Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Monday, 11 May 2020

Teutonic Knights - life on the north-eastern front

My phone presented me with a rather interesting post this morning. It was on the academic discussion forum theconversation.com and is a summary of research by some academics based at Reading on environmental changes in the Prussian and Livonian territories ruled by the Teutonic Knights and in the neighbouring areas of Poland and Lithuania in the middle ages. This demonstrated changing patterns of land use, with the expansion and contraction of cultivation dependent upon new settlements and also the abandonment of areas to rewilding and the conscious retention or return of the forest. The article can be read at Rewilding: lessons from the medieval Baltic crusades

The history of this part of Europe is fascinating in its own right. The best introduction to the topic is Eric Christiansen’s The Northern Crusades published by Penguin. I think the articles on Wikipedia about these centuries and places are on the whole very helpful and usually well illustrated with maps - all the more important since modern frontier changes swept away long established delimitations. I have not yet read William Urban’s The Teutonic Knights: A Military History but that certainly looks inviting.

The Teutonic Knights - about whom there is an online account at Teutonic Order - tend not to have a very good press these days in popular perception. Never mind the interwar period discussed in that link, not that many years ago I have seen imported contemporary children’s television programmes from Poland where the Teutonic Knights are undoubtedly the “baddies” - and I doubt if this was part of an in-depth examination of the battle of Grunwald-Tannenberg of 1410 or the Treaty of Thorn/Toruń of 1466.

Maybe on the basis of this new research the Deutscher Orden, which still exists as a Catholic charitable foundation based in Vienna, will find a new following - Teutonic Knights as Eco-warriors?

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