Friday, October 27, 2017

Diversity and multiculturalism in the medieval world - theory and practise - quotes

"The concepts of diversity and multiculturalism seem, in many respects, to be associated with modernity. However, linguistic and religious diversity were facts of everyday life throughout the medieval world. And—very much like today—diversity had its share of proponents and its discontents. In considering the religious diversity of the medieval Middle East, scholars often praise Islam for inclusive policies toward Christians and Jews, even when aspects of those policies were discriminatory. The concept of dhimma—the protection of the “people of the book”—meant that Christians and Jews could continue practicing their own religions even when conquered by Muslims. In fact, the model of dhimma as defined in the Quran and in the hadith (the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) stipulated that while Christians and Jews must pay a supplemental tax in exchange for exemption from military service, they were not to be forcibly converted to Islam. Dhimma policies thus stipulated a separate tax (which can be considered discriminatory), and yet the tax non-Muslims paid granted them privileges and allowed them to practice their faiths. In fact, dhimma as a concept was considered a novelty of tolerance when it was elaborated in the seventh century.

The protection of the “people of the book” was prescribed by the Quran and the hadith, but some descriptive sources from the medieval period (from the seventh through the fifteenth centuries) show that these prescriptions were not always followed. For example, in many cities under Islamic rule, Christians and Jews were compelled to wear specific colors and/or types of clothing in order to physically distinguish themselves from Muslims. Non-Muslims were not allowed to mount horses in certain cities and towns, and making public noise associated with Christian and Jewish religious
practices, such as chanting, singing, and bell-ringing, was discouraged and occasionally considered a punishable offense. Forced conversion was legally restricted, but in practice, mechanisms to encourage conversion were occasionally developed and even institutionalized as a means to integrate local non-Muslim populations into the larger Muslim society. For instance, under a practice known as devshirme (literally, “collecting”), Christian children were recruited to serve in the Ottoman army and court. Ottoman representatives visited various towns with large Christian populations in order to
force boys into service. They were separated from their families, converted to Islam, learned Turkish, and either entered into military service or began working at the palace.

While this practice was criticized by some Christians living in the Ottoman Empire, it also meant that some of the most important functionaries of the Ottoman State were, in fact, of Christian origin. And some of them did maintain ties with their families, whether in the Balkans or in Anatolia."

This blog quotes from "Diversity in the Medieval Middle East - Inclusions, Exclusions, Supporters, and Discontents" by Rachel Goshgarian; illustration from the same source, showing The Byzantine emperor Alexios Comnenos, who ruled from 1081 to 1118; Photo public domain of the United States. http://commons.wikimedia.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Depicting "Saracens" in the Middle Ages - part 1

"How were Saracens depicted from 1200-1420, and what can this tell modern scholars about the way that western artists and audiences viewed and depicted Saracens? ...

Throughout the images created in the 13th and 14th centuries it is possible to discern a noticeable change in the depiction of Saracens. In the 13th century they are clearly depicted with almost no physical differences from Christians, and they must be differentiated through the use of equipment and heraldry. This might be an example of  artists attempting to create a cotemporary struggle for their audience to relate to, or perhaps it was a means of creating adequate enemies for the crusaders to battle.

Regardless of the reason, this seems to change in the later manuscripts from the 14th century. Throughout this period, in both the History of Outremer and the Grandes Chroniques de France, the depictions of Muslims become more and more focused on racial differences. Furthermore the depiction of Saracens begins to lean upon eastern headdresses such as turbans, and the variations, to depict Saracens. The topos for depicting Saracens that appears is then based almost entirely on dark skin and turbans.....

This blog quotes from the conclusions to "Bertrand, Benjamin Anthony, "Monstrous Muslims? Depicting Muslims in French Illuminated Manuscripts from 1200-1420" (2015). Honors Theses and Capstones. 236 to be found here.

RIP - Dr Bernadus Theodoor (Ben) Brus - 1917 - 2016

In The Netherlands only a few researchers focus on the Knights Templar and their presence in the Low Countries. One of them is Dr Ben Brus.

Today I found out that Dr Brus passed away almost one year ago, only a year before his one hundredth birthday, which would have been next Saterday, September 30th.

I had the honour to be in contact with Dr Brus for my own research several times. His work, summarized on his website and visually quoted on Templars Now, is the cornerstone of Templar research in The Netherlands and will remain so for many years to come. With great respect I acknowledge his work and vow to continue it as much as I can in my own way.

Rest in Peace, Dr Ben Brus.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Financing the Crusades - general taxation

"A "first crude experiment" in compulsory almsgiving, the levy of 1166 begins the history of general taxation for financing the crusades.

The peril of the Holy Land again evoked an extraordinary levy in 1183, when king Baldwin IV with the consent of a general council imposed a tax on the kingdom of Jerusalem. It was levied at the rate of one bezant on a hundred of movables and debts (and income of mercenary soldiers) and of two bezants on a hundred of the revenues of churches, monasteries, barons, and their vassals. The poor were to pay a hearth tax of one bezant or what they could; the unfree were to be taxed by their lords at the same rate. Four men were chosen in each civitas of the realm to assess and collect the tax, but the taxpayer might declare under oath that he was over-assessed and pay according to his own declaration.Altogether the levy showed considerable development beyond that of 1166.

The kings of England and France followed the new model in levying another crusade tax on their subjects in 1185. The unit of one hundred was employed, and the annual rate was roughly the same as in Jerusalem, but the levy was taken for three years and so was the heaviest thus far collected. The sanctions remained ecclesiastical, and the tax was still administered by the clergy, though the bishops were replaced as collectors by a Templar and a Hospitaller appointed in each diocese. The exemptions of goods necessary to the taxpayer's profession presaged the Saladin Tithe"

Blog quotes from Zacour, N. P.; Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / The impact of the Crusades on Europe  (1989), Chapter IV, "Financing the Crusades". The quotes presented here focus on the situation in the first half of the 12th Century. Illustration Norwich Tollhouse source