Thursday, 27 September 2018

My new book: Sigurd the Jerusalemite and the Norwegian crusaders

Today marks the publication of my fifth book, Korsfareren - Sigurd Jorsalfare og hans verden ("The Crusader: Sigurd the Jerusalemite and His World"), which is the first ever biography of King Sigurd the Jerusalemite, who reigned in Norway from 1103 till 1130 and was the first European king to go on a crusade to Jerusalem.
While the crusades have been one of the most popular topics in international historiography in recent decades, most Norwegian historians have ignored the crusades and failed to understand this movement, which was at the heart of international affairs in the twelfth century. Thus they have mostly considered Sigurd a Viking, but in fact Sigurd broke abruptly with his father's Viking policies and dedicated his life to promoting Christianity.
His crusade of 1108-1110, which saw him fight in the Iberian Peninsula, the Balearics and the Holy Land, won him great fame, but the authors of the Norse sagas failed to grasp the larger international context of his crusade. By seeing the Norwegian and Icelandic sources in relation to the Latin, Arab, Byzantine and English sources, I have been able to recreate this context and thereby to give Sigurd his rightful place in the crusading movement. He arrived in the Holy Land at a critical time for the crusader states, which were surrounded by enemies on all sides, just as the Muslims were at last attempting to unite their forces in jihad against the Christians and just as the Byzantine Emperor had finally had enough of the crusaders and conspired with Muslim rulers to drive them out of the Middle East.
In order to survive, the crusader states needed to take control of the ports along the Mediterranean coast, for which they needed naval help from abroad. In all but one case did this help come from Venice, Genoa and Pisa; the sole exception being Sidon (modern Saida in Lebanon), which was conquered with the help of the Norwegians. Such was the significance of the conquest of Sidon that it led to riots in Baghdad.
Later, Sigurd would go on yet another crusade and work to promote the ideas of the papal reform movement in his realms. Eventually he went mad and left behind a kingdom that was soon consumed by a civil war that would last for a century and was turned into a holy war when the crusading ideas were imported to Norway and applied to the struggle for the crown.
The book is published by Historie & Kultur and may be bought in regular bookshops or ordered from online booksellers such as,,,, or

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