Interpreting the Project

On 15 July 1099, the armies of the First Crusade stormed and captured the holy city of Jerusalem. This notorious event, which several contemporary chroniclers reported in gruesome terms, was the climax of a three-year military pilgrimage set in motion by Pope Urban II in November 1095. The First Crusade led to the establishment of four new states in the eastern Mediterranean, foremost among them the kingdom of Jerusalem, and it created a movement that in one way or another would last for very nearly 800 years.

The first century of crusading is perhaps the best known. The expeditions labelled by historians as the First (1096–99), Second (1147–49), and Third (1189–92) Crusades have been scrutinized for generations. They continue to form the focus of a considerable body of scholarship and sit prominently in the public psyche, providing the setting for popular films, books, and computer games. Less well known are the small-scale ventures of crusaders who set out independently for the eastern Mediterranean during the years between the “numbered” crusades. Recent historiography has presented such expeditions as little more than intriguing asides during studies of the larger ventures. The Independent Crusaders Mapping Project is taking the first steps in exploring this understudied phenomenon.

There is good reason to shed new light on the topic of “independent” crusading. As attested by the writings of a multitude of twelfth-century authors, a steady stream of pilgrims arrived in the Holy Land to follow in the footsteps of the first crusaders and offer their military services to the Latin States of Outremer throughout the 1100s. Beyond the well-known “numbered” crusades, therefore, the crusading movement had wide-spread appeal to the warriors of Latin Christendom. The study of independent crusading, as such, especially when scrutinized using innovative digital techniques, has a great deal to tell us about life and society in the High Middle Ages.

The current website presents the initial stage of an ongoing project. At this point in time, we do not claim to have created an exhaustive database of twelfth-century independent crusaders. Instead, we have created a teaching resource and a digital mapping project.

Over the next year, we will be adding to our website and enhancing it, preparing for the launch of stage two in 2018. All comments and suggestions about our project and website are most welcome as we work towards that second stage.