Joinville's "The Life of St. Louis"

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Muslim Interaction

European crusades to the eastern Mediterranean from 1095-1291 CE were a series of violent encounters between Christians and Muslims over control of certain lands. These crusades had a number of consequences, but perhaps more than anything else they brought many more Europeans than ever before into close contact with Muslims. Through this, Europeans learn more than ever before about these Muslims they were in contact with: both positively and negatively. Through Joinville’s account of the sixth and seventh crusades in The Life of Saint Louis, we are informed about a few of the things that the crusaders learned from their direct contact with these Muslims, or ‘Saracens’ as Joinville calls them.

In the beginning of Joinville’s account, it seems intriguing how he knows so much about the Muslims, even down to the intimate details. One of the stories Joinville tells is about how the Saracen army stays in good shape and condition. He tells that the leading men in their armies were mostly foreigners whom merchants had bought from other lands. This happened because one ruler would conquer another and sold the men to merchants who in turn sold them to the Egyptians. This worked only because the Saracens were willing to pay the very high prices for these men. He also goes into detail about how the sultan would bring the children into his own house and raise them as warriors and as his personal bodyguards, known as Halca (Joinville, 234-5). You later go on to read that Joinville learns this information because he was taken captive, at the battle at Mensourah, by these Muslim Saracens.

While in captivity, Joinville not only sees their conditioning for the military, he is shown tolerance, hospitality and kindness from these people. During this time, the Saracens never mistreated Joinville or the other men in captivity. During the time he was being captured, the Saracens were going to kill him but one of them says that he is the cousin of the king and...
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