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De Re Militari | Book Reviews

Peter Jackson (trans.)

The Seventh Crusade, 1244-1254: Sources and Documents

Crusade Texts in Translation 16.Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007. ISBN: 978-0-7546-5722-4. £45.00 » Online: £40.50, 276pp.

Peter Jackson is the rare scholar of the Crusades who is equally adept in both translating and understanding the cultural context of the Arabic as well as the European sources. These are certainly the skills necessary for compiling this intriguing set of documents, many familiar and even more less well-known.

Jackson has arranged this collection of Latin, Old French, and Arabic sources in chronological order. Thus, some snippets of text from the same source may appear in multiple sections if it relates to different periods (from chronicles, for example).  The book is arranged into ten chapters preceded by an introduction that discusses the major sources such as that by Jean de Joinville. Jackson then discusses the benefits and problems found in many of the other sources found in the collection. As many of the sources include only brief mention of the Seventh Crusade, Jackson’s discourse is quite useful.

While the inclusion of so many brief excepts of sources is somewhat frustrating in that one may easily forget who wrote what, Jackson has carefully cited the extracts, not only from their published form, but also the original manuscript listings. Thus scholars may track down the original text and find the passage if they need to.

Students will like the nice chronological flow as it describes the Seventh Crusade from its start with Louis’ taking the Cross to the end of Louis’ activities in the Middle East. Jackson also includes an intriguing chapter on the preparations for the crusade which provides multiple angles of view on the logistical side of thirteenth-century warfare. The third chapter is a nice counterbalance to traditional descriptions of the Seventh Crusade as it discusses the attitude of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, whose involvement and non-involvement is often overlooked, thus giving the mistaken impression that the Seventh Crusade was an exclusively French affair from the beginning.

The actions and failure of the Seventh Crusade is then discussed along with rival movements. In this reviewer’s opinion, perhaps the most remarkable chapters in the volume are chapters seven through nine as they discuss the crusade from the often overlooked context of the home front. Although this is an ever-growing field in most other periods of military history, it often receives scant attention for the Middle Ages. Chapter seven discusses reaction to the failure of the crusade among the nobility, clergy, and papacy.  Then chapter eight discusses the ‘Crusade’ of the Pastoureauxa movement that began with the intent to come to the rescue of the beleaguered Crusaders, but ended as an often unruly mob in France. Jackson also has included a few documents which hint at a Mongol or Muslim conspiracy to plant agents in Europe to stir up trouble, with the ‘Crusade’ of the Pastoureux as the result. The ninth chapter then discusses more organized efforts to aid Louis IX from the home front, and not just from France.

This is a collection that will provide scholars with a wealth of documents. Jackson’s own summary and analysis at the beginning of each chapter is insightful and cogent. The variety of sources makes the work particularly attractive for seminars on the Crusades. In conclusion, Ashgate’s Crusade Texts in Translation series continues to be a must for scholars of the Crusades and essential to any university that offers courses connected to their libraries.

Timothy May

North Georgia College & State University<tmmay@ngcsu.edu>

Page Added: September 2008