Editor’s Choice

Editor’s Choice: Caroline Palmer talks Singing the Crusades

Singing the Crusades
French and Occitan Lyric Responses to the Crusading Movements, 1137-1336
By Linda Paterson

For publication in April (but available now), Linda Paterson’s Singing the Crusades is absolutely top-notch. The Crusades are of course a much-studied topic, but this offers something completely new. We all know about the chroniclers of the Crusades in official documents of the time, accounts of events, and so forth. Here, the author studies the troubadours and trouveres who composed lyrics about the Crusades (and were often crusaders themselves).

The best-known is Richard Lionheart’s own lament when he was held captive; but there are hundreds of them – and they have gone slightly under the radar, perhaps because they are in Old French and Occitan usually and so not so easy to read/consult. They vary from praise to criticism to moaning about the awful time they are having on Crusade (you can’t blame them), and frequently pull no punches in terms of upbraiding the Crusade leaders and rulers. (Marcabru comments acidly: “a good lady can improve, but she who takes two or three lovers and does not pledge herself to one alone, well, her worth decreases with every month that passes”. That’s told YOU, Eleanor of Aquitaine!)

The author takes a chronological approach, mapping the lyrics on to the events of the Crusade, and analysing the most important; the texts are provided with English translation. There’s also an introduction, and a timeline of events.

This book genuinely does break new ground. It ties into a number of strands across the Boydell list: Crusades history, military history, French studies, and even early music (there’s a list of manuscripts where the music is preserved – and on a website developed by the author and sponsored by the AHRC, you can actually hear performances of them).

(This post has been adapted from a light-hearted briefing to the sales and marketing department.)

Related Titles
Literature of the Crusades Troubadour Poems from the South of France Writing the Early Crusades

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Editor’s Choice: Caroline Palmer talks Pietro Monte Collectanea

The prolific Jeffrey Forgeng is doing his best to maintain the Boydell Press armour and weapons list single-handedly. Here, he offers a translation of a wide-ranging treatise by the Spanish-turned-Italian solder, Pietro Monte, written at some point in the 1480s. It is quite extraordinary. Not only does it offer advice on the usual jousting techniques, the right sort of armour to wear, how to fight with a sword, etc. – but it takes a much more “holistic”, almost modern view, thinking about the psychology of motivating an army and soldiers, and how each type of person will behave in a certain way.

And I have never before read a detailed description of the medieval equivalent of water-wings/flotation devices!

This is an absolutely crucial resource for knowledge of military matters, fighting techniques, etc. at the time; it really does give huge insights into the role of the knight, and what actually happened. But because it has had a rather complicated textual history (which need not detain us here…), it’s been rarely consulted. Forgeng’s easy, readable translation will change this. A number of illustrations of contemporary battles, armour and weapons illuminate the text further.

It will appeal of course to historians (notably military ones, of course, and those looking at chivalry), but also to re-enactors.

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