue of various Papal Bulls[18] and therefore not as pragmatic. As well as this, the poor relations with the Byzantine Empire[19] meant that any aid from Europe would either have to pass through borderline-hostile territory before they even reached Muslim lands, or make the treacherous journey by sea. The lack of clear support, as well as the intervening distance between Europe and the Crusader states meant that their sustainability was questionable at best and their fall inevitable at worst. These divisions (both internal and external) were the reason for the lack of support for the polities in the Levant as well as the accompanying lack of manpower. They were also debatably the reason for the lack of strong leadership[20], as the constant political dissension meant local rulers felt they were unable to act decisively, and were arguably pressured into popular actions.

Concerning the practical geographical problems, as well as the distance between Europe and Outremer, the shape and locations of the various Crusader states in relation to one another meant that they were strategically vulnerable, mainly to isolation, because of the fact that they were quite narrow. There were other issues with many of the Frankish leadership, as many of the Latin occupants of the Levant were arguably motivated by greed rather than any religious fervour, at least past the end of the First Crusade. It is argued that at least a partial motive for the shift in objective of the Second Crusade was greed, as Damascus was a wealthy city, and offered an arguable trade opportunity further into the East. Other than this, and perhaps more obviously; the pursuit of the conquest of Egypt was mainly due to the riches provided by the trade and land along the Nile, while the strategic and tactical benefits were negligible by comparison to potential targets in Northern Syria. This meant that the strategic thinking required for the survival of the polities was perhaps overrode by more material incentives.

Coupled with the lack of support was arguably a certain degree of arrogance among the Franks following the resounding successes of the First Crusade. While this legacy was also a source of inspiration, it meant that the Franks had an inflated sense of their own military abilities, as is shown by various actions throughout the decline of the Crusader states, perhaps most notably at the ‘Field of Blood’ in 1119[21] and to a certain extent at Hattin in 1187[22], though there were other less famous instances, such as on the 1st May 1187[23]. This arrogance was borne of the fact that the victories of the First Crusade were at the time contributed to a combination of the religious fervour and the military power of the crusaders and not the fragility of the Muslim factions[24].

This arrogance or serious misconception meant that the emergence of strong Muslim leaders able to create a united foe along the borders of the Crusader states caused considerable pressure. The increasing regularity with which these emerged became synonymous with Frankish losses. These losses were what are now considered among the key turning points in the fall of the Crusader polities, with the ‘Field of Blood,’ the first major defeat for the Christians in 1119 at the hands of Il-Ghazi, followed by the fall of Edessa in 1144 to Zengi, and then perhaps more importantly the fall of Damascus to Nuraddin in 1154[25] and the defeat of the Christian army at Hattin in 1187 by Saladin. The periods of Muslim strength were characterised by these grievous losses for very little if any gain, and they became more continuous as the Muslim world reacted to the shock of the Crusades. The fall of the Crusader states must therefore be considered inevitable and their sustainability questionable, as it was to be expected that the Muslims would unify in the face of the Crusades.

There are however other arguments to consider; those that the fall of the Crusader polities were due only to a series of turning points. These arguments emphasise the gains made by the stronger rulers through the period, notably Baldwin III, who took Ascalon in 1153[26] and Amalric with his gains in Egypt in the 1160s[27]. As well as this prominence placed on the positives, the same arguments also stress the importance of the Frankish losses by contrast, emphasising just how grievous they were, by referencing Muslim sources[28] which were likely to be biased at least slightly. Most historians[29] however, while accepting that there were gains made, do not devote too much attention to them as positive gains. The main point raised concerning the conquests is that the focus in the south, particularly in 1153-4, allowed Nuraddin to consolidate his hold on northern Syria with the capture of Damascus. At the same time, it is argued that the major Christian losses acted simply as accelerants to the process of the fall of the Crusader polities.

The major points were important, but they simply accelerated the steady decline as the Muslims realised that the Crusades were a Holy War, and responded with their own lesser jihad[30]. As the Muslim forces gradually became more unified, it became clear that the Crusader states would eventually fall. The geography: the fact that any support would have to travel a great distance, as well as the fact that the novelty of crusading wore off to a certain extent[31], with appeals being answered infrequently at best, meant that the manpower and supplies available to the Latin East were always restricted. With the simultaneous increase in their opponents’ supplies, the Frankish position only grew more untenable as the period advanced.

Word Count: 1,995

[1]See  H.E. Mayer, The Crusades, pp.86-7

[2] T.F. Madden, A Concise History of the Crusades, p.44

[3] Which manifested as lack of a focused crusading effort, for example during the Second Crusade, see J. Richard, pp.156-8, or J. France, The Crusades and the Expansion of Catholic Christendom 1000-1714, pp.132-3

[4] See B. Hamilton, The Crusades, p.13

[5] T.F. Madden, A Concise History of the Crusades, pp.39-97

[6] Perhaps the legacy of the First Crusade.

[7] For a full description see B. Hamilton, The Crusades, pp.35-44, or J. Phillips, The Crusades 1095-1197, p.32, p.37, pp.93-5 and pp.123-36

[8] B. Hamilton, The Crusades, p.37

[9] Also the ‘Horns of Hattin’

[10] T.F. Madden, A Concise History of the Crusades, pp.39-97, B. Hamilton, The Crusades, pp.35-44,

[11] J. Richard, The Crusades c.1071-c.1291, pp.67-70

[12] E. Barker, The Crusades, p.26

[13] See J. Phillips, The Crusades 1095-1197, p. 27

[14] J. Phillips, The Crusades 1095-1197, p.27

[15] The term crusade is used loosely by some, such as T. F. Madden, A Concise History of the Crusades.

[16] J. Phillips, The Crusades 1095-1197, p.27

[17] B. Hamilton, The Crusades, pp.36-7 and J. Phillips, The Crusades 1095-1197, pp.74-6

[18] At the time of the Second Crusade: Quantum Praedecessores.

[19] E. Barker, The Crusades, pp.36-7

[20] There are arguable exceptions to this: King Fulk and Queen Melisende, see J. Phillips, Holy Warriors: A Modern History of the Crusades, pp.52-8

[21] For a description, see J. Phillips, The Crusades, 1095-1197, pp.32-3, or for an Arabic source see Ibn al-Qalanisi in C. Hillenbrand, The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives, p.81

[22] For an in-depth description, see J. Prawer, Crusader Institutions, pp.484-500.

[23] See J. France, The Crusades, p.141

[24] Shown outside Antioch in June 1098, see A. Maalouf, The Crusades through Arab Eyes, pp.33-4

[25]See  J. France, The Crusades, p.138

[26] See T.F. Madden, A Concise History of the Crusades, p.66

[27] J. Phillips, The Crusades 1095-1197, pp.95-6

[28] C. Hillenbrand, The Crusades, p.81, pp.112-4

[29] Including those above.

[30] For reference see C. Hillenbrand, The Crusades, pp.89-97

[31] See T. Asbridge, ‘Why Islam crushed the Crusaders’, History Magazine, 13 (2012), pp.52-3 for counter argument.

Bibliography

Asbridge, T., ‘Why Islam crushed the Crusaders’, History Magazine, 13 (2012), pp.52-3.

Barker, E., The Crusades (London, 1925).

Conder, C.R., The Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem 1099 to 1291 A.D. (London, 1973).

Emerson, A., ‘The French Kingdom of Jerusalem’, The North American Review, 207 (1918), pp.40-51.

France, J., The Crusades and the Expansion of Catholic Christendom 1000-1714 (Oxon and New York, 2005).

Hamilton, B., The Crusades (Stroud, 1998).

Hillenbrand, C., The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives (Edinburgh, 1999).

Jacoby, D., ‘The Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Collapse of Hohenstaufen Power in the Levant’, Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 40 (1986), pp.83-101.

Madden, T.F., A Concise History of the Crusades (Lanham and Oxford, 1999).

Mayer, H.E., The Crusades (Oxford and New York, 1990).

Phillips, J., Holy Warriors: A Modern History of the Crusades (London, 2009).

Phillips, J., The Crusades 1095-1197 (Great Britain, 2002).

Prawer, J., Crusader Institutions (Oxford and New York, 1980).

Richards, J., The Crusades, c.1071-c.1291 (Cambridge and New York, 1999).

Riley-Smith, J., The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades (Oxford and New York, 1995).

Feedback:

60%

All the following feedback is rated on the following scale: Outstanding-Excellent-Good-Competent-Pass-Fail.

Breadth of Reading: Good

Critical approach to historiography: Good-Competent

Focus on question: Good

Organization of the material: Good

Depth of understanding and insight: Good

Use of examples: Good

Introduction and Conclusion: Good

Factual accuracy: Good

Comprehensiveness of coverage: Good

Fluent and correct English: Good-Competent

Accurate spelling/proof reading: Good

Sources cited correctly: Good-Competent

General Comments and Advice: A generally well thought out essay. Your introduction was good allowing the reader to appreciate what you were going to say. The rest of the essay was well structured with each point being well defined. I thought the ending was not as strong, perhaps being a little brief, but you never the less managed to come to a balanced conclusion.

Your breadth of reading was good but was let down a little by too few references to historiographical opinions. Your citations were generally ok, but perhaps there could have been a few more.

Overall a good start.

 

Are historians right to dismiss Louis VII’s crusade to the Holy Land as having failed to achieve what it was supposed to?

This essay achieved a low 2:1 in the first year of my undergraduate.

Are historians right to dismiss Louis VII’s crusade to the Holy Land as having failed to achieve what it was supposed to?

The success (or lack thereof) of Louis VII’s crusade is arguably the least contentious area of the Crusades. Historians argue almost exclusively that the crusade failed not only in its varying aims, but also had negative long term impacts for the Franks of the Holy Land.[1] Most argue that the established aim of the Papal Second Crusade was to retake Edessa,[2] which had fallen in 1144, a year before Eugenius III issued the Quantum praedecessores.[3] While most historians agree with this, there are a few who admit that it did have the positive and probably unintentional effect of reigniting European religious fervour with regards to the Holy Land.[4] One must be careful when addressing the aims of the Crusade however, as it is debatable whether the Papal crusade and that of Louis VII were the same thing.[5] This does arguably mean that referring to Louis VII’s crusade encompasses neither the greater Second crusading movement nor the German expedition led by Conrad III. The crusade led by Louis was ostensibly following Papal direction, and so was aiming to retake Edessa, although there were possibly other goals mixed in. Despite this, Louis’ crusade can be considered at least as much a failure as the Second Crusade overall.

Most historians would consider the whole Second Crusade an utter failure for obvious reasons, and they are probably right to do so. When one considers that the initial aim of the Second Crusade was the recapture of Edessa, then there is no way in which it can be interpreted as a victory. The fact that the conquest of Edessa was not even considered upon reaching the Holy Land[6] is unforgivable, and it can be argued that from that moment on, the campaign was a failure. The reasons for the lack of interest in Edessa are debatable. Mayer argues that it was due to the fact that Louis considered his forces too weak following the losses in Anatolia,[7] while Richard states that it was a far more personal motive; that it was a case of his individual crusading vow being one of pilgrimage to Jerusalem, as well as pointing out that only the nobility of Jerusalem were present at the meeting, and not that of the north. [8]

Even though the military aim of the movement changed from Edessa to Damascus,[9]  it is still impossible to interpret the Crusade as a success; the fact is that they failed to take the city, and all that was achieved was a significant loss of lives. It was not only this which made the siege such a disaster however. There was a seemingly impossible diplomatic situation, and the choice to attack is normally condemned as having destroyed the good relationship with Damascus: simply another thing which added to the failure of the Second Crusade.[10] More recently however, some historians such as Richard and Phillips have suggested that relations were not as friendly between the Crusader states and Damascus as was initially thought, and while this does not excuse the  stupidity of the venture, it means that it was not as counter-productive as was first thought, nor did it doom the crusader polities.[11]

While it is impossible to argue that Louis’ crusade was successful in terms of the Papal aim, it has been argued by some that it did have some victories. Perhaps most significant of these was the huge support that it gained initially,[12] and the precedent it set. The impact of the Crusade on Europe was arguably for more considerable than that on the Holy Land. In Europe, there was a vast amount of preaching the Crusade following the announcement of the Papal Bull, and this was instrumental in reigniting the religious fervour which had been present at the height of the First Crusade. [13] The general raising awareness of the plight of the Eastern Franks can be considered a victory, even if the response was not particularly successful. The re-ignition of the ideas of crusading was however a decidedly Papal motive, and so any credit cannot be attributed to Louis. Despite this, Mayer credits him with involving Bernard of Clairvaux; arguably the most significant figure in garnering support for the expedition.[14]

On the other hand, the events which took place in the Holy Land seem to contradict this feeling of cooperation. The lack of awareness of the local conditions in terms of the peaceful coexistence which had been established in areas was ignored completely and taken over by the religious fervour of the new arrivals. Naturally then, once the siege of Damascus had concluded unfavourably, the blame was cast on the native Frankish nobility, stating that they had given deliberately bad advice, or that they had been bought by the Damascenes.[15] Understandably, this caused a certain degree of tension between the European nobles and those native to the Holy Land, which arguably continued past the Second Crusade. This meant that each group possessed a pre-conceived notion of the other in later expeditions, and there was long a sense of distrust and dislike between them.[16]

While neither faction was responsible for this individually, there are certain events which it can be argued caused its growth. The first, and perhaps more important is the scandal concerning Louis’ wife, Eleanor of Aquitane and Raymond of Antioch which is given as one of the reasons for Louis’ hasty departure from Antioch.[17] The other, seemingly smaller issue was that Thierry of Flanders, a crusading noble was to be given Damascus when it was taken, rather than a native Frankish ruler.[18] All of this served to create and expand a rift between the native Franks, and the Europeans.[19] The fact that the expedition was also probably intended to shore up relations and blood ties between the Western nobility and that of the East means that it can be considered a failure in this respect as well.

As well as the divide between the Europeans and the East Franks, Louis VII’s crusade, and the aftermath also intensified the hostility of the Byzantine Empire. While it was not necessarily the fault of Louis VII, the passage of first the German army and then the French army through Byzantine territory meant that relations were already strained. This was coupled with the fact that Byzantine soldiers were instructed to defend Byzantine citizens,[20]while the Crusaders were harried by Turkish forces.[21] These factors meant that there was already tension between the Latin forces and the Greeks, even before Louis among others of the crusading nobility began to blame the Byzantines for their troubles. As well as this, there was further hostility following the conclusion of the siege of Damascus which resulted in Louis trying to call for another Crusade directed towards the Byzantines.[22] All of this served to irreparably damage relations between western Europe and the Byzantine Empire, something which undoubtedly aided the decline of the Crusader states. As a result Louis VII’s crusade must be considered a disaster in the long term as well as short.  Some people may point to this break down in relations as a further failure of Louis’ crusade. It is however unfair to say this, because there was no aim at any point to nurture relations with the Byzantines. They must be considered unfortunate by-products of the expedition.

There is some debate concerning the personal motives of Louis VII, and where they diverge from those of Eugenius III and the papacy. These range from things such as seeking repentance for burning the church of Vitry,[23] to a personal vow to his brother Philip, and finally, a vow to complete a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.[24] The latter is the most significant as it arguably played a considerable role in Louis’ decision-making once he reached the Holy Land. His personal crusading vow was probably one of pilgrimage, however armed,[25] as were those of his nobility. This significant difference to the more standard vow of protecting the faith meant that upon reaching the Holy Land, when faced with a choice between attacking Aleppo or Shaizar, and moving south towards Jerusalem and the other holy places, he did not make the more strategically sound choice, but rather jumped at the chance to fulfil his pilgrimage.[26] It is possible that a pilgrimage to Jerusalem was to serve as his repentance for the burning of the church. This means that Louis’ crusade can in some small way be considered a success, but only if one accepts that the aim was a much more personal one of pilgrimage to Jerusalem rather than to retake Edessa.

The question of whether or not Louis managed to repent is a somewhat theological one. It is possible that the pilgrimage and participation in the Second Crusade was not enough, because on returning west, he tried to call for a crusade against the Byzantines, suggesting that he did not feel he had repented enough. Another, more cynical interpretation is that Louis simply used religion as a cover for his personal vendetta against the Byzantines whom he perceived as having ruined his crusade.[27] This means that the success of this goal can be used on either side of the debate with different interpretations, but the more sceptical view is probably more believable. Having decided this, it is still open to interpretation whether Louis fully repented or not.

It is increasingly clear therefore that whether or not Louis VII’s crusade failed depends on how you define it. If your conclusions are drawn based on the initial aims of the Second Crusade, or indeed when they changed to include Damascus, then by any stretch of the imagination it was a resounding failure. If however Louis’ crusade was only one of pilgrimage to Jerusalem, then it was definitely a success, even if he did lose a good proportion of his troops. The latter is a little too focused on semantics to be credible, while there is no shortage of physical evidence for the former. The fact is that Louis VII returned from the Holy Land without having made any notable gains. If anything, his campaign damaged both the stability of the Crusader States[28] and the European relations with them and the Byzantine Empire both. While the latter was not necessarily a priority, the former was certainly the overall aim of the larger Crusade. To a certain extent, Louis probably was trying for something similar, he was just wildly incompetent. In conclusion therefore, historians are right to consider Louis’ Crusade a complete failure.

Word count: 1,990

[1] H.E. Mayer, The Crusades, B. Hamilton, The Crusades, S. Runciman, A History of the Crusades Volume II: The Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Frankish East 1100-1187

[2] B. Hamilton, The Crusades, pp.35-6, T.F. Madden, A Concise History of the Crusades, p.53-4, J. Richard, The Crusades c.1071-c.1291, p.156.

[3] T.F. Madden, A Concise History of the Crusades, p.54

[4] J. Richard, The Crusades, p.169, B. Hamilton, The Crusades, p.36

[5] H.E. Mayer, The Crusades, p.96, J. Richard, The Crusades, p.156

[6] T.F. Madden, A Concise History, p.62

[7] H.E. Mayer, The Crusades, p.105

[8] J. Richard, The Crusades, p.165-6

[9] S. Runciman, A History of the Crusades Volume II, pp.280-1

[10] H.E. Mayer, The Crusades, pp106-7, B. Hamilton, The Crusades, p.37

[11] J. Phillips, Holy Warriors, p.96, J. Richard, The Crusades, p.166

[12] B. Hamilton, The Crusades, p.36

[13] J. Phillips, Holy Warriors: A Modern History of the the Crusades, pp.77-83

[14] H.E. Mayer, The Crusades, p.96

[15] H.E. Mayer, The Crusades, p.107, J. Richard, The Crusades, pp.166-7

[16] J. Richard, The Crusades, p.479

[17] S. Runciman, A History of the Crusades Volume II, p.279

[18] J. Richard, The Crusades, p.167

[19] T.F. Madden, A Concise History, p.63

[20] T.F. Madden, A Concise History, p.60

[21] S. Runciman, A History of the Crusades Volume II, pp.273-5

[22] H.E. Mayer, The Crusades, pp.107-8

[23] J. Phillips, Holy Warriors, p.79

[24] J Richard, The Crusades, p.156

[25] H.E. Mayer, The Crusades, p.97, J. Richard, The Crusades, p165

[26] J. Richard, The Crusades, p.165

[27] T.F. Madden, A Concise History, p.63

[28] T.F. Madden, A Concise History, p.63

Bibliography

Madden, T.F., A Concise History of the Crusades (Oxford & Lanham, 1999)

Riley-Smith, J., The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades (New York, 1995)

Richard, J., The Crusades, c.1071-c.1291 (Cambridge, 1999)

Runciman, S., A History of the Crusades Volume II: The Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Frankish East 1100-1187 (Cambridge, 1952)

Hamilton, B., The Crusades (Stroud, 1998)

Mayer, H.E., The Crusades (Oxford, 1972)

Phillips, J., Holy Warriors: A Modern History of the Crusades (London, 2009)

Barker, E., The Crusades (London, 1925)

Hillenbrand, C., The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives (Edinburgh, 1999)

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Focus on question: Good

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General Comments and Advice: A well constructed essay, which discussed the 2nd Crusade thoroughly. You had obviously read widely and your footnotes were good, although there could have been a few more, I have no doubt that the number of these will improve with experience.

You introduced your argument well. Your conclusion began by stating that the interpretation of whether Louis VII’s crusade failed depended on an analysis of his agenda. A very astute comment, and one worth discussing in the conclusion. However, because you obviously had a strong opinion on this subject you had, throughout the essay, been a little subjective at times and this somewhat detracted from your conclusion. It is important to remain as objective as possible, allowing your reader to be persuaded by your argument.

 

Identify and evaluate three of the major chronicle sources for the reign of William I (the Conqueror).

This essay achieved a high 2:1 in the third year of my undergraduate.

Identify and evaluate three of the major chronicle sources for the reign of William I

The events of 1066 has been at the forefront of English history for closing on a millennium, and the man at the centre of it William, variously known as ‘the Bastard’ or ‘the Conqueror’ has understandably been the subject of much study. Modern scholarship has been forced to rely on a whole spectrum of primary sources, of which chronicle sources are but one small part. Nevertheless, the range of significant chronicle sources which document William’s reign is extensive, and includes the likes of Eadmer’s Historia novorum in Anglia, William of Poitiers’ Gesta Guillelmi ducis Normannorum et regis Anglorum, as well as the works of William of Jumièges and John of Worcester.[1] The chronicle sources under consideration in this essay however, are the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (ASC), The Ecclesiastical History (EH) of Orderic Vitalis, and William of Malmesbury’s Gesta Regum Anglorum (GRA). The significance of these three sources above the others listed is a contentious topic, and justification for the choice must inevitably precede any attempt at evaluating either the sources themselves, or the chroniclers who wrote them.

ASC, as the most important and widely studied, is one of the best known primary sources for the period, alongside the iconic Bayeux Tapestry.[2] When combined with the fact that it was one of the main contemporary sources for the aftermath of the Conquest, its value to modern historians when assessing the reign of William I would seem to be obvious – even William of Malmesbury regarded it as ‘authoritative’, it having provided a fundamental contribution to his own work.[3] Even those who contest its value as an historical source describe its contents as ‘invaluable but scanty’, which would seem to put its significance beyond doubt.[4]

While ASC is the most contemporary of the selected sources, it does not diminish the significance of both Orderic’s The Ecclesiastical History, and William of Malmesbury’s Gesta Regum Anglorum. Written by Orderic Vitalis, EH is the product of Anglo-Norman heritage, which would imply impartiality, and therefore value as an objective historian – at least with regards to the relative fair treatment of the English and the Normans.[5] As well as this, Orderic’s upbringing in the vicinity of Roger of Montgomery’s household meant that he was close to a very powerful family, with all the resources, privileges and wider scope that might have come along with it.[6] As a primary source then, EH would seem to be incredibly important for the modern historian in the appraisal of William I’s reign.[7] Similarly William of Malmesbury, as the author of GRA, has received wide praise, with the likes of Williams and Thomson in particular both admiring the breadth of his reading, as well as his critical acumen and historical judgement.[8] This has led to the perception that he is by far the best historian of his day, and certainly ahead of his time, something which undoubtedly points to the importance of his GRA, not just when considering William I’s reign, but rather through the full period recorded.[9]

Although differing factors affect the evaluation of each individual chronicle source, some recurring themes are prevalent, courtesy of contemporary influences. For example, both Orderic Vitalis and William of Malmesbury are of mixed, Anglo-Norman heritage which, as noted above, arguably leads to a degree of impartiality when considering protagonists of differing origins.[10] This objectivity is contested by Williams, who argues that condemnation of the episode known as the ‘Harrying of the North’ was universal across all sources.[11] Such a statement makes a sweeping generalisation by its nature, and it has been heavily opposed by Hagger, who argues that it was not especially brutal by the standards of the time, and that only Orderic Vitalis presented any vehement condemnation.[12]

All three chroniclers were Benedictine historians, and as such followed similar practices in their approaches to history.[13] While it is argued that William of Malmesbury alone is representative of both the benefits and confines of this style, one might point out that all three chroniclers write in a similar manner, thus making a comparison between them far more legitimate.[14] On this basis, perhaps the most obvious point of similarity is that all three authors had similar monastic backgrounds, something which has both advantages and disadvantages.[15] Writing in a monastery meant that each author had access to privileges and resources which were rare in the period; namely education, and books. It also however meant, as noted above, that they were confined to a certain style, which inevitably led to hagiographical embellishments.[16] In itself a manifestation of the distinct emphasis on the religious rather than the secular, this was most obvious in EH, with its prevalent religious imagery.[17] As record of events, the embellishment and exaggeration typical of such works would therefore seem to hinder modern historians, thus challenging their reliability if not usefulness.

ASC, written in the late 11th century, provides the most contemporary account of William I’s reign, something which means that events are far more likely to be reported without too much being read into them, thanks to hindsight.[18] On the other hand, it also makes it possible that the record of events was incomplete, inaccurate, or both. In general however, the ASC is praised for its accuracy, if not its completeness.[19] The majority of the chronicle for William I’s reign was written in Peterborough, the manuscript often being referred to as the ‘Peterborough Manuscript’ or simply the ‘E Manuscript’. The limitation of this is clear at various points in the text, where there is perhaps too narrow a focus on local events.[20] Aside from when and where it was written, other criticisms of the text exist including the aforementioned primacy of religion, and the fact that some debate exists over when the start of the year was considered to be.[21] While this may seem to be arguing against its value as a contemporary source, it does offer some crucial advantages. Firstly, and most importantly, the author’s attitude is rarely entered into the records, which displays a vital objectivity sometimes found lacking in other contemporary sources; those which might have an ulterior agenda.[22] As well as this, Swanton’s translation of ASC is a very good one, something which is sometimes taken for granted by modern historians, but which makes conjecture far more valuable.[23]

In terms of the content of the ASC, there are several things to note concerning William I’s reign. Only to be expected are the numerous comparisons and references between Saxon and Norman rule, something which perhaps shows a certain amount of what might be called ‘awareness of context’, and also suggests a little of the fairness with which both Saxon and Norman rulers were treated.[24] The fair treatment of William in particular is exemplified by the restraint shown by the author in the description of the ‘Harrying of the North’. Even Williams, who argues for universal condemnation of the episode, admits that the account given in ASC is reserved, while Hagger even relegates the version given to a mere note.[25]

Throughout the years of his reign, there is only really one complete description of William I; most portrayals are restricted to a few words here and there. Before assessing the accounts of William I, one must first consider the fact that definitions of certain words will have changed over time. As such, some qualities which might have negative connotations in a modern context might have been entirely praiseworthy at the time they were recorded in the ASC. Of course this only applies to a few of the qualities described, and is perhaps best exemplified by his sternness. William I was described as ‘stern beyond all measure to those men who opposed his will’, to such an extent that ‘that no one dared do anything against his will.’[26] While the word ‘stern’ might not be appreciated as a virtue in a modern context, William is seemingly described with admiration for just how inflexible he was. Certainly when one takes into account the combination of this intransigence and the fact that he was considered very just, the image of William is one of consistency, and fairness – concerned with public order above all else.[27] It is important to note however, that throughout the description of William’s reign, he is named the King of England, rather than the King of the English, and one could interpret the subtle difference as an indicator that while he controlled the land, he did not have the ‘hearts and minds’ of the English.[28]

EH, one of the chronicles written after William I’s death in 1087, was written by Orderic Vitalis, one of the better-known Anglo-Norman historians. Born in Shropshire in 1075, he spent the first ten years of his life there, in close contact with the household of Roger of Montgomery, one of William’s chief military commanders.[29] His upbringing certainly coloured his accounts of the history of William’s reign as it related to Shropshire, for which he maintained a certain fondness through his adult life.[30] Given the fact that Orderic allowed this bias the creep in, it would not be much of a supposition to make that his contact with Roger of Montgomery’s household made Orderic inherently pro-William. His Anglo-Norman heritage, and his torn attitude to the Conquest in general serve to quash this conjecture however, as he does condemn certain of William’s actions, as well as those of other Normans.[31] The best example of Orderic’s mixed approach to the Conquest are the contrast of his writing about peaceful English-French cohabitation and his very negative appraisal of Hugh of Avranches.[32] Orderic’s negativity does not rest solely on the Normans however, as he considered the Conquest the fair judgement of the sins of the English in general and of Harold in particular.[33] It would be easy for one to mistake this indecisiveness for impartiality, but what it displays more is a worrying degree of uncertainty.

Writing in the early 12th century, it is estimated that Orderic began to write EH around thirty years before its completion in 1141.[34] As such, it is obvious that Orderic relied on the accounts of others for his descriptions of the events before his birth. His main source was William of Poitiers’ work Gesta Guillelmi, though he was also likely influenced by Bede, William of Jumièges, John of Worcester, as well as possibly Eadmer and Lanfranc of Canterbury.[35] His wide range of influences suggests that the contents of EH had been considered at length before being finalised, and supports Orderic’s own claim that he was concerned with truth and justice, and was not interested in taking sides.[36] His work has however been the subject of a lot of criticism for a variety of reasons. It is argued in particular by Barlow that some of Orderic’s writing is very obviously unrealistic, with mentions of dragon-slaying and the like.[37] Part of this is due to the same constraints of monastic writing noted with regards to ASC, whereby religion is given a position of primacy.[38] While this is more forgivable in Orderic’s work, given the title, it still restricts the credulity of his account. Alongside this, his disregard for chronology and structure, and the incorporation of folk legends and stories which sprung up in the years since William’s death also give modern readers cause to doubt the validity of EH as a useful record of William’s reign.[39] Perhaps the most obvious criticism however, is the fact that Orderic was only a small child for the part of William’s reign that he was alive for. As such, some of his accounts, most notably the arrest of Bishop Odo, are coloured by later events and controversies, such as the struggle between the King and the Church over the appointment of Bishops. In short, Orderic was prone to reading too much into past events, something which historians struggle to avoid to this day. [40]

As part of Orderic’s recurring religious theme, he does praise William’s piety at almost every opportunity. Such a description might lack imagination, but given how highly piety was regarded by contemporaries, one could interpret it as general praise for the Conqueror’s character.[41] Despite this broad and consistent praise, Orderic does condemn the ‘Harrying of the North’ in the strongest terms of any of the chronicle sources, describing the devastation in near-apocalyptic terms. It has been suggested, and seems likely, that this is due to his Shropshire origins, where it was probable that memories of the event were still fresh.[42] This contrast potentially shows what could be argued to be Orderic’s impartiality, but the vehemence with which he first praises and then condemns William strikes one more as instability of opinion than impartiality. Such a contrast is shown perhaps more starkly in the instance of the rebellion at Exeter early in William’s rule, where Orderic describes the rebels fighting for liberty against ‘valiant’ attackers.[43] While EH has many issues with it, the fact remains that it is one of the most complete accounts of William I’s reign.

William of Malmesbury’s GRA, written in an attempt ‘to mend the broken chain of our history,’ was designed to cover from Bede’s authoritative work up until the date of the work’s completion, in 1125.[44] Similar to Orderic, William was born with mixed heritage, which is considered the source of his genuine impartiality, as shown in his treatment of Harold, and the middle course he steers when considering the Conquest in general.[45] Born in 1095 near Worcester, he maintained close connections to his birthplace for the duration of his life, but still travelled extensively.[46] William’s travelling is a part of the explanation for the astounding breadth of his reading, which included 400 titles, of 200 authors, and meant that he came into contact with other chroniclers, such as Eadmer of Canterbury, and possibly John of Worcester.[47] His travels are also certain to have contributed to his experience of the world, and therefore might well have aided the development of his widely-praised acumen and judgement.[48]

On the other hand, GRA has been criticised on grounds of William’s questionable credulity, as well as his carelessness, wilful mishandling of evidence, and meandering irrelevance. Indeed, it has been questioned whether or not William perceived himself as an historian, or merely a Christian man of letters. The primacy of religion in contemporary works has always been an issue, simply because most of them were written by monks, and William allowed some of his bias into the text by implying that the corruption of the English Church in 1066 had been corrected by the Normans.[49] As a counter to this however, William’s religious rhetoric is almost non-existent when compared to that of Orderic, meaning there are far fewer embellishments and exaggerations to sift through when reading the chronicle.[50]

While all three of the sources considered are crucial to the modern historian’s understanding of William I’s reign, GRA is probably the most significant due in large part to the fact that he gives the most complete and in-depth description of the man himself, both in terms of his person and his personality.[51] Such a description is invaluable when one turns to an interpretation of certain of his actions. All three sources have their own positive and negative qualities, and one must consider what the purpose of each was. In keeping with such, it is not unfair to say that GRA is the only chronicle which makes any pretension to be a secular account of events, while Orderic’s work does the opposite. While this is not the fault of the author, it does weigh the relative usefulness and reliability of their works heavily in favour of William of Malmesbury.

Word count: 3,013

 [1] A. Williams, The English and the Norman Conquest (Woodbridge, 1995), p.165.

[2] Williams, English, p.165.

[3] R. Thomson, William of Malmesbury (Woodbridge, 1987), pp.13, 18.

[4] C. Given-Wilson, Chronicles: The Writing of History in Medieval England (London & New York, 2004), p.159.

[5] F. Barlow, William I and the Norman Conquest (London, 1965), p.104.

[6] Barlow, William, p.108.

[7] Orderic Vitalis, The Ecclesiastical History, Vol.II: Books III and IV, trans. & ed. M. Chibnall (Oxford, 1990), pp.xiii, xxix.

[8] Williams, English, p.171, Thomson, William, p.11.

[9] Thomson, William, p.11.

[10] Barlow, William, p.104, Williams, English, p.165, 172.

[11] Williams, English, p.40.

[12] M. Hagger, William: King and Conqueror (New York, 2012), p.100.

[13] Williams, English, p.165.

[14] Thomson, William, p.5.

[15] D.J.A. Matthew, The Norman Conquest (London, 1966), p.215.

[16] Williams, English, pp.64-5.

[17] Orderic Vitalis, Ecclesiastical History, pp.xiv, 173, 185, Williams, English, p.165.

[18] Williams, English, p.41.

[19] Given-Wilson, Chronicles, p.159.

[20] The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, trans. & ed. M. Swanton (London, 2000), pp.207-9.

[21] For primacy of religion, see: Williams, English, pp.64-5, for debate on when the year began, see: The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, p.xv.

[22] The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, pp.xvii, 202-4.

[23] J.M. Pope, Review: The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, (trans. & ed.) M.J. Swanton, Speculum, 76:3 (2001), p.804.

[24] Williams, English, p.59.

[25] Williams, English, p.41, Hagger, William, p.99.

[26] The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, pp.219-20, Hagger, William, pp.100, 141.

[27] Hagger, William, p.76, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, pp.219-21.

[28] The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, p.xxxii.

[29] Barlow, William, pp.108, 114.

[30] Orderic Vitalis, Ecclesiastical History, p.xiii, Williams, English, pp.42, 53, 174-6.

[31] Barlow, William, p.104.

[32] Barlow, William, p.113.

[33] Williams, English, p.175.

[34] Barlow, William, p.164.

[35] Hagger, William, p.127, Williams, English, p.175, Orderic Vitalis, Ecclesiastical History, pp.xvii-xviii, xxi.

[36] Hagger, William, pp.127, 141.

[37] Hagger, William, p.164.

[38] Williams, English, pp.64-5.

[39] Orderic Vitalis, Ecclesiastical History, p.xv, Hagger, William, p. 127.

[40] Barlow, William, p.164, Williams, English, p.25.

[41] Hagger, William, pp. 117, 125, Orderic Vitalis, Ecclesiastical History, pp.173, 185, 221, 239.

[42] D.C. Douglas, William the Conqueror: The Norman Impact upon England (London, 1966), p.221, Williams, English, p.42, Orderic Vitalis, Ecclesiastical History, p.233.

[43] Orderic Vitalis, Ecclesiastical History, p.211.

[44] Given-Wilson, Chronicles, p.158, Thomson, William, p.3.

[45] Williams, English, pp.172-3, William of Malmesbury, Gesta Regum Anglorum: The History of the English Kings, Vol.1, trans. & ed. R.A.B. Mynors (Oxford, 1998), pp.425, 457.

[46] Williams, English, pp.171, 174, Given-Wilson, Chronicles, p.128, Thomson, William, pp.2, 15.

[47] William of Malmesbury, Gesta, p.425, Thomson, William, pp.7, 12, Williams, English, p.171.

[48] Thomson, William, p.11.

[49] Matthew, Norman, p.215, Thomson, William, p.11.

[50] Hagger, William, p.139.

[51] Given-Wilson, Chronicles, p.164, Hagger, William, p.133, William of Malmesbury, Gesta, pp.477, 509.

Bibliography

Primary Sources

Orderic Vitalis, The Ecclesiastical History, Vol.II: Books III and IV, trans. & ed. M. Chibnall (Oxford, 1990)

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, trans. & ed. M. Swanton (London, 2000)

William of Malmesbury, Gesta Regum Anglorum: The History of the English Kings, Vol.1, trans. & ed. R.A.B. Mynors (Oxford, 1998)

Secondary Sources

Barlow, F., William I and the Norman Conquest (London, 1965)

Brooks, N.P., Review: The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: A Collaborative Edition, by Simon Taylor, D. Dumville, and S. Keynes, The English Historical Review, 101:399 (1986), p.472

Davis, H.W.C., England under the Normans and Angevins: 1066-1272 (London, 1924)

Douglas, D.C., ‘The Norman Conquest and English Feudalism,’ The Economic History Review, 9:2 (1939), pp.128-43

Douglas, D.C., William the Conqueror: The Norman Impact upon England (London, 1966)

Given-Wilson, C., Chronicles: The Writing of History in Medieval England (London & New York, 2004)

Hagger, M, William: King and Conqueror (New York, 2012)

Howorth, H.H., ‘Notes on the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle,’ The English Historical Review, 15:60 (1900), pp.748-54

Matthew, D.J.A., The Norman Conquest (London, 1966)

O’Brien O’Keeffe, K., Review: The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, by M.J. Swanton, Speculum, 73:3 (1998), pp.905-7

Pfaff, R.W., Review: William of Malmesbury, by Rodney Thomson, Albion: A Quarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies, 20:1 (1988), pp.79-80

Pope, J.M., Review: The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, by M.J. Swanton, Speculum, 76:3 (2001), pp.804-5

Stenton, F.M., William the Conqueror and the Rule of the Normans (London & New York, 1925)

Thomson, R., William of Malmesbury (Woodbridge, 1987)

Van Houts, E., ‘The Norman Conquest through European Eyes,’ The English Historical Review, 110:438 (1995), pp.832-53

Whitelock, D., D.C. Douglas, C.H. Lemmon, F. Barlow (eds.), The Norman Conquest: Its Setting and Impact (London, 1966)

Williams, A., The English and the Norman Conquest (Woodbridge, 1995)

Feedback:

68%

All the following feedback is rated on the following scale: Outstanding-Excellent-Good-Competent-Pass-Fail.

Breadth of Reading: Excellent-Good

Critical approach to historiography: Excellent-Good

Focus on question: Excellent-Good

Organization of the material: Good

Depth of understanding and insight: Excellent

Use of examples: Excellent-Good

Introduction and Conclusion: Good-Competent

Factual accuracy: Good

Comprehensiveness of coverage: Good

Fluent and correct English: Good

Accurate spelling/proof reading: Good

Sources cited correctly: Good

General Comments and Advice: Very good indeed. This essay demonstrates a good understanding of the nature of medieval sources in general and the sources for the reign specifically. The conclusions are sound and well-supported by examples and with reference to the secondary literature.

But think about your introductions and conclusions more. The first couple of sentences in the introduction don’t really say much, or I’m not sure what they are saying. The conclusion is rather limited by the decision to rate the chronicles in relation to each other, which wasn’t really necessary.

Also, think about structure a little more. This jumps around a bit and the sections are a little open-ended. On Orderic, is it really a ‘criticism’ that you are making of Orderic that he was not a contemporary? It’s a limitation, certainly, but you need to be more subtle perhaps when discussing his account of the harrying of the North.

 

Why was Charlemagne so successful as a military leader?

This essay was given a high 2:1 in the second year of my undergraduate.

Why was Charlemagne so successful as a military leader?

Under Charlemagne’s rule from 768-814, the Carolingian realm experienced rapid expansion, largely as a result of military actions conducted by the ruler himself, or by his command. Charlemagne’s overall success as a military leader is undeniable, but there are many reasons for this.[1] Potentially most obvious are the actions and traits of Charlemagne himself, and this personal importance would seem to be definitively shown when contrasted with the latter part of his reign, when his sons played an increasing role, in the Danish campaigns among others.[2] The Carolingian military also clearly played a crucial role, and the reasons for this range from its equipment to its efficiency, its makeup and its size. Nestled among these factors are some important debates, including the extent of Charlemagne’s ability, the prevalence of heavy cavalry and the size of the armies he raised.

The obvious and possibly most important factor was Charlemagne himself. Many historians praise Charlemagne’s ability as being bordering on the supernatural, and argue that his personal qualities were vital in the military conquests of his reign, both in terms of the effectiveness of his administration and his organisational ability.[3] Oman even goes as far as stating that the ‘strong domineering spirit of the great king inspired his new subjects to undertake and carry out an adventure,’ while Nelson describes him as possessing ‘a certain constancy, steadiness or unswerving determination,’ something which he bases of Einhard’s Vita Karoli, where it is described as ‘constantia.’[4]  All of these would seem to suggest that Charlemagne was charismatic in the extreme and calm under pressure, and even if Contamine has pointed out that there is nothing to prove that Charles was an inspired strategist, he readily admits that the king was possessed of ‘extraordinary physical and moral endurance.’[5] In addition to these qualities, a recurring comment is that he was massively energetic, as is evidenced by the size of the his empire, the instance in 778 where he travelled from Spain to Saxony to put down a rebellion, and the fact that the royal itineraries were decided by campaigning needs.[6] These qualities were all useful in a military leader, and many of the historians above attribute his successes to them above all else.

Amongst these other qualities was Charlemagne’s aptitude for logistics and planning has been highly praised, both in general and with reference to the specific example of the 791 invasion of the Avar kingdom. Both contemporaries and modern historians such as Verbruggen, Halsall and France argue that Charlemagne was consistently organised throughout his reign.[7] Bowlus in particular makes the point that the use of Charlemagne’s typical ‘pincer’ movement required coordination and organisation on a large scale.[8] Others, including Collins, argue that the Charles’ long term planning only came to fruition in the initial 791 campaign against the Avars.[9] Brackmann argues differently, that the conquest of Avaria was a carefully calculated move in the series of events preceeding the imperial coronation.[10] Bachrach expands on this, stating that all long-term military planning was intended to cultivate imperial ambitions.[11] Both of these arguments would seem to strain credulity, as they would bestow upon Charlemagne an inhuman amount of foresight. While he may well have been working towards a Carolingian Empire, it is unlikely that Charles planned his military campaigns with imperial ambitions specifically in mind.

On the other side of this, Ganshof simply dismisses the Brackmann thesis, stating (correctly) that there is no evidence to support it, and this would seem to support the view that Charlemagne did not plan his campaigns with a view to being crowned emperor.[12] Collins among others argues that at least some of Charlemagne’s campaigns were purely opportunistic, and he cites both the Lombard campaign of 773/4 and the Spanish campaign of 778 as examples.[13] Both Reuter and Schieffer argue much more generally, with Reuter stating that early medieval warfare only consisted of raiding for plunder. They both continue to say that Charlemagne had no long term goals at all, and that even the 791 invasion of the Avar kingdom was merely for material gain.[14] While it is difficult to argue that Charles planned his military expeditions with his imperial ambitions in mind, it is potentially more so to contend that no preparation whatsoever went into his campaigns – as has already been pointed out: a degree of planning was required for the coordination of multiple armies. With regards specifically to the Avar campaign in 791, Collins argues that the invasion not beginning until September of that year is evidence enough of the amount of preparation.[15]

Charlemagne’s ability to inspire loyalty was also crucial to his success as a military leader, as it meant that he was able to garner support for his various campaigns. Different historians are of varying opinions as to how exactly he went about this, with such as Fouracre stating that simply being successful was enough to promote loyalty.[16] Others are far more cynical but potentially more realistic, stating that Charlemagne bought their loyalty with captured treasure, as is shown especially following Pippin the Hunchback’s rebellion in 792.[17] The fact that this loyalty extended through the different social levels also meant that Charlemagne was able to make the utilisation of his resources much more efficient.[18] While this was directly applicable to the raising of military levies, it was also useful when mobilising workforces for construction projects, such as attempting to link the rivers Rednitz and Altmühl with a three kilometre canal.[19] Even though the project was ultimately unsuccessful, it proves the extent to which Charlemagne could galvanise the population, and would therefore imply that even if short of outright devotion, the loyalty he inspired was a potent force, and one he undoubtedly utilised in his military campaigns.[20]

The various tactics utilised by Charlemagne during the course of his military expeditions have also been argued as the crucial factor determining his success as a military leader. Collins, among others, argues that Charlemagne used ‘shock and awe’ style campaigns to demoralise his enemies, and this is shown in the winter of 784/5 in Saxony, as well as perhaps more obviously at the outset of the Saxon Wars in 772 with the destruction of Irminsul.[21] Alongside, and perhaps in concert with this was the use of terror tactics, particularly against the Saxons. Most notable of these was the infamous slaughter of some 4,500 Saxon prisoners at Verden, who were said to have taken part in the Frankish defeat in the Süntel Hills in 782.[22] The effects of such tactics would have been to demoralise the Saxons, and to cow them and perhaps other foes – argued by Bowlus as being a major factor in the Avar collapse in 791-6.[23] While one might argue that this was a more general, Carolingian approach to warfare, others might cite the ultimate success in ‘pacifying’ the Saxons under Charlemagne as evidence that he introduced new shock or ‘terror’ tactics to the theatre, and that they were potentially the reason for his successes both in Saxony and Avaria.

Charlemagne’s wider strategy also undeniably contributed vast amounts to his success, and is perhaps the most convincing aspect of the argument for the king’s personal importance. Charlemagne used novel winter campaigning in 784/5 in Saxony to great effect, as shown by the fact that he forced the Saxon leader Widukund to treat with him in 785.[24] As well as this, he was able to organise marching in parallel columns, as in 791 in Avaria and 804 in Saxony.[25]  The technique of converging on an enemy from several directions at once has also been promoted, and is heralded as one of the most significant factors behind Charlemagne’s successes, whether it was in Saxony in 774, Bavaria in 787 or Avaria in 791 and 796.[26] The success of the strategies seems clear, as the Carolingian army suffered only a few major defeats, most infamously at Roncesvalles in 778, although the same technique of splitting his forces up has been blamed for the defeat.[27]

While Charlemagne obviously played a part in his military successes, a strong case can be made that his role was not as much as is suggested above. One can argue that the Carolingian military was in fact the driving force behind Charlemagne’s success as a military leader. The speed and efficiency of the Carolingian army undoubtedly played a role in the successes it enjoyed in the period, notably in the Lombard invasion of 773/4, and later when responding to the Saxon uprising of 778.[28] Riché in particular argues that the ‘rapid mobilisation and concentration of forces’ was of paramount importance for the Carolingian military.[29] The contention remains when one asks the question whether this speed of mobilisation was down to Charlemagne’s personality or the legislation he created, or whether the system already in place was effective. It is debatable how much Charlemagne would have been able to change the levy system, even with the Capitularies he introduced, and it is perhaps more convincing that the Carolingian military was efficient before Charles came to power.

As well as the efficiency of the Carolingian army, the equipment of the individual soldiers has been the subject of scrutiny, with many historians arguing that Charlemagne was more interested in raising better-equipped forces than large ones, as perhaps he predecessors had been.[30] The majority of the evidence for this is found in the various Capitularies, although the ‘Capitulare de Exercitu Promovendo,’ in 803, and those of Aquisgranense in 805 and 813 have been examined more closely by Oman and France, as they are the ones which provision for the weapons and armour of the host.[31] The general quality of Frankish equipment would seem to be beyond contestation then, but Riché points out that the repetition of many elements of the Capitularies perhaps implies their ineffectiveness.[32]

Another area in which the Carolingian military is argued to have led to Charlemagne’s military successes is in the makeup of the various armies raised. As one of the areas of greatest contention in not just Carolingian history, but wider medieval history, there is considerable debate over the role of heavy, ‘shock’ cavalry in Charlemagne’s armies. The portrayal of shock cavalry as the dominant force on the medieval battlefield was introduced by Lynn White Jr, and then developed by Brunner, and it still finds support among more modern historians.[33] The view rests on the spread of the stirrup occurring during the reign of Charles Martel, and has been challenged strongly by Bachrach and Bullough, who argue that it was only the combination of stirrups and the development of the saddle which allowed a couched lance to be used.[34] Bowlus offers an alternative, stating that artillery was the decisive arm of the Carolingian military, which seems somewhat convincing due to the primacy of sieges and fortifications in particularly the Saxon Wars.[35] Both Bowlus and France also point out that the presence of cavalry in Charlemagne’s armies did not necessarily mean that they were shock troops – that horses were used for their strategic rather than tactical value.[36] While the use of heavy cavalry might have explained some of the Charlemagne’s successes, it is unlikely that they played such a prominent role as some have portrayed, and the thesis that horses were used more as a mode of transport is much more convincing. Mounted troops did exist, as there is evidence of such in contemporary chronicles, but they were nowhere near as common as has been suggested.[37]

The size of the Carolingian army is also the subject of intense debate, and depending on the more convincing figure, is an obvious area in which one can argue Charlemagne enjoyed having superior tools at his disposal.[38] So-called ‘Minimalist’ historians such as Reuter and Bachrach argue that the armies raised by Charlemagne were smaller, more elite affairs, based around ‘scarae,’ although Bachrach does concede that there was also a mass levy, but that Charlemagne was reliant on a more select one.[39] Primarily opposing this is Werner, who argues that the ‘striking element’ of Charlemagne’s armies consisted around 35,000: part of a total of 100,000, although Reuter dismisses this as wild guesswork, stating that no town north of the Alps had a population a third that size.[40] France strikes a middle ground of sorts, arguing that armies raised by Charlemagne would not have numbered more than 20,000, but they were by no means as small as is suggested by the Minimalists.[41] Verbruggen supports this to a certain extent, although his view arguably more simple: he points out that the ‘convergence’ technique noted above by its nature required more than one amry.[42] Although the estimates are somewhat diverse, France puts forward a convincing argument, and the number he has suggested would not indicate any overwhelming numerical advantages in most theatres.

It would seem then that the most convincing reasons why Charlemagne was such a successful military leader were his personal characteristics and ability, coupled with the execution of his plans. While one might argue that he was only able to complete the extraordinary campaigns that he did due to the versatility and strength of the Carolingian military, one can also contend that a lot of this strength was a result of Charlemagne’s actions, the most obvious example being how the Capitularies affected the general standard of equipment in the Carolingian army. It also seems convincing that the efficacy of the Carolingian military was a product of the cooperation between Charlemagne and his magnates, and that by rewarding loyal service as stated above, he promoted such support.[43] In short then, while the Carolingian military clearly was important, it was nowhere near as much of a foregone conclusion as has perhaps been suggested: Charlemagne himself provided a crucial catalyst to spark the rapid expansion, and constant campaigning which characterised the greater part of his reign, and for which he is considered a greatly successful military leader.

Word Count: 2,981

 

[1] P. Contamine, War in the Middle Ages (Oxford & New York, 1984), p.23.

[2] P. Fouracre, ‘Frankish Gaul to 814,’ in ed. R. McKitterick, The New Cambridge Medieval History vol.2: c.700-c.900 (Cambridge, 1995), p.105, R. Collins, Early Medieval Europe, 300-1000 (2nd edition) (Basingstoke, 1999), p.279, Charlemagne (Basingstoke, 1998), p.171.

[3] P. Riché, The Carolingians: A Family who forged Europe (trans. M.I. Allen) (Philadelphia, 1993), p.88, J. France, ‘The Composition and Raising of the Armies of Charlemagne,’ The Journal of Medieval Military History 1 (2002), p.82, G. Halsall, Warfare and Society in the Barbarian West, 450-900 (London & New York, 2003), p.153.

[4] C. Oman, A History of the Art of War in the Middle Ages, vol.1: 378-1278 AD (London, 1998), p.78, J.L. Nelson, ‘Charlemagne the man,’ in ed. J. Story, Charlemagne: Empire and Society (Manchester & New York), p. 34.

[5] Contamine, War, p.24.

[6] Fouracre, ‘Frankish Gaul,’ pp.101-2, J.L. Nelson, ‘Kingship and royal government,’ in ed. R. McKitterick, The New Cambridge Medieval History vol.2: c.700-c.900 (Cambridge, 1995), p.386.

[7] France, ‘Composition and Raising,’ p.68, Halsall, Warfare, p.149, J. France, ‘The Military History of the Carolingian Period,’ in eds. J. France and K. DeVries, Warfare in the Dark Ages (Aldershot & Burlington, 2008), p.326, Fouracre, ‘Frankish Gaul,’ pp.103-4.

[8] C. Bowlus, ‘Italia-Bavaria-Avaria: The Grand Strategy behind Charlemagne’s Renovatio Imperii in the West,’ The Journal of Medieval Military History 1 (2002), pp.55, 59

[9]  Collins, Early Medieval Europe, p.287, Charlemagne, p.93.

[10] Bowlus, ‘Italia-Bavaria-Avaria,’ p.45.

[11] Bowlus, ‘Italia-Bavaria-Avaria,’ p.46.

[12] Bowlus, ‘Italia-Bavaria-Avaria,’ p.46.

[13] Collins, Charlemagne, p.75.

[14] Bowlus, ‘Italia-Bavaria-Avaria,’ pp.43-4.

[15] Collins, Charlemagne, p.93.

[16] Fouracre, ‘Frankish Gaul,’ pp.102-3.

[17] France, ‘Composition and Raising,’ p.64, Halsall, Warfare, p.76, R. McKitterick, ‘Politics,’ in ed. R. McKitterick, A Short Oxford History of Europe: The Early Middle Ages, 400-1000 (Oxford, 2001), p.53

[18] Fouracre, ‘Frankish Gaul,’ p.102.

[19] Riché, Carolingians, pp.91, 108, Fouracre, ‘Frankish Gaul,’ p.103.

[20] Innes argues against this to a certain extent, see Halsall, Warfare, p.77.

[21] For the winter of 784/5, see Collins, Charlemagne, p.55. For the sack of Irminsul, see T. Reuter, ‘Charlemagne and the world beyond the Rhine,’ in ed. J. Story, Charlemagne: Empire and Society (Manchester & New York, 2005), pp.187-8, Fouracre, ‘Frankish Gaul,’ p.102, Collins, Early Medieval Europe, p.280, Charlemagne, pp.47-8, R. McKitterick, Charlemagne: The Formation of a European Identity (Cambridge, 2008), p.103, France, ‘Military History,’ p.329.

[22] Collins, Early Medieval Europe, p.285, Charlemagne, p.54, Fouracre, ‘Frankish Gaul,’ p.103, McKitterick, Charlemagne, p.104.

[23] Bowlus, ‘Italia-Bavaria-Avaria,’ p.56.

[24] Collins, Charlemagne, p.57.

[25] Oman, Art of War, p.85, Collins, Charlemagne, p.93.

[26] In general, see Bowlus, ‘Italia-Bavaria-Avaria,’ p.49, Halsall, Warfare, p.147, France, ‘Military History,’ pp.329-30. For Saxony specifically, see Collins, Charlemagne, p.48.

[27] Halsall, Warfare, p.147.

[28] Contamine, War, pp.26-7, for the invasion of Lombardy, see Bowlus, ‘Italia-Bavaria-Avaria,’ p.47, for 778, see Fouracre, ‘Frankish Gaul,’ p.102.

[29] Riché, Carolingians, p.91.

[30] Halsall, Warfare, pp.168-9, McKitterick, ‘Politics,’ p.49, Riché, Carolingians, p.90, S. Coupland, ‘Carolingian Arms and Armour in the Ninth Century,’ Viator 21 (1990), pp.30, 38.

[31] Oman, Art of War, pp.78-80, France, ’Military History,’ pp.326-7.

[32] Riché, Carolingians, p.90.

[33] L.T. White, Medieval Technology and Social Change (Oxford, 1962), pp.1-38, also see A. Ayton, ‘Arms, Armour, and Horses,’ in ed. M. Keen, Medieval Warfare: A History (Oxford, 1999), p.188, Riché, Carolingians, p.90.

[34] D.A. Bullough, ‘Europae Pater: Charlemagne and his achievement in the Light of Recent Scholarship,’ English Historical Review 85 (1970), pp.84-90, B.S. Bachrach, ‘Charles Martel, Shock Combat, the Stirrup and Feudalism,’ Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History 7 (1970), pp.47-75.

[35] C. Bowlus, ‘Warfare and Society in the Carolingian Ostmark,’ Austrian History Yearbook 14 (1978), pp.4-5.

[36] France, ‘Military History,’ p.325, Bowlus, ‘Warfare,’ p.12

[37] McKitterick, ‘Politics,’ p.49 and Oman, Art of War, p.84  both argue for an upsurge in numbers, challenged in Halsall, Warfare, p.185.

[38] Oman, Art of War, pp.79-80, Riché, Carolingians, p.90, France, ‘Composition and Raising,’ p.62, Halsall, Warfare, p.119, Contamine, War, p.25.

[39] France, ‘Composition and Raising,’ pp.62, 69, Riché, Carolingians, p.90,

[40] See France, ‘Composition and Raising,’ p.69, T. Reuter, ‘The End of Carolingian Military Expansion,’ in eds. P. Godman and R. Collins, Charlemagne’s Heir: New perspectives on the reign of Louis the Pious (814-40) (Oxford, 1990), pp.391-405.

[41] France, ‘Composition and Raising,’ pp.67, 81.

[42] See France, ‘Composition and Raising,’ p.68.

[43] Halsall, Warfare, pp.73-5.

Bibliography

Airlie, S., ‘Charlemagne and the aristocracy: captains and kings,’ in J. Story (ed.), Charlemagne: Empire and Society (Manchester & New York, 2005), pp.90-102

Ayton, A., ‘Arms, Armour and Horses,’ in M. Keen (ed.), Medieval Warfare: A History (Oxford, 1999), pp.186-208

Bachrach, B.S., ‘Charles Martel, Shock Combat, the Stirrup and Feudalism,’ Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History 7 (1970), pp.49-75

Bowlus, C., ‘Italia-Bavaria-Avaria: The Grand Strategy behind Charlemagn’es Renovatio Imperii in the West,’ The Journal of Medieval Military History 1 (2002), pp.43-60

Bowlus, C., ‘Warfare and Society in the Carolingian Ostmark,’ Austrian History Yearbook 14 (1978), pp.3-30

Bullough, D.A., ‘Europae Pater: Charlemagne and his achievement in the Light of Recent Scholarship,’ English Historical Review 85 (1970), pp.84-90

Collins, R., Charlemagne (Basingstoke, 1998)

Collins, R., Early Medieval Europe, 300-1000 (2nd edition) (Basingstoke, 1999)

Contamine, P., War in the Middle Ages (Oxford & New York, 1984)

Coupland, S., ‘Carolingian Arms and Armour in the Ninth Century,’ Viator 21 (1990), pp.29-50

France, J., ‘The Composition and Raising of the Armies of Charlemagne,’ The Journal of Medieval Military History 1 (2002), pp.61-82

Fouracre, P., ‘Frankish Gaul to 814,’ in R. McKitterick (ed.), The New Cambridge Medieval History vol.2: c.700-c.900 (Cambridge, 1995), pp.85-109

France, J., ‘The Military History of the Carolingian Period,’ in J France and K. DeVries (eds.), Warfare in the Dark Ages (Aldershot & Burlington, 2008), pp.321-40

Halsall, G., Warfare and Society in the Barbarian West, 450-900 (London & New York, 2003)

McKitterick, R., Charlemagne: The Formation of a European Identity (Cambridge, 2008)

McKitterick, R., ‘Politics,’ in R. McKitterick (ed.), Short Oxford History of Europe: The Early Middle Ages 400-1000 (Oxford, 2001), pp.21-58

Nelson, J.L., ‘Charlemagne the man,’ in J. Story (ed.), Charlemagne: Empire and Society (Manchester & New York, 2005), pp.22-37

Nelson, J.L., ‘Kingship and royal government,’ in R. McKitterick (ed.), The New Cambridge Medieval History vol.2: c.700-c.900 (Cambridge, 1995), pp.383-430

Oman, C., A History of The Art of War in the Middle Ages, vol.1: 378-1278 AD (London, 1998)

Reuter, T., ‘Carolingian and Ottonian Warfare,’ in M. Keen (ed.), Medieval Warfare: A History (Oxford, 1999), pp.13-35

Reuter, T., ‘Charlemagne and the world beyond the Rhine,’ in J. Story (ed.), Charlemagne: Empire and Society (Manchester & New York, 2005), pp.183-94

Reuter, T., ‘The End of Carolingian Military Expansion,’ in P. Godman and R. Collins (eds.), Charlemagne’s Heir: New perspectives on the reign of Louis the Pious (814-840) (Oxford, 1990), pp.391-405

Reuter, T., ‘Plunder and Tribute in the Carolingian Empire,’ Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 35 (1985), pp.75-94

Riché, P., The Carolingians: A Family who forged Europe (trans. M.I. Allen) (Philadelphia, 1993)

White, L.T., Medieval Technology and Social Change (Oxford, 1962)

Feedback:

68%

All the following feedback is rated on the following scale: Outstanding-Excellent-Good-Competent-Pass-Fail.

Breadth of Reading: Excellent

Critical approach to historiography: Excellent

Focus on question: Excellent

Organization of the material: Good

Depth of understanding and insight: Good

Use of examples: Good

Introduction and Conclusion: Good

Factual accuracy: Excellent

Comprehensiveness of coverage: Good

Fluent and correct English: Excellent

Accurate spelling/proof reading: Excellent

Sources cited correctly: Outstanding

General Comments and Advice: You generally make good use of the historiography (but don’t name historians without citing them), and give your own opinions, but you need to use the evidence of, and quote from, primary sources. Try to pull the answer back to the question at the end of each section; it would have been particularly helpful had you summarised at the end of sections of more than one paragraph – you have, for example, two paragraphs on planning and logistics, but you end with a specific instance rather than a helpful summary of your argument. There was more to say about how Charlemagne achieved aristocratic buy-in – without it, all his tactical ability etc would have been worthless and he wouldn’t have been able to raise armies of any size. Christian ideology was another, related area worthy of consideration. And what about opposition to Charlemagne – was it up to much?

The formatting of the footnotes and bibliography is very nearly perfect (small issues highlighted).