Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Crusading and Chronicle Writing on the Medieval Baltic Frontier: A Companion to the Chronicle of Henry of Livonia

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Crusading and Chronicle Writing on the Medieval Baltic Frontier: A Companion to the Chronicle of Henry of Livonia

Article excerpt

Crusading and Chronicle Writing on the Medieval Baltic Frontier: A Companion to the Chronicle of Henry of Livonia. Edited by MarekTamm, Linda Kaljundi, and Carsten Selch Jensen. (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing. 2011. Pp. xxxiii, 484. $134.95. ISBN 978-0-7546-6627-1, ebook 978-1-4094-3396-5.)

The importance of Henry of Livonia's Chronicle has been increasingly recognized since the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania regained their independence twenty years ago. However, the only English translation dates from 1951, far before scholars had paid much attention to it. Moreover, the translator, James Brundage, later a distinguished and prolific scholar of medieval legal history, had presented it for his master's thesis; he added a new foreword to his second edition in 2004.

That makes this collection of essays extremely valuable. Brundage himself provides a lengthy introduction, focusing on what is known about Henry's life and asking why it was that a cleric who was forbidden to bear arms so often joined in the fighting. Regional practices and necessity seem to be the expia-complicated nation, together with the fact that the church's disciplinary rules were not yet firm and fast.

The editors divide the essays into three categories ("Representations," "Practices," and "Appropriations," with a bibliography) investigating the text itself, the background to the text, and the ways that historians and political movements have interpreted it. Happily, they have managed to attract contributions from a number of prominent scholars; and they have ensured a uniform style that makes the essays easy reading.

Christopher Tyerman sees the chronicle as providing a creation myth for Christian Livonia, one that rearranges actions and motives to justify a brutal invasion and conquest. Other contributors investigate what Henry tells them about Baltic societies, their environment, and their beliefs.

The sections on military technology will probably attract the greatest attention outside of specialists on the Baltic regions. …

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