Acre, Crusades get spotlight in international history conference

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The city of Amsterdam played host to the 21st International Congress on Historical Sciences last month, bringing hundreds of historians together from a wide range of areas. Medievalists were well-represented with over a dozen papers dedicated to the crusades and the city of Acre in particular. The sessions were organized by Professor John France of the University of Wales-Swasnsea for the Society for the Study of the Crusades and the Latin East (SSCLE). Professor France said it  was “a lively set of sessions which shows the range and depth of scholarship on the crusades.”

Each of the sessions drew an audience of twenty to thirty people. The city of Acre, also called Akko, was the location of a major siege during the Third Crusade and was the capital of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem in the thirteenth century. Its fall in the year 1291 marked the end of the Crusader’s presence in the Holy Land.

The International Congress on Historical Sciences hosts a wide range of sessions, going from ancient history to the modern-day. The congress is held every five years.

Here is a list of the various papers given about the Crusades at the congress:

The siege of Acre during the Third Crusade: Saladin’s failure and the dynamics of a crusader siege – By  Tom Asbridge

At first glance the siege of Acre during the Third Crusade appears to run counter to our expectations of medieval warfare, being an investment successfully prosecuted within hostile territory, in the face of an entrenched garrison and a relieving army. This paper assesses why Saladin failed to overcome the Latin troops besieging Acre and asks what this reveals about the sultan’s military leadership. It also seeks to place the siege of Acre into the wider context of crusader warfare, questioning whether this episode at Acre was as remarkable as it seems.

The capture of Acre, 1104, and Baldwin I’s conquest of the littoral - By Susan Edgington

The capture of Jerusalem in 1099 was seen as the end of the First Crusade, but the new state’s first rulers were faced with the problem of holding on to their gains. This paper will examine how the sieges and eventual capture of Acre fitted into Baldwin I’s strategy for the long-term security of the kingdom of Jerusalem.

Fall of Acre 1291 and its effect on Cyprus – By Anne Gilmour-Bryson

The extraordinary fall of Acre in 1291 and the seeming end of the crusades and the possibility of regaining Jerusalem had a tremendous effect not only on the European countries but more particularly on local areas such as the island of Cyprus. This paper will use local chonicles such as Amadi and Bustron and my lifelong interest in Cyprus as a locus of one of the most important Templar Trials.

Martyrs for the faith. Denmark, the third crusade and the fall of Acre 1191 – By Janus Møller Jensen

This paper investigates Danish participation in the Third Crusade from the preaching of the crusade in 1187/88 to the Danish fleets that arrived in the Holy Land both before and after the fall of Acre. It further investigates the impact of the third crusade in Denmark for the crusades in the Baltic, its reception in literature and art and the implications for the general history of the crusades.

Dealing with the Religious Past: Concepts of War and Peace during the Crusades – By Yvonne Friedman

The concept of Holy War as the basis for the idea of the crusade was a transformation from the peace seeking religion of early Christianity to the medieval notion of the papacy as “Crusading Peace”. The past had to be remoulded to make the crusaders the heirs of Joshua and the Macabees, miles Christi fighting for the Holy Land. The church councils of peace- Pax Dei and treuga Dei were reinterpreted to accommodate crusader propaganda in a fighting society. Meeting with the realities in the Holy Land, both the Franks and the Muslims had to learn to negotiate and make peace-treaties with their religious enemy. This was done by reinventing their religious past, the Muslim traditions of jihad and hudna, and the Christians by adopting the eastern heritage of diplomacy and peacemaking. Both Christians and Muslims shaped their identity according to a real or envisaged religious past that influenced their decisions in war and peace. One example was the way both sides saw Jerusalem as part of their religious heritage and the intensification of the city’s holiness in their past and present. In 1229 the treaty between Frederick II and al-Kamil included the division of Jerusalem according to holy places, but both political leaders did not take into account that the religious past had changed and therefore their treaty was not acceptable to their people.

The Fall of Acre 1291 in the Court of Public Opinion – By Charles Connell

Drawing upon eastern and western sources, this paper will illustrate how the Fall of Acre in 1291 was “consturcted” and how that constuction shaped the crusading movement thereafter.

Identifying the Real Saviours of Acre in 1191 –  By Dana Cushing

Although missing the fragment describing the battle for Acre in a German Third Crusader’s eyewitness manuscript (De Itinere Navali), other information in the text and in contemporary chronicles has yielded clues to reconstructing the names and groupings of Crusaders at Acre during the Christians’ moment of crisis. For as King Philip of France had abandoned the siege, the ranks were decimated by dysyntery and malaria; yet suddenly arrived ‘many great ships of Danes and Germans’ who captured Acre. Also in this crucible was created the Order of the German Knights of St. Mary (the Teutonic Order) from among those who created a field hospital of sails erected like tents. As that order grew in fame and power, many claimed to have been at Acre or just baselessly asserted Brotherhood in the Order! The paper will construct a layered argument, allowing the audience to build upon well-known histories using the new discoveries I shall present.

Using the ‘De Itinere Navali’ MS in conjunction with contemporary chronicles and documentary evidence, this paper shall resolve the question of which Germanic-speaking Crusaders’ groupings travelled by which method (land or sea); next, to determine the actual departure dates and sailing routes of the seaborne Crusaders, thereby establishing an order of arrival, at Acre and other ports; finally, to learn about third-party Crusading groups independently supporting the cause. Using Teutonic and Royal charters, I expect to identify over 15 groups of seaborne Crusaders as well as 200+ individual Crusaders.

The besiege of Acre (1189-1191): An operational study – By Manuel Rojas

The besiege of the city of Acre, from 1189 to 1191, was one of the more important military operation to conquest a walled town in the Central Middle Ages, in general, and the Latin East, in particular.Thus, Acre is an excellent example to do a study of which were along those years the tactical tools for can taking an enemy strongpoint and, of course, the several siege technologies ad-hoc; in particular because the contemporary sources are abundant and detailed on this matter.

Perceptions of Language and Translation in 13th Century Acre – By Jonathan Rubin

This paper will discuss perceptions of language and translation which existed in Acre during the discussed period, focusing on the unique ideas that have developed in the city, as well as on the connection between them and the cultural climate that characterized Frankish Acre and its environment.

Did the Templars Lose the Holy Land?: the military orders and the defense of Acre, 1291 – By Paul Crawford

This paper will investigate the claim, sometimes advanced by contemporaries in the 13th and 14th centuries, that the military orders in general and the Templars in particular were responsible for the loss of the Holy Land. It will examine the ways in which the Templars were responsible for the defense of Acre, evaluate how well they did in that responsibility, and draw conclusions about their culpability–or lack thereof–for the events which culminated in the fall of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

The Fall of Acre (1291): considerations of annalists in Genoa, Pisa and Venice (14th-16th centuries) – By Marie-Luise Favreau-Lilie

The lecture is about the creation of memory of the Italians’ participation in the defence of the Acre against the Mamelukes’ final attack in spring 1291. It examines the interpretations of Italian activities written down in Genoa and Venice by some official and semi-offiial historiographers between the late 13th century and the early 16th century. It examines the various sources of those annals and chronicles (such as the accounts of eyewitnesses and of mendicant friars) and shows the authors’ strategies. Especially from the middle of the fifteenth century, from the conquest of Constantinope by the Ottoman turks, the Genoese, and even more the Venetian historiographers, emphasized on their ancestors’ participation in the defence of Arcre (1291) and the crusader states as well as in their role in the conquest of the Holy Land. They did so in order to defend their hometowns against public opinion that blamed the maritime republics severely for their close economic relationship with the Islamic World in times of war and crusade respectively.

Magister Thadeus on the Fall of Acre – By Iris Shagrir

Thadeus’ Ystoria de desolatione et conculcatione civitatis acconenis, a near-contemporary account of the fall of Acre, is hardly ever referred to in crusade literature, although its description of the events in spring 1291 is vivid, dramatic and detailed. The Ystoria places the events both in their temporal frame and in an interpretative frame, concentrating on moral contemplations engendered by the catastrophe, and on its place of these events in Christian history. The paper will present observations from a close reading of the text, and will also look at the text in a comparative context of recent studies on the earliest Christian responses to the fall of Acre.

‘Old dogs and new tricks: Pius II and the crusade – ‘Old dogs and new tricks: Pius II and the crusade’ – By Norman Housley

This communication will assess Pius II’s approach towards Crusading as a means of dealing with the Ottoman threat. Was there anything new about the substance of the pope’s crusading policy, or was the rhetoric of humanism brought into play in an attempt to disguise a vacuum of ideas and an approach that in both religious and military terms – as the pope knew better than anybody else – was bound to fail?

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Sharan Newman