Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The History of the Holy War: Ambroise's 'Estoire De la Guerre Sainte'

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The History of the Holy War: Ambroise's 'Estoire De la Guerre Sainte'

Article excerpt

The History of the Holy War: Ambroise's 'Estoire de la Guerre Sainte', ed. Marianne Ailes and Malcolm Barber, z vols (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2003). Vol. I: Text; xv + 211 pp.; vol. II: Translation; xvi + 214 pp.; 3 maps. ISBN 1-84383-001-9. £70.00/$ 125.00. Ambroise's eyewitness history of the Third Crusade is a valuable historical document by a sophisticated writer, and a major historical text in Old French. Edited in the nineteenth century and again in an unpublished thesis in the 19605, it has been essentially unavailable for decades, though its importance is attested by the two English translations made of it. This new edition and translation is therefore very welcome - and all the more welcome in that the quality of scholarship is irreproachable throughout, showing what can be done in what is indeed 'a fully collaborative venture between a specialist in French medieval literature and a historian of the crusades'. The translation is furnished with exhaustive historical notes; the literary and historical introductions work well together.

The heavy emphasis on historical rather than literary secondary sources that can be seen in the bibliography is an accurate reflection of the relative importance afforded historical and literary considerations in the edition. No doubt the division of the work into separate volumes for edition and translation makes good commercial sense, as Ambroise's Old French text may be seen as primarily of interest to Old French specialists, while the translation would be of greater use to historians of the Third Crusade. But in some ways it is a pity. If medieval historians are often helpless before vernacular documents in their period, the practice of providing translations separate from the original is hardly likely to improve this situation, and the reader is left peculiarly vulnerable to the translator's own view of the text. …

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