By Dana Cushing
Paper given at the 46th International Congress on Medieval Studies (2011)
Introduction: My paper today seeks to integrate sources from across time, cultures, and disciplines to achieve a better understanding of the Crusades, and to change our focus from land to sea. To answer Tyerman’s famous question:i Yes, there were Crusades in the 12th century – a plurality of them, in the ‘military intention’ view of Riley-Smith and Phillips. All around the European Atlantic, said Levecq:
… the river peoples… became globally integrated… and the frontier regions, won in an outburst of faith, became more and more… [important] to develop and to control maritime commerce for political and economic benefit.
These regions were called Outre-Mer – not Outre-Terre – for the simple reason that one could only get there by sea. Therefore, as John Pryor wrote recently, Crusader history needs to be told from “… the gaze of a seaman… from the masthead of a ship.” Both Crusaders and their opponents had significant ocean coastlines: Control of this coast, especially at river-mouths, was key to control of the interior lands, not merely for administration or defense, but for consumable-goods trade that was both necessary and very valuable. Thus we must study the maritime history of the 12th-century Crusades… in the ATLANTIC!