History and Holy War: The Legacy of the First Crusade in Twelfth-Century Europe


ACLS Fellowship Program , Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars


The First Crusade in twelfth-century Europe began amidst great eschatological hope, apparently fulfilled at Jerusalem's conquest in 1099. The massive literary outpouring that followed was in part an attempt to answer the question raised by this victory: how to understand a successful apocalypse, a prophecy fulfilled? Contemporary chronicles, exegesis, and theology together suggest that the act of interpreting the crusade reshaped thought on chivalry and the conduct of war, sin and penance, national identities and governments, and the shape of history more generally. This intermingling of long-surviving apocalyptic hopes and gradual disillusionment shaped fundamentally the character of medieval Europe.