The impact of the Franks on the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem

The impact of the Franks on the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem: landscape, seigneurial obligations, and rural communities in the Frankish East

By Heather Crowley

PhD Dissertation, Cardiff University, 2016

Map of the Crusader States – image by MapMaster / Wikimedia Commons

Abstract: With the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099 and the subsequent establishment of four Frankish states in the Middle East, individuals of European descent came to control and administer areas of the Levant. Frankish regional authority persisted until 1291, when their diminished coastal territories fell to the Mamluks. Yet, despite a Frankish assumption of power in the Eastern Mediterranean, what effect this had on communities in the countryside is still unknown. The purpose of this thesis is to resolve some of this uncertainty, by examining the Frankish impact on rural settlements in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Frankish impact on communities was investigated through an exploration of the medieval landscape and seigneurial obligations, two attributes that affected all rural sites in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, regardless of other settlement characteristics. Investigating physical qualities of the countryside through palaeoenvironmental information, medieval views of landscape, and the connection between natural attributes and settlement sites, suggested that despite a favourable climate, Frankish impact on rural communities was limited and regional. Likewise, exploration of seigneurial obligations imposed on settlements similarly implied that Frankish impact was localised to specific areas; however it also suggested that the Franks maintained a sound understanding of indigenous agricultural customs outside of areas they significantly affected. It showed Frankish disinterest in intervening with local traditions when established conventions benefited landlords.

This thesis contributes to the field of Crusader Studies by nuancing the current view of the effect the Franks had on communities in the countryside. Frankish impact in rural environments is presented as localised and restricted, but consciously imposed in the settlements that were affected.

Click here to read this thesis from Cardiff University

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