- To Follow in their Footsteps: The Crusades and Family Memory in the High Middle Ages by Nicholas L. Paul
Nicholas Paul’s book, To Follow in their Footsteps: The Crusades and Family Memory in the High Middle Ages is an extension of his doctoral thesis. It provides a meticulous study of the lay nobility’s motivations for crusading and is predominantly focused on the twelfth century. The principal focus of the book is on the ways in which memory and family influenced those who took the cross. While Crusades scholars have long recognised the role played by families in supporting and encouraging their kin to participate in a crusade, this work reveals the many ways and processes in which this was brought to fruition. [End Page 270]
The book is divided into two sections, essentially theory and practice. The five thematic chapters of Section I consider a variety of evidential sources and their authors, authorial relationships with specific individuals, family groups, and objects, and events such as victory and death. Paul mines a wide selection of sources and the result is an extensive survey that demonstrates the multifaceted ways in which family histories commemorated and remembered their ancestors, and which in turn influenced contemporary crusaders. Section II provides two case studies that bring into play the findings disclosed in Section I.
Section I is the largest part of the book and demonstrates Paul’s skill in textual selection, examination, and enquiry. His analysis and proposals provide new ways of understanding the first crusaders’ and their families’ motivations, specifically in relation to their ancestors and those who wrote of their deeds. It supplements the body of scholarship on memory and commemoration and thanks to the thematic approach, each chapter can, if required, be read as a stand-alone critical work. Section II’s case studies of Henry II of England and Alfonso II of Aragon are interesting choices. Each is anomalous in relation to Paul’s previous findings; nonetheless, Paul does not shy away from the anomalies, but addresses them judiciously. The strength of this section lies in the application of Section I’s five themes to the ways in which the two rulers used family and memory to understand their crusading heritage.
Paul’s book is an important contribution to crusading scholarship in that it expands the current scholarship on memory and commemoration. An added strength of this work lies in the variety of themes undertaken. This is a compelling work that opens the way for further scholarship and methodologies on many aspects of crusading, not least of all the ways in which texts and objects intersected with individuals and families to provide meaning and context to the early crusaders.