Jacques de Vitry's History of the East

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Written by Jacques de Vitry, an individual with a strong interest and participation in new forms of religious life, the reform of the church and the promotion of multiple crusades (the Albigensian, Fifth and crusade of Frederick II), The History of the East represents the visualization of the history of the crusades and the Latin East and a proposal for the latter's recovery and renewal.

Begun during the campaign of the Fifth Crusade in Egypt or shortly thereafter, it represents the first leaf of an historical triptych meant to deal with the history and renewal of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem (the Historia Orientalis), the reform of the West (the Historia Occidentalis), and the campaign of the Fifth Crusade. The Historia Orientalis (and a third book cobbled together from Jacques' letters, several anonymous histories, and the Historia Damiatina of his colleague Oliver of Paderborn) proved far more popular than the History of the West in the Middle Ages and Renaissance periods-over one hundred manuscripts of the History of the East survive with wide geographical and temporal dispersal and it was translated into both Old French and Spanish.

This medieval bestseller and the many ways in which it was used by its readers reflect the osmotic nature of medieval history, which proved capable of absorbing multiple genres. The History of the East represents a blend of crusade chronicle and world history, a geographical treatment of the Holy Land, a moral treatise, a treatment of the peoples of the East from the perspective of a crusader bishop and noted reformer, an account of the wonders and marvels of the East including minerals, flora and fauna. As such, it was copied and utilized by armchair pilgrims, writers of crusade proposals from the thirteenth century onwards, crusade preachers, missionaries and compilers of universal histories.