Norman Housley, Crusading and Warfare in Medieval and Renaissance Europe, Variorum Collected Studies Series CS712    Aldershot: Ashgate/Variorum, 2001 . ISBN: 0-86078-843-1  

This work collects into a single volume articles and papers previously published between 1980 and 1999. The title describes the subject matter of the collection relatively faithfully, although readers should note that Housley looks not only at crusading but also at broader themes, such as religious warfare and sanctified violence, and that the greatest emphasis in the research presented within is on the fourteenth century.

The book is divided into two sections, “General Themes” and “Specific Themes”, although this division seems somewhat arbitrary and not particularly helpful (article IV, “I registri angioini ricostruiti e le crociate”, for example, is to be found in the former section while article XV, “The mercenary companies, the papacy and the crusades, 1356- 1378”, finds its way into the latter). One must ask whether a roughly chronological organization would not have better served the readers’ interests. On the other hand, the volume thankfully maintains the original pagination of the individual articles and includes a useful and relatively detailed index.

            Housley is perhaps the foremost English spokesperson for the ‘pluralist’ school of crusade historiography, which favours an expanded definition of crusading-- one that would include crusades against other Christians and the papacy’s political crusades, for example. As a whole, the articles contained in the collection (in particular chapters IX, “Jerusalem and the development of the crusade idea, 1099- 1128” and XIV, “King Louis the Great of Hungary and the crusades, 1342- 1382”) present a detailed and compelling argument in favour of the pluralist perspective. While traditionalist scholars may disagree with his more radical conclusions, such as the assertion that “every major crusading front which later developed was present in embryonic form virtually from the beginning” (IX.40), Housley’s research clearly cannot be ignored.

            Perhaps the most valuable single article is that which appears first, “Crusades against Christians: their origins and early development, c. 1000- 1216”, originally appearing in Crusade and Settlement, ed. P. W. Edbury (Cardiff, 1985). Here Housley rightly situates operations such as the Albigensian Crusade within the context of the military campaigns of early reform popes such as Leo IX, the Peace and Truce of God movements and the twelfth-century campaigns against routiers. He argues that the later twelfth- and thirteenth-century crusades need not be seen as deviations from the original crusading ideal since, “in the case of both the crusade against heretics and that against the political opponents of the papacy, there existed a series of linked precedents stretching back to the period before the First Crusade.” (p. 31) Having traced these precedents in some detail, Housley is able to conclude that even Innocent III’s crusade against Markward of Anweiler in southern Italy need not be seen as a radical departure from earlier policies, as some historians have characterized it. Apart from a few minor slips— Housley mentions “Bardo’s” life of Anselm of Lucca when the attribution is spurious, for example—the paper constitutes a minor classic.

            Other noteworthy articles include number V, “Frontier societies and crusading in the late Middle Ages”, which is firmly in line with recent scholarship that stresses an Iberian convivencia, but which goes on to suggest that such relations did not exclude an accompanying bellicosity; in fact, the two coexisted for centuries and to stress one or the other would be to demand of late medieval society a degree of homogeneity unexpected of later periods. Like the wagons that at one time transported money and trade goods across the frontier and at another the severed heads of enemy warriors, Iberia was capable of bearing an abundance of divergent, even apparently contradictory intellectual currencies.

Similarly, but somewhat less successfully, article VII, “France, England and the ‘national crusade’, 1302- 1386”, calls into question the thesis that rising nationalism helped bring about the decline of the crusade, although Housley does at the very least succeed in showing that on occasion the two were not mutually exclusive.

            Number XVII, “Crusading as a social revolt: the Hungarian peasant uprising of 1514”, offers a cogent introduction to a fascinating crusade that turned into a revolt against the nobility while nevertheless remaining, as Housley maintains, its essential character as a crusade.

            Rounding out the collection are articles on “Politics and heresy in Italy: anti-heretical crusades, orders and confraternities, 1200-1500” (# II), “The eschatological imperative: Messianism and holy war in Europe, 1260- 1556” (# III), “Cyprus and the crusades, 1291- 1571” (# VI), “Insurrection as religious war, 1400- 1536” (# VIII), “Charles II of Naples and the kingdom of Jerusalem” (# X), “Pope Clement V and the crusades of 1309-10” (# XI), “The Franco-papal crusade negotiations of 1322-3” (# XII), “Angevin Naples and the defense of the Latin east: Robert the Wise and the naval league of 1334” (# XIII), “Le maréchal Boucicaut à Nicopolis (# XVI) and “A necessary evil? Erasmus, the crusade and war against the Turks” (# XVIII).

            In sum, the work contains a number of varied but invaluable articles and is most highly recommended to scholars with an interest in the ideology and practice of crusading from its inception to the later Middle Ages and Renaissance. Few readers will find every article of interest to them; but every serious scholar of the ideology and practice of crusading will delight in something of abiding value.


David Hay
University of Lethbridge