No written source is entirely without literary artifice, but the letters sent from Asia Minor, Syria and Palestine in the high middle ages come closest to recording the real feelings of those who lived in and visited the crusader states. They are not, of course, reflective pieces, but they do convey the immediacy of circumstances which were frequently dramatic and often life-threatening. Those settled in the East faced crises all the time, while crusaders and pilgrims knew they were experiencing defining moments in their lives. There are accounts of all the great events from the triumph of the capture of Jerusalem in 1099 to the disasters of Hattin in 1187 and the loss of Acre in 1291. These had an impact on the lives of all Latin Christians, but at the same time individuals felt impelled to describe both their own personal achievements and disappointments and the wonders and horrors of what they had seen. Moreover, the representatives of the military and monastic orders used letters as a means of maintaining contact with the western houses, providing information about the working of religious orders not found elsewhere. Some of the letters translated here are famous, others hardly known, but all offer unique insight into the minds of those who took part in the crusading movement.
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Malcolm Barber is Emeritus Professor of Medieval History at the University of Reading, UK; until his retirement, Keith Bate was Senior Lecturer in Classics at the University of Reading, UK.Review:
... in crusader studies, these letters will help to shed light on the feelings, motivations, and beliefs of the writers, which are not usually evident in the chronicles. This will be particularly relevant for teaching, as the material presented here is an anthology of sorts, which students at undergraduate and postgraduate level will find extremely useful for their research. The valuable work by Ashgate thus continues, and other volumes in the series are eagerly awaited.' Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations'Altogether, this book is an important contribution to research, and especially to teaching, about the crusading movement.' The Medieval Review'This excellent and very useful collection... The book is now essential reading for any course in crusade history and takes a proud place in a distinguished publication series.' Edward Peters, Catholic Historical Review'The great strength of the collection is its scope.... [a] fascinating and accessible contribution to the growing body of literature on the crusades.' Parergon
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