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European Colonialism in the Middle Ages

Prawer, Joshua. The Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem: European

Colonialism in the Middle Ages. London: Weidenfeld and

Most histories of the crusades chronicle to varying degrees the process whereby Europeans journeyed to the Holy Land, fought their battles, and returned to Europe with certain riches and tales of the exotic Eastern culture. Prawer engages in a different tactic, chronicling the history of European cultures in the Holy Land. His principal thesis is that during the period of the crusades, Europeans established patterns of colonialism that persisted into the modern period. The character that various Middle Eastern cities and states assumed from the time that Europeans began to travel en masse to the eastern edge of the Mediterranean depended very much upon the character of the European locale from which those Europeans came. The settling of Europeans in the areas of the Holy Land constituted a major migration comparable to the mass migrations that took place in the great age of discovery, which began in the sixteenth century.

Prawer attributes the initial wave of colonization of the Holy Land by Christian Europeans in large part to the fact that no strategic postwar (i.e, postCrusade) plans were particularly envisioned by Urban II when he called the First Crusade. When the Christians took Jerusalem, it occurred to various rival factions that some advantage might be gained by establishing what came to be called the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Other petty principalities were established at about the same time and continued to flourish as permanent Christian Europeanized settlements after the eleventh century, but the Kingdom of Jerusalem was the largest and most important fiefdom. Prawer also says that initially, the colonies established by the knights who had been involved in the First Crusade attempted to organize themselves along chivalric (if feudal) lines. Nobles, particularly the King of Jerusalem, were at the top of t...

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