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In late 1187 and early 1188, a stream of letters from the east alerted the western Europe to the unfolding disaster in the Holy Land: Saladin’s forces had defeated the Christian army at Hattin in July and, by October, they had captured Jerusalem. This talk examines the letters which carried this news to the west and explores the contexts of their preservation. It investigates how and why this material survived, and considers what this tells us about the changing function of these texts – from ephemeral, time-sensitive documents to accounts preserved for their historical value. It will focus particularly on the letters which were copied into manuscripts, asking not just how these texts were recorded, but the extent to which they could easily be found.


All welcome- this seminar is free to attend, but booking in advance is required.