Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Barons' Crusade: A Call to Arms and Its Consequences

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Barons' Crusade: A Call to Arms and Its Consequences

Article excerpt

The Barons' Crusade: A Call to Arms and Its Consequences. By Michael Lower. [The Middle Ages Series.] (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 2005. Pp. xi, 256. $49.95.)

The subject of this study is the crusade of 1239-1241, which was commanded by Thibaut IV of Champagne and Richard of Cornwall. It was first dubbed the "Barons' Crusade" in the fourteenth century, with reference to the large number of high-ranking nobles who took part. With the exception of a chapter by Sidney Painter in Kenneth Setton's collaborative history of the crusades, the expedition has until now received little attention. It was a peculiarly fragmented enterprise and its military activities can seem confused and illadvised, not least because its participants chose to operate in Palestine rather than following the dominant strategy of attacking Muslim power in the Nile delta. In Henry of Bar's raid on Gaza in November, 1239, it produced one of the most foolish episodes in all crusading history. But this neglect of the crusade was unwarranted; overall this was a significant venture and its gestation and course have a good deal to tell us about the condition of crusading in the 1230's. And unlike other crusades that eluded the numbering system that was imposed in the nineteenth century, such as the crusade of 1100-1101, the Barons' Crusade has bequeathed a satisfying volume of sources. Above all there are the registers of Pope Gregory IX, who proclaimed the crusade in 1234 with the intention that a crusading army would arrive in the Holy Land when the truce negotiated by Emperor Frederick II expired in 1239. By studying the pope's letters alongside narrative and documentary evidence for their reception, it becomes possible to gauge how an increasingly articulate lay society responded to the papal Curia's attempts to exert control over the crusade. Hence the subtitle given to this book.

Michael Lower provides a thorough, convincing, and well-documented interpretation of events between 1234 and 1241, clarifying numerous points of detail that previously were either neglected or misunderstood. …

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