- Remembering the Crusades: Myth, Image, and Identity
In common with the majority of their peers, historians of the crusades have recently become interested in how memory was shaped and reshaped, [End Page 787] in its transmission across the generations and its reception in radically different milieus. For all medievalists, study of this process is complicated by the partial and selective nature of their surviving sources, the fact that these usually served a number of purposes, and the difficulty of gauging their impact. For scholars of crusading, an additional complication is the longevity of the movement, which meant that throughout the period when collective memorialization of the great expeditions to the East was taking place, men and women continued to be exhorted to take the cross. This was bound to affect their attitude toward what they heard and read about their crusading ancestors. To the best of this reviewer’s knowledge the present collection of essays is the first to address the range of questions surrounding the formation of a collective memory of crusading, and for that reason among others it constitutes a welcome addition to the literature.
The collection has its origins in a 2008 conference held at Fordham University. Eleven papers appear in the book, grouped into three parts: remembrance and response, sites and structures, and institutional memory and collective identity. Among the texts surveyed are travel writing, narratives, liturgies, sermons, poems, trial depositions, and Lambert of Saint-Omer’s indefinable Liber floridus (c. 1120). The volume’s editors are justified in their claim that it is multidisciplinary and cross-cultural; it includes essays by historians of art, making use of standing buildings, manuscript illuminations, and seals. There are essays representing the ways in which Jews and Muslims as well as Latin Christians passed on the memory of crusading in the east. A major strength is the broad profile of the collection’s contributors. Several are well-known and distinguished historians of the crusades, but there are others who are new or relatively new names. The quality of contributions is naturally variable, but all of the authors have interesting things to say, and they write accessibly.
In years to come this collection is likely to be viewed as a snapshot of where research into crusading memory stood in 2008–12. One thing that is clear is that a large amount of research remains to be done on the transmission of the texts that formed the crusading canon. In the past far too much has been taken as read. Another is that although there were no doubt good reasons why Nicholas Paul and Suzanne Yeager confined their attention to the Latin East, parallel inquiries need to be undertaken about other crusading theaters, both before and after the final collapse of the states in Latin Syria in 1291. That is for the future. For the moment, editors and contributors alike deserve praise for a timely and closely knit collection that shows what can be done in this new field of inquiry. [End Page 788]