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Community, Identity and the Redemption of Captives: Comparative perspectives across the Mediterranean

Community, Identity and the Redemption of Captives: Comparative perspectives across the Mediterranean

By James William Brodman

Anuario de Estudios Medievales, Vol 36:1 (2006)

Abstract: Yvonne Friedman, in Encounters between Enemies (2002), asks why charitable ransoming was more developed and successful in the medieval West than it was in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. This paper seeks to answer this question through an examination of community solidarity. Particularly important to an understanding of western European ransoming customs is the distinction between the deserving poor, who are neighbors, and itinerants and vagabonds who are not. Hispanic ransoming custom, precisely because it emerged within the context of developing municipal communities, was a reflection of this group solidarity; consequently, the caritative ransomers who followed – such as, the Mercedarians and Trinitarians – had to adjust their appeal to conform to these group prejudices. The society of the Latin East, because it was more transient and less cohesive, failed to develop such institutions of solidarity and thus dealt with captives on a more pragmatic, less compassionate basis.

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