Ethnographic writing in the kingdom of Jerusalem: in search of a neglected intellectual tradition

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It has been argued in recent years that Western ethnographic curiosity and writing grew significantly during the late medieval period. Surprisingly, the Latin East has remained almost completely neglected within this scholarly context. The present paper aims to fill this lacuna by exploring a discourse within the kingdom of Jerusalem which focused on customs and ways of life of non-Latins and which was based on observation rather than hearsay and stereotypes. The paper traces the beginnings of this tradition and follows its development, shedding light on the figures and milieus involved as well as on its innovativeness and richness. It also explores the complex relations between this discourse and some of the earliest Latin works about the Mongols. The picture that emerges is of a society which did not lack in ethnographic curiosity, and where knowledge of other cultures was not always dominated by, or harnessed to, a polemical discourse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-346
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Medieval History
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

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© 2022 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Eastern Christianity
  • Ethnography
  • Islam
  • Mongols
  • crusades
  • intellectual history
  • intercultural exchanges
  • kingdom of Jerusalem


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