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To Follow in Their Footsteps: The Crusades and Family Memory in the High Middle Ages

Nicholas L. Paul

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Cornell University Press
15 October 2017
History; Medieval history; Crusades
When the First Crusade ended with the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099, jubilant crusaders returned home to Europe bringing with them stories, sacred relics, and other memorabilia, including banners, jewelry, and weapons. In the ensuing decades, the memory of the crusaders' bravery and pious sacrifice was invoked widely among the noble families of western Christendom. Popes preaching future crusades would count on these very same families for financing, leadership, and for the willing warriors who would lay down their lives on the battlefield. Despite the great risks and financial hardships associated with crusading, descendants of those who suffered and died on crusade would continue to take the cross, in some cases over several generations. Indeed, as Nicholas L. Paul reveals in To Follow in Their Footsteps, crusading was very much a family affair. Scholars of the crusades have long pointed to the importance of dynastic tradition and ties of kinship in the crusading movement but have failed to address more fundamental questions about the operation of these social processes. What is a family tradition ? How are such traditions constructed and maintained, and by whom? How did crusading families confront the loss of their kin in distant lands? Making creative use of Latin dynastic narratives as well as vernacular literature, personal possessions and art objects, and architecture from across western Europe, Paul shows how traditions of crusading were established and reinforced in the collective memories of noble families throughout the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Even rulers who never fulfilled crusading vows found their political lives dominated and, in some ways, directed by the memory of their crusading ancestors. Filled with unique insights and careful analysis, To Follow in Their Footsteps reveals the lasting impact of the crusades, beyond the expeditions themselves, on the formation of dynastic identity and the culture of the medieval European nobility.
By:   Nicholas L. Paul
Imprint:   Cornell University Press
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 235mm,  Width: 155mm,  Spine: 21mm
Weight:   28g
ISBN:   9781501710643
ISBN 10:   1501710648
Pages:   368
Publication Date:   15 October 2017
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Unspecified

Nicholas L. Paul is Associate Professor of History at Fordham University. He is coeditor of Remembering the Crusades: Myth, Image, and Identity.

Reviews for To Follow in Their Footsteps: The Crusades and Family Memory in the High Middle Ages

A prominent example (of many) from Medieval Europe of how past generations were invoked to mould the actions of their successors is supplied by the crusades. As Nicholas Paul puts it in this lively new account, crusading was always a family matter. And by family he means the dead as well as the quick... In the first part of the book, Paul provides a splendidly informative, illuminating and often entertaining description and analysis of what, how and where ancestral voices could have been heard by putative crusaders in the twelfth century. -C. J. Tyerman, Times Literary Supplement (June 14, 2013) [Paul] weaves a history of the texts produced about crusader families into an analytic framework that draws on the insights of anthropology, literary theory, and sociology... Eschewing the more traditional positivist reading of crusade chronicles and family histories, Paul lays bare the various and variegated components of these texts, highlighting the role of women, objects, orality, romance, ritual, and liturgy in the collective articulation of dynastic memory... To Follow in Their Footsteps marks a critical moment in the creation of a new cultural history of crusading. -Anne E. Lester, Speculum (January 2015) Paul's book is an important contribution to crusading scholarship inthat 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 andmethodologies on many aspects of crusading, not least of all the ways inwhich texts and objects intersected with individuals and families to providemeaning and context to the early crusaders. -Kathryn Smithies,Parergon - Journal of the Australian and New Zealand Association for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (2014) [To Follow in Their Footsteps] is a stimulating contribution to each of the two subjects it covers. Its publication should mark a new phase in critical discussion about how the crusades were interpreted in the middle ages. -Simon John, The English Historical Review (August 2014) The real achievement of this book is not so much that it is the 'last word' on aristocrats and the Crusades. Rather, in the sheer variety of the themes that it tackles, it broadens scope for discussion of this crucial issue. Paul's book may well follow in Marcus Bull's footsteps, and set the agenda for the 'next generation' of investigation into the topic. That is no mean achievement for the author's first book. -Reviews in History (Feb. 2013) Paul showcases examples of two effective monarchs constantly exhorted to crusade, Henry II of England and Alfonso II of Aragon. For all the literary energy expended trying to persuade them, neither actually went, although their sons did. In the end, Paul suggests noble memory kept the idea of the crusade alive long after it had been laid to rest by governments and Christian society. Summing Up: Recommended. -Choice (May 2013) [To Follow in Their Footsteps] is an excellent contribution to twelfth-century crusade studies, which presents important new aspects and greatly enhances our understanding of the connections between aristocratic culture and crusading in the twelfth century. -Christoph T. Maier, Crusades (December 2014). To Follow in Their Footsteps is a work of very high quality. Nicholas L. Paul is fully conversant with the field of crusade history and the history of twelfth-century England and the Plantagenet realm. He excels in relating texts and material objects to political history and the construction of memory. This is the first book to have gathered so many examples of individuals preparing for what were long, expensive, and ultimately disruptive journeys. -Theodore Evergates, McDaniel College, author of The Aristocracy in the County of Champagne, 1100-1300 To Follow in Their Footsteps is a tremendous book and I am convinced that it represents a significant contribution to our understanding of the creation of the historical record (in its broadest sense) during the medieval period as well as the history of the crusades. It is a powerfully argued examination of the creation, evolution, and preservation of the memory of crusading and its importance to families and communities. -Jonathan P. Phillips, Royal Holloway, University of London, author of Holy Warriors: A Modern History of the Crusades


  • Winner of Cowinner of the John Nicholas Brown Prize (Medieva.

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