30th Annual Conference of the Center for Medieval Studies
Fordham University, Lincoln Center, New York City: March 27-28, 2010

Carsten Selch Jensen, "How the Crusades Have (Re)emerged in Recent Scandinavian Research"

For the past decade or so the study of the crusades has become a prominent field of research among Scandinavian historians and church historians alike focussing on the Scandinavian participation in the overall European crusading movement as well as on the more localized crusading activities in the Baltic Region. This renewed interest in the crusades has definitely caused historians to ask new questions on established views as suggested by the organizers of this conference: in a Danish context the crusades was more or les absent from the scholarly research for most of the 20th century. This has partly to do with certain traditions among leading Danish historians who downplayed the role of religion as a motivating factor among the people of the Middle Ages, partly because these same historians took very little interest in the military aspects of every day life in the middle ages. Taken together this would leave very little room for crusading studies in a Danish context. During the past decades this has changed dramatically thereby broadening our perspectives on the overall Scandinavian medieval history by introducing new questions as well as urging researchers to reread well-known sources within this new framework set up by the crusading studies. 

This renewed interest in the crusades – especially those around the Baltic Sea – has also deepened our overall knowledge of the cultural, religious, political, military and fiscal connections in the middle ages within the Baltic Sea-region thereby instigating a wide range of new research projects with regards to the incorporation of these regions into a broader European (Christian) context.

This paper would like to present some of the main questions asked by these historians working on the crusades in a Scandinavian-Baltic context. The paper will also show just how differently the crusades have been perceived in the various countries around the Baltic Sea by more or less nationalistic minded historians that are only now challenged by new approaches and methodologies.

At the centre of this presentation will be one particular source; the chronicle of Henry of Livonia, dating from approximately 1226. This unique source deals primarily with the Christianisation of the Latvian and Estonian people by German and Scandinavian missionaries and has been used excessively by various scholars who have interpreted the chronicle quite differently depending on their own national and nationalistic stance.


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