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The Experience of Sickness and Health During Crusader Campaigns to the Eastern Mediterranean, 1095–1274

The Experience of Sickness and Health During Crusader Campaigns to the Eastern Mediterranean, 1095–1274

By Joanna Elizabeth Phillips

PhD Dissertation, University of Leeds, 2017

Death of Louis IX of France on crusade in 1270. (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Français 5716, fol. 277)

Abstract: This thesis proposes the reading of medieval chronicles, specifically those of the crusades, for their medical content. The crusades left a mark on the historical record in the form of dozens of narrative sources, but texts such as these are rarely considered as sources for medical history.

Chapter 1 suggests how chronicles can be used to discover how medical knowledge permeated the literate society of the Middle Ages, and at the same time, by reading the crusader chronicles in a medical mode, to learn more about the lived experience of crusaders and the narrative art of crusader chroniclers.

Chapter 2 responds to Roy Porter’s highly-influential concept of ‘the patient’s view’ by engaging with critiques of this concept and developing a method to apply it to medieval sources, ‘the chronicler’s-eye view’, demonstrated through a linguistic survey of the identity of sick crusaders and crusaders who offered medical care.

The next three chapters take the ‘chroniclers’-eye view’ of the experience of sick crusaders in three spatial and military contexts. Chapter 3 shows how the crusader march could engender poor health by exposing the travelling crusader to different environments, while Chapter 4 explores conditions for crusaders in port and at sea. Chapter 5 is a detailed examination of the health of crusaders during siege engagements.


Finally, chapter 6 shows how the health of a particular facet of crusading society, the crusader leader, had significance for the leader himself and those who followed him. Throughout the key focus is on how the health of crusaders was represented by contemporary chronicles and what narrative significance is revealed by reading these texts for their medical content.

Click here to read this dissertation from White Rose eTheses Online

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