Jonathan Sumption

  • Crusader Institutions by Joshua Prawer
    Oxford, 519 pp, £30.00, September 1980, ISBN 0 19 822536 9

There are many reasons why a reflective Israeli should be interested in the Crusades apart from the obvious one that geographical coincidence has made them part of the history of his country. The conquest of an Eastern territory by force of arms and the creation of a European society in exile are achievements common enough in the history of the past two centuries. But they have been, by and large, the achievement of colonial powers, and their political development remained in the retentive hands of European functionaries. Israel is different, and so were the Crusading kingdoms of the Levant which preceded it. Here, moreover, Europeans were not colonials but migrants, creating their own institutions. Here they did not have the advantage enjoyed by the Spanish in South America and the British in North America – of being able without too much difficulty to extinguish the indigenous population. Instead they encountered sustained hostility from the previous inhabitants, fed by a religious enthusiasm as powerful as their own.

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