No written source is entirely without literary artifice, but the letters sent from Asia Minor, Syria and Palestine in the high middle ages come closest to recording the real feelings of those who lived in and visited the crusader states. They are not, of course, reflective pieces, but they do convey the immediacy of circumstances which were frequently dramatic and often life-threatening. Those settled in the East faced crises all the time, while crusaders and pilgrims knew they were experiencing defining moments in their lives. There are accounts of all the great events from the triumph of the capture of Jerusalem in 1099 to the disasters of Hattin in 1187 and the loss of Acre in 1291. These had an impact on the lives of all Latin Christians, but at the same time individuals felt impelled to describe both their own personal achievements and disappointments and the wonders and horrors of what they had seen. Moreover, the representatives of the military and monastic orders used letters as a means of maintaining contact with the western houses, providing information about the working of religious orders not found elsewhere. Some of the letters translated here are famous, others hardly known, but all offer unique insight into the minds of those who took part in the crusading movement.
'… in crusader studies, these letters will help to shed light on the feelings, motivations, and beliefs of the writers, which are not usually evident in the chronicles. This will be particularly relevant for teaching, as the material presented here is an anthology of sorts, which students at undergraduate and postgraduate level will find extremely useful for their research. The valuable work by Ashgate thus continues, and other volumes in the series are eagerly awaited.' Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations 'Altogether, this book is an important contribution to research, and especially to teaching, about the crusading movement.' The Medieval Review 'This excellent and very useful collection… The book is now essential reading for any course in crusade history and takes a proud place in a distinguished publication series.' Edward Peters, Catholic Historical Review 'The great strength of the collection is its scope… [a] fascinating and accessible contribution to the growing body of literature on the crusades.' Parergon 'The translations are readable without compromising on accuracy … The collection’s strength is in its potential contribution to a fully realised undergraduate reading-list, providing a source type often neglected and inaccessible, to be read alongside more familiar accounts.' English Historical Review
Contents: Preface; Maps; Chronology of events; Introduction; Contents; Letters from the East; Sources; Sources in translation containing letters from the East; Index.
The crusading movement, which originated in the 11th century and lasted beyond the 16th, bequeathed to its future historians a legacy of sources which are unrivalled in their range and variety. These sources document in fascinating detail the motivations and viewpoints, military efforts and spiritual lives, of the participants in the crusades. They also narrate the internal histories of the states and societies which crusaders established or supported in the many regions where they fought. Some of these sources have been translated in the past but the vast majority have been available only in their original language. The goal of this series is to provide a wide ranging corpus of texts, most of them translated for the first time, which will illuminate the history of the crusades and the crusader-states from every angle, including that of their principal adversaries, the Muslim powers of the Middle East.