Penn History Review


Geographic information acquired over the course of the crusades indisputably altered how most Europeans envisioned the world, yet how that information was acquired and popularized is less certain. No official cartographers accompanied the crusading armies, whose official purpose was to cleanse the Holy Land by reclaiming it for Christendom, not to study neighboring lands or the cultures that tainted it. Curious individuals whom the larger activity of the crusades had fortuitously positioned in exotic places— ambassadors, missionaries, or inhabitants of the crusader states—therefore made most geographic discoveries of the time.

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