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Masculinity and Crusade: the influence of martial activity in the Latin East on Norman and Frankish warrior identity, the material culture, c. 1095-1300
By Hilary Simon
Master’s Thesis, University of York, 2015
Abstract: This dissertation argues that masculine identity in the era of the Crusades developed with Christological and martial focus. The knight was the highest ideology of masculinity in Western Medieval culture and his association with Crusader activity increased his prestige and social station which was denoted by his armour. In the first two chapters arguments will be made for the development of the faith-based armament of the warrior’s body and its impracticability in the Middle East. The next chapters will then use surviving material culture to illustrate the importance of armour and arms in the presentation of masculinity and piety.
Introduction: The study of the Crusades is multi-faceted and itself has a long history. However, there is probably no more abused historical event than the colonization of the Latin East. The history of the Crusades has been manipulated and re-created numerous times for the advantage of current ideals and expectations almost from its inception, both in Europe and the Middle East. The French Right and Spanish Resistance during the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte, Catherine the Great and Paul I, The British Empire during the wars in the Balkans, and more recently al-Qaeeda, Saddam Hussayn, and George W. Bush have referenced the Crusades to justify behaviors and beliefs which have very little to do with the men, Christian or Muslim, who fought and died on the battlefields of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Levant in the 12th and 13th centuries, nor with any real understanding of the sociopolitical context in which the battles occurred. Modern scholars accept that the Crusades were vitally important culturally, as they occurred as well as in memory, but just how and why is not often clearly articulated, except in the case of Historical Architects and possibly scholars of medical history, whose understanding of the influence of Islamic culture in Europe is relatively well studied in those contexts.
In other words, there is general consensus that the Crusades were vitally important in the development of medieval culture, especially in regards to trade, but the mechanisms by which the Crusades affected the development of identity, collectively and individually, is somewhat lacking. Much of the study of Crusader activity has been relegated as military history and the sphere of men and their accepted dominance; this dominance has rendered medieval men, as D.M. Hadley states, “everywhere and nowhere”. This is especially true in regards to the lay warriors, the knightly class who both heavily financed campaigns as well as participated directly in state affairs and in engagements with the enemy, sacrificing money, time, and sometimes life. In the past decades, under the guise of feminist history, men have been marginalized as collective political entities seeking economic gain. The study of masculinity, especially that which is perceived as a “reductionist or re-representation of unchanging ‘male power’”, can be perceived in some spheres of scholarly research as threatening. However, ‘men’ is not a single category or identity, rather various models of masculinity were constructed, reconstructed, and challenged in the high medieval.