Emma Lydia Zurcher (UCL) - 2017-18 Students

A comparative study into the historiographical interpretations of territorial loss in the eleventh to thirteenth centuries

For my doctoral research I will develop this conceptual framework and examine two near-contemporary historical scenarios of loss in the Central Middle Ages. Specifically, I am interested in how, on the one hand, the Muslims of al-Andalus reacted to the territorial losses to the Christian kings of Aragon, Castile and Portugal in the 11th-13th centuries and, on the other hand, how the Franks made sense of the loss of the crusader kingdom of Jerusalem to Saladin in 1187. I have identified these specific case studies because of the plentiful primary source material available. The poems of al-‘Assal and of al-Rundi are an excellent starting point for the Islamic material, as well as al-Marrukushi’s History (1224). The loss of Jerusalem is considered in both the De Expugnatione Terrae Sanctae per Saladinum, written soon after the battle of Hattin in 1187 by an eyewitness, and in the early thirteenth century chronicle of Roger of Hoveden, a royal clerk from England who had joined the Third Crusade. Also important are the model sermons of Eudes de Châteauroux (twelfth century), James de Vitry and Gilbert de Tournai (both thirteenth century).

There are two major contributions that I intend to make with my doctoral project. First, in the Middle Ages, just as it is today, territory was more than a physical stage. The loss of it was perceived as a loss of ideas, of memory, of values. Ultimately, then, it was understood as a loss of identity. In exploring these interpretations of territorial loss, my project will contribute to the so-called ‘spatial turn’, the intellectual movement which places emphasis on place and space in the humanities.

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