The advent of permanent settlements in the lands of the East introduced a new political presence and a novel social construct where the French language was used and employed on a daily basis. French-speaking communities were established in the lands of Outremer during three distinct but overlapping periods, corresponding to the successive western incursions into the region:
- 1097-1291. Following the invasion of the Levant (also called the Holy Land) by western forces in the First Crusade, four political territories were established to maintain western dominance within the region;
- 1191-1571. Richard I of England conquered Byzantine Cyprus in 1191 during the course of the Third Crusade and sold the island to Guy of Lusignan. The island remained under the domain of the Lusignan family for three hundred years afterwards, and in western hands until 1571. French usage went into decline around the 1460s, however, and fell into accelerated disuse after the Venetians took over in 1489;
- 1204-1473. After the Fourth crusade, French and Venetian forces created the Latin Empire of Constantinople by dividing up lands previously under the dominion of the Eastern (Byzantine) Empire, with Constantinople as its capitol and including such territories as the Morea (or Principality of Achaia), the Kingdom of Thessalonika, and the Duchy of Athens. Just as in Cyprus, Italian replaced French as the vernacular language of choice in many of these areas by the fifteenth century, which had come under Venetian influence by this time.
Despite the intention of Latin settlers to reside permanently in these Eastern locales, warfare and repossession often led to the dislocation of the Latin communities, who took their French language texts with them to their new settlements. Determining the exact locale for many of the texts remains a challenge, but the itenerant, cumulative nature of many of these works is an important characteristic of the French of Outremer repertoire as a whole.
Click on the following terms to learn more about texts from the corresponding locales: