Scandinavian Studies
The Journal of the Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Study since 1911.
Volume 68 № 2 pp. 139–60
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Norwegian Crusaders and the Balearic Islands

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The seemingly obscure Norwegian raids on the Balearics in 1108 or 1109 have a twofold significance. First, they comprise a significant part of one of the most celebrated chapters in the history of Scandinavian crusading: the expedition of King Sigurðr Jórsalafari. (Whether this expedition was a crusade or a pilgrimage is a topic of some debate to which I will return below.) The history of Scandinavian crusading, though, is greatly in need of updating. Paul Riant wrote the only comprehensive treatment in 1865, long before the gigantic leaps forward crusade scholars have achieved in tlle last decades. Another nineteenth-century scholar, the eminent Arabist Reinhart Dozy, described the Norse raids on the Balearic islands as part of a larger history of Islamic Spain. Dozy had a fairly limited knowledge of the sources, and he did not deal with any further consequences of tlle attacks. Yet subsequent historians of Spain and the Balearic islands trace their knowledge of the raids almost exclusively to him. One of my purposes is, therefore, to present an updated, more critical description of the raids in their broader context. Second, the raids are related to the rise to preeminence of Christian maritime powers in the western Mediterranean—a field of inquiry ultimately linked to later European expansion via the Atlantic. The Norse raids have the distinction of predating all other recorded attacks on the Muslim Balearic islands by a Christian force. Unrecorded attacks by Christians had surely occurred previously, but most were probably small operations and were well outside the pail of “Holy War” piracy being the main form of conflict in the region. In contrast, the Norse were participating under royal leadership in a large expedition that appears to have been religiously motivated, at least in part. Consequently, my second purpose is to investigate what connection, if any, the Norse attacks may have had to later Christian attempts to conquer the islands. The evidence indicates that later crusaders knew about the Norwegian expedition and may have found inspiration for their own assaults in its dazzling success.
Area: Norwegian Norwegian Genre: History

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