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Conference – The Fairest Meadows in the World: Crusades and Crusaders in the Balkans


St. Cyril and St. Methodius University of Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria
November 7th-9th, 2013
“The Fairest Meadows in the World”: Crusades and Crusaders in the Balkans


The so-called “Baldwin’s Tower” at Tsarevets, Veliko Tarnovo

Organized by Thomas Lecaque, Jake Ransohoff and the Chair of Ancient and Medieval History at the St. Cyril and St. Methodius University of Veliko Tarnovo

With support from Marco Institute for Medieval and Renaissance Studies and the Department of History at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville

The presence of the Crusades and Crusaders in the Balkans, from the eleventh to the fifteenth centuries, introduced a vast and disparate array of foreign elements into the complex world of Medieval Southeastern Europe and served as a flashpoint for a number of substantial changes in the political, social, religious, and economic fabric of the region. Yet while some important military dimensions of the Crusades in the Balkans can be described in detail, our knowledge remains incomplete in many crucial areas. Let us ask the questions: how did the presence of Crusaders in the Balkans influence the ideas and concepts through which Latins, Byzantines, and Slavs alike described, or attempted to describe, themselves? Why did certain aspects of exchange among Latin and Orthodox polities prove more resilient than others? These are complex, causal questions which have rarely been addressed in Balkan-Crusader history.

This conference sets out to ask structural questions in order to develop a richer context in which to place the phenomenon of Crusades and Crusaders in the Balkans. With this goal in mind, we hope to engage in discussion across a wide range of subjects and encourage scholars from different national backgrounds with different expertise, perspectives, and priorities, to reach across their respective fields and work towards a more nuanced and holistic understanding of this critical but understudied theater of Crusader history. We welcome papers concerning any aspect of the social, economic, artistic, religious, cultural, political, and diplomatic interactions between Latins, Byzantines, Turks, and Slavs in the Balkan Peninsula between roughly 1096 and 1444.

Any and all topics are welcome, but we are particularly receptive to papers concerning:

The reception of Latin political culture in the Balkans, and its impact on state structure, methods of government, and ideologies of legitimacy.
Commercial activity among Crusaders, Byzantines, and Balkan polities, and the role of trade in generating cultural exchange.
Changing definitions of Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy among both Latin and Orthodox populations in the Balkans.
Artistic expressions and material culture as a means of cultural, political, and religious transmission between Slavs, Latins, and Byzantines.
The role of language and literature in facilitating cultural exchange and ideological transfer between Balkan and Crusader polities.
The application of border theory to the Crusade-era Balkans and cultural/religious hybridization in the “borderlands” between Slavs, Latins, and Byzantines.

Papers dealing specifically with Crusader-Balkan relations after 1204 are especially encouraged. Interested graduate students and faculty should send an abstract of no more than 300 words, together with name, title, and institutional affiliation, and CV, to Thomas Lecaque (tlecaque@utk.edu) and Jake Ransohoff (jransohoff@uchicago.edu), by no later than April 15, 2013.

Proceedings for this conference will be published.