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