Jonathan Phillips. The Second Crusade: Extending the Frontiers of Christendom. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007. xxix + 364 pp. $40.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-300-11274-0.
Reviewed by Jonathan R. Lyon (Department of History, University of Chicago)
Published on H-German (March, 2008)
An Early Turning Point in the History of the Crusades
As the author makes clear in the excellent introduction to this work, the Second Crusade (1145-49) has typically not attracted as much interest from modern historians as the more famous First Crusade (1095-99) and Third Crusade (1188-92). A key explanation for this trend is the Second Crusade's failure to make any significant gains for the Christians of the Holy Land in the wake of the Muslim conquest of Edessa in 1144. Nevertheless, as Phillips convincingly argues, this crusade--despite its lack of success--demands more attention than it has received for several reasons. It was the first crusade to the Holy Land to involve western European kings and thus forced rulers to consider the consequences of leaving their kingdoms for months (if not years) at a time. Important developments in crusading privileges and in the preaching of the crusades can be traced to the period 1145-46. As the book's subtitle indicates, simultaneous campaigning in the Middle East, the Iberian Peninsula, and the Baltic region during the Second Crusade helped lay the foundation for the idea that crusading concepts could be employed against a variety of Latin Christendom's enemies.
Phillips divides his work into fourteen chronologically-arranged chapters, although separate chapters treat the Iberian and Baltic components of the crusade. The first two chapters discuss the period between the First and the Second Crusade; chapter 1 focuses on the various pilgrimages and crusading efforts of the early twelfth century, and chapter 2 provides a rich, fascinating discussion of the powerful legacy the First Crusade left to Latin Christian culture in the decades after 1099. Phillips persuasively argues that this legacy had a significant impact on recruiting for the Second Crusade, because the generation of young nobles alive in the 1140s had grown up hearing stories and seeing artistic and architectural memorials of their fathers' glorious deeds in the East.
The next three chapters examine the preaching of the crusade. Of these, chapter 3 is the most important, as Phillips attempts here to rehabilitate Pope Eugenius III and to demonstrate his significance for the crusade's preparations. Phillips is especially emphatic in his claim that the pope's efforts to promote the crusade should not be overshadowed by the preaching tours conducted by his more famous contemporary, Abbot Bernard of Clairvaux. Chapter 6 explores a series of complex questions involving who participated in the Second Crusade, their motivations, and their funding. While Phillips somewhat cavalierly picks and chooses evidence he likes from a vast array of printed source materials that would have been available to prepare this chapter, the result is an impressive analysis of the nobles and knights who comprised the main fighting force in the crusading army. In the following chapter, the author shifts his attention to how the two kings who led the crusade, Louis VII of France and Conrad III of Germany, organized and financed their own involvement.
With chapter 8, the discussion of the expedition itself begins. This chapter examines one of the most successful campaigns of the Second Crusade, the conquest of Lisbon by the king of Portugal with the support of a fleet of crusaders from England, Flanders, and the Rhineland. Chapters 9 and 10 detail King Conrad's and King Louis's journeys across Europe, their relations with the Byzantines, their difficulties fighting the Turks in Asia Minor, and their eventual arrival in the Holy Land. The failed siege of Damascus, the ignominious culmination of the crusade, is the main subject of chapter 11. Here, Phillips carefully and critically analyzes both Christian and Muslim sources for the siege in order to argue that historians need to rethink the reasons for the ultimate failure of the crusaders.
The final three chapters include separate discussions of the Wendish Crusade against the pagan peoples along the German empire's northeastern frontier (chapter 12); Genoese and Spanish offensives against the Muslims of the Iberian peninsula, especially along the Mediterranean coastline (chapter 13); and the legacy of the Second Crusade, particularly the impact of its failure on crusading efforts in the middle decades of the twelfth century. The appendices include English translations of two primary sources: the papal bull Quantum praedecessores (1145), which announced the crusade, and an Old French song written soon after the fall of Edessa to the Muslims in 1144.
Although Phillips succeeds here in providing a clear and coherent narrative of events relating to the Second Crusade, he also demonstrates on a number of occasions that he lacks sufficient knowledge of German sources and German history to be able to analyze effectively German involvement in the crusade. Thus, in chapter 6, he briefly mentions Duke Welf VI's sale of property to the monastery of Wessobrunn in order to raise money for the expedition, but fails to recognize the broader significance of this source: the witness list to the agreement is a critical piece of evidence for understanding the German nobility's preparations for the crusade. In chapter 8, Phillips discusses why townsmen from England, the Low Countries, and the Rhineland coordinated their crusading efforts, yet his endnotes and bibliography suggest he is unaware of recent literature on this topic. Joseph Huffman's work on Anglo-German relations in the High Middle Ages, for example, contextualizes this component of the Second Crusade much more convincingly than Phillips. Furthermore, in chapter 12, the author reveals his incomplete understanding of the German nobles who participated in the Wendish Crusade. Phillips mentions the involvement of Duke Conrad of Zähringen and of Duke Conrad of Burgundy without seeming to realize they are the same person. More significantly, the participation of this southern German nobleman calls into question Phillips's argument that the Germans who joined in the Wendish Crusade were all Saxon nobles who preferred to fight neighboring pagans than to make the long trek to the Holy Land. Imperial politics in the mid-1140s is an equally important factor in this crusade, but one that the author never effectively addresses.
Phillips is clearly most comfortable focusing on sources and historiographical debates that concern the crusades to the Holy Land. The sections of this book that describe the course of the Second Crusade to the East and attempt to place this expedition within the broader context of the crusading movement as a whole are the strongest parts of the work. Though Phillips is weaker on some other topics, he nevertheless succeeds in demonstrating that scholars need to think more seriously about the place of the Second Crusade within the field of crusade history.
. Joseph P. Huffman, The Social Politics of Medieval Diplomacy: Anglo-German Relations (1066-1307) (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000), 46-56.
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Jonathan R. Lyon. Review of Phillips, Jonathan, The Second Crusade: Extending the Frontiers of Christendom.
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