PREFACE to the 2nd Edition
It is an unfortunate fact that until recently most scholars who mentioned the crusades discussed only those expeditions to the Holy Land that ended in 1291. This circumstance may have been due to practical considerations in writing and publishing, but just as often it seems to have originated in a narrow definition of "the crusades." Be that as it may, the crusading movement was not confined to the Near East. Crusades were declared against heretics, pagans, and political opponents, as well as Saracens. They were organized and led by popes, kings, nobles, hermits, peasants, children, and excommunicants. They were organized against enemies of the Roman Church in Greece, Spain, Germany, Bohemia, the Balkans, and Russia, as well as in the Holy Land and North Africa--for the purposes of conquest, booty, and revenge, as well as for protection of the holy places.
In short, the crusading spirit and the crusading movement affected every social class and every generation from 1100 to 1500 and virtually every geographic location accessible to Europeans. Nor did the crusades cease to be a factor in European politics with the end of the military expeditions. The Renaissance papacy cannot be understood without considering the financial and political difficulties imposed by recent Turkish expansion at the expense of enemies both in the Islamic world and Christendom. The Spanish conquest of the New World also exhibited the spirit of the crusades and lacked only the formality of a papal bull and the assent of historians to be called by such a name. From Clermont to Tannenberg, from the cloisters to the courts, these four centuries were a crusading era.
The Baltic Crusadepresents a picture of one part of one perpetual crusade that occurred in the distant past in a remote part of Europe but which nevertheless has affected the history of that region into the present century. This volume attempts to show that this was an important crusade, the success of which venture depended largely upon political factors in the homeland, that is, Northern Germany and Scandinavia.
The gradual incorporation of the Baltic peoples into the political and religious systems of Central Europe was a process full of changes and retreats, plots and connivances, self-serving alignments and pretensions of service to the greater good of the Church and State. Confusing even to contemporaries, its complexities challenge the most prepared modern specialists, who must make do with incomplete or contradictory sources and present the story to audiences accustomed to thinking solely in modern categories. By chance, this story unfolds over the period of almost exactly one century, from the late twelfth to the late thirteenth century, but its geographic expanse is immense--extending from the Holy Roman Empire to Scandinavia, Russia, Poland, and the western part of the Mongol empire; the expansion of international trade, the conflict between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, the missionaries' zeal to root out the last remnants of European paganism are central themes, the conflict of emperor and pope, of the regular orders versus the secular church, together with dynastic ambitions are important subsidiary concerns.
People living in the medieval era differed from modern man in their ways of thinking as much as in the conditions of their daily lives. Consequently, we must make a special effort to grasp their own understanding of their experiences. For example, their society was more sharply stratified along class lines and family connections than according to national origin, yet one cannot say that group identification was unimportant. One has to struggle with the nuances. I expect to illustrate some of these issues in narrating this story, as well as to point out several persistent historical and moral issues pertinent to our own time.
It is not easy to appreciate the thirteenth century on its own terms. The presentism which reigns over much of our contemporary discourse concerning the past opens such efforts to accusations of historicism. Nor can one escape the needs of the potential readership. While some readers may want to understand the medieval Baltic for its own sake, others will be interested in the ways the past (or the interpretations of the past) has helped create the present, and still others may be looking for insights into human behavior during periods of rapid and radical change.
Of special relevance to modern times, and of special concern to the author who teaches a course entitled WAR AND PEACE, is the concept of the just war, which is certainly central to any discussion of the crusades. The intent of the crusades in the Baltic region was to protect converts and commerce and to suppress superstition, barbarism, and anarchical tribal warfare. Led by a professional priesthood whose sole duty was the care of souls whom God had placed in their charge, these crusading endeavors were a noble cause and organized in the most idealistic form possible, when one takes human weakness into account. One can say in 1993 (with peacekeeping forces of the United Nations operating on three continents) that if this was not a righteous cause, there can be no cause worthy of taking up arms in its defense. One could not have dared such a statement in 1975 (after the coalition of forces which fought in Vietnam admitted failure there and in Cambodia). Perhaps in a few years such a statement will again provide exclamations of disbelief and derision. What resulted from this noble dream of the thirteenth century as the years unfolded, as it became entangled in politics, personal ambition, ethnic differences and cultural misunderstandings, is the subject of this volume. The ultimate moral question is not what the motives of the actors were, but the methods they employed. At its foundation, this question has to be posed in two parts: Do the ends justify the means? And, what are the alternatives?
The years between the first edition and the second have been fruitful ones for scholars in medieval Baltic history. Quite by coincidence, the first edition of The Baltic Crusade appeared at a time when German and Polish scholars were beginning a remarkable series of publications on the Teutonic Order, some of them cooperatively. Within a few years, the English-speaking world also possessed monographs of a quality surpassing anything previously published in Britain or America. More recently, as political developments in the Baltic have brought Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia to public attention, a new interest in the medieval past of these nations has arisen. The time had come to reissue The Baltic Crusade, to take advantage of the new advances in our knowledge of the era.
Obtainable through the Lithuanian Research and Studies Center, 5600 South Claremont Ave, Chicago IL 60636. $38.50 plus $3.50 postage and handling.