Volume 22, No.4 - Winter 1976
Editors of this issue: J.A. Račkauskas
Copyright © 1976 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.

William Urban, The Baltic Crusade. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1975. Pp. xiv, 296. $17.50.

Professor William Urban of Monmouth College, Illinois, has forged an important link in the great chain of knowledge with The Baltic Crusade. Events in what is probably an obscure corner of Europe for most English-speaking medievalists are connected with the more widely studied histories of the Holy Roman Empire, The Papacy, and the eastern Mediterranean crusades. On the other hand, Latvians, Estonians, and Lithuanians will see the invasions of their homelands in the political, social, economic, and psychological context of thirteenth-century Europe rather than as examples of a peculiarly Germanic militarism and racism.

War and politics are necessarily central themes. Nonetheless, the least informative parts of The Baltic Crusade are longish stretches of military — political narrative which the author recapitulated from medieval chronicle sources. These sections are tangles of place, tribal, and feudal names which are meaningful only to the already informed. For example, the Livs are never identified as a distinct Finno - Ugric linguistic enclave within an area of Indo - European Latvian-speaking tribes, nor is their relation to the geographical term "Livonia" made clear. Concerning a broader matter, although readers of a scholarly book should realize that "pagan" is not necessarily bad, some account of native religion, which the Christian crusaders despised, would be in order. Such omissions are the more lamentable because Professor Urban does explain and clarify many things very well indeed. Still, all in all, The Baltic Crusade offers much to historians of the advanced undergraduate and graduate level about an important but generally inaccessible facet of the extension of western European civilization. This sturdy and attractive volume from the young Northern Illinois University Press deserves a place in numerous academic and personal libraries.

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