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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  April 1996

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION April 1996

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Subject:

Re: first crusade, first wave, final comment

From:

Richard Landes <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Sun, 14 Apr 1996 17:01:36 -0400 (EDT)

Content-Type:

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TEXT/PLAIN (68 lines)

> When you speak of 'classic apocalyptic behavior', I'm with you all the way.

i'm glad. i'm not sure that the crowd at the American Medieval Academy 
was when i presented the case last friday.
 
> Cohn, I believe, had a conservative social-historical thesis: Millenarian 
> movements were radical in the sense that they prefigured or actually 
> initiated peasant revolts; apocalyptical enthusiasts saw the world upside 
> down, and tried to make it so. This is what he superimposed on the material 
> he got via Alphandery, although he read the sources, too! For Cohn's 
> vulgarizers (I include some, but not all, Marxist historians) the medieval 
> 'popular crusades' constitute nothing more nor less than the pre-history of 
> European social revolt. 

is this wrong, or only part of the story?

> Now who is being unfair? Just because 'essentially' to me means an 
> invitation to cut everything else out of historical reckoning--a lawyer's 
> kind offer to clear things up for a bewildered jury--and so is my 
> second-most-hated word in the historian's lexicon ('inevitably' the clear 
> winner), it doesn't follow that I go in for 'factors', tossed salads, tutti 
> frutti, or a little of this, a little of that. I much prefer cinemascope 
> historiography, the big picture, the wide screen (call it what you will: 
> 'histoire totale', etc.). Spare me 'context'; the old-fashioned 
> configurative approach of gestalt psychology suits me fine.

i don't quite know what to make of these remarks. why is Cohn's version,
however one-eyed, irretrievable? rather than peasant or commoner revolt,
let us speak of their autonomous initiatives. this can, but need not lead
to revolt. in the case of the first crusade it may, a la John Ward's
reconstruction, have produced a popular mass pilgrimage to Jerusalem (a la
1033) in 1094/5 (to be there for the millennium of the vision of John of
Patmos?) which people like Peter were leading, and which Urban decided to
jump onto in late 1095. when i use essentially, as in the first crusade 
was "essentially" apocalyptic (did i really say that?) i mean that there 
is very little of the "piety" to use Bernard McGinn's term that cannot be 
understood as a form of response to the sense of having reached the final 
denoeument of salvation history -- from the penitential warrior 
processions, to the visionary leadership, to the Tafur's cannibalism, to 
Tanchelm's anti-Jewish pogroms.  what i object to is the idea that once 
we say, yes there was some apocalypticism, we then go on to discuss the 
other material as if it were not part of the apocalyptic mind-set. 

this also goes, incidentally, for the idea (cited in another post) that
love and war, peace and violence are not divided in the medieval mind,
only in the modern (did i get that right?).  on the contrary, there was a
huge difference which they were not only aware of, but painfully aware
of...  it took the white-heat of apocalyptic expectation to join them
together, and the combination, however popular, was not, i suspect,
universally accepted (eg Francis). 

btw, in preparing the material on the apocalyptic elements, i came upon 
this famous and silly story of the goose leading the crusaders. but, as 
alphandery points out, this is not a goose, but *a girl* and her goose... 
in other words, the historians like Ekkehard tell it as a ridiculous 
story when in fact it fits the pattern of apocalyptic time -- ie women 
prophets (eg Thiota of Mainz) with mass followings of people who treat 
her like a magistra -- whose manifestations give clerical historians fits.

as a historian of the earlier period, i confess that reading the material 
on the crusades was like a hermit coming into a feast of rich foods -- 
what an abundance of material for the reconstruction of popular beliefs 
and behaviors!

richard landes


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