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text by me, Baldwin, orig by escapist

susan_of_mejis in medievalstudies


Hello historians, I'm Susan, seeking the help of the good people here.
This is my first post here. I'm also active (kind of) at the forum King Baldwin.
Truth be told, I'm writing a story and I'm not sure about the plausibility of one part, so let me start with some questions if I may;
Lets say a flock of people (not soldiers, not pilgrims, just random people expelled from their native land for whatever reason) arrived to a city in a different realm (say, Outremer) with the plans of staying there for a longer time period.
What would be the reaction of the leaders of the given city?
Would they take them in?
Would they refuse them and send them away?
If the latter, what would be the reasoning?
If they would take them in, would they help their settling in any way?
In the city proper or in the surrounding villages?
What would be the rights and obligations of the newcomers?
Is there an example to that in history?

Thank you for your help in advance.


I suppose the reaction of the leaders would depend upon the individual, how fast word traveled about them, and such. Georges Duby's History of Private Life Volume II might contain information on the subject, but I have not read through it in quite some time.
See the history of Jews in Europe throughout Middle Ages, and especially after the expulsion from Spain in 1492.
I agree about medieval Jews.

Also, I imagine it would depend on why the people were expelled from their native land. Was it for religious reasons (as the Jews)? Were they a despised class/race/ethnicity? Was it for health reasons, such as the plague? Were they leaving more or less of their own volition, due to a natural disaster? Were they perceived as criminals? Were they allowed to take any money or valuables with them? Were they skilled workers (craftsmen, for instance) or were they farmers or serfs?
They are not jews and its a disaster which forces them to flee. They are serfs and craftsmen in general and yes, they could take whatever they could with them.
Well, no, looking up medieval European Jews was a suggestion. They were expelled from many countries during the Middle Ages, and are the primary example of Western religious expulsion during that era.

Okay, so your group isn't expelled, exactly, more that they're fleeing a natural disaster. Correct? They're not being blamed for the disaster? Neighboring nations, assuming they're not suffering from the same disaster, would therefore treat the group differently than if they were deliberately expelled by their nation's elite.
no they are not blamed they are just the victims of it just like anybody else
One of the permanent concerns of mediaeval kings was to colonize empty lands and to increase the land under plough or under economic activity. That, as Gerald of Wales clearly explains, is why monasteries were deliberately planted in remote regions and swamp areas: monks were efficient land cleaners and colonists. So even if the group of people were to have no particularly valuable skills, they might still be welcomed if the king had an area - say, a recent war setting - that needed settling and cultivating. IN general, people in the Middle Ages were quite mobile; the great trade, pilgrimage and travel routes were always crowded, and every town had its foreign quarter - especially if it had a university or a famous fair.
Thank you for the insight. Could the king in question take these men to serve him in the army?
Sure, why not? So long as they are fit to serve, that is, that they have some training in arms. Remember that mediaeval kings did not have much by way of standing armies - apart from bodyguards paid from the king's own exchequer, most of his armed forces were feudal levies.
Incidentally, Outremer was peculiar in that it had its own permanent defence force, the Templars. These did not make up the majority of Latin forces, but they were its elite. They also had connections all over Europe, including a banking service of sorts. If your disaster-driven refugees had any contact with the Templars, this would explain their coming to Outremer - not in general a favourite target for Latin migration. This would also bring in the issue of religion. You can do a lot of things with the Templars, but I, myself, would make them perfectly orthodox and monastic in their behaviour, and that means that anyone they helped would be apt to be Catholic too.
It really depends on the time period and the situation in the area.

If labour is scarce and arable land comparatively plentiful, then refugees might well be welcomed warmly and settled onto the land as soon as possible to begin farming work.

If instead you're looking at, say, late 13th century Western Europe, then a great many areas were settled beyond capacity already. Extra people would likely be welcome only as long as their money lasted, unless they brought special skills that made them worthwhile to keep around.

In Outremer... again, it really depends on the period. Common Frankish settlers were never hugely plentiful: the vast majority of those tilling the land remained Muslim.

If I remember correctly, there +were+ some Frankish farming villages... but not a huge number.

However, for much of its lifespan, the Kingdom of Jerusalem was pretty much limited to a handful of coastal cities. The lack of land could be seen in the development of money fiefs, to support noble families for whom no land fiefs could be found. In those periods, I'd hazard a guess that an influx of landless peasants might not be met with particular enthusiasm. Where would you put them?

On the martial orders - if you do want to use them, don't focus solely on the Templars. The Hospitallers are older and wielded great power for much of the history of Outremer, and the Teutonic Knights rose to prominence there long before they developed operations in Hungary and, later, Prussia.

There were also other, much smaller, martial orders - the Order of Saint Lazarus and the English Order of Saint Thomas, for example.

As for standing militaries... Outremer had, as might be expected, remarkably stringent requirements for knight- and vassal-service when compared to most European lands. A good history of the Crusading period should help you to figure out what sort of things would be appropriate for the period you're interested in.

One obvious problem, however, would be how these fugitives arrive in Outremer. It's not somewhere that was exactly easy to walk to, nor was it adjacent to any other parts of Roman Christendom. They're likely to have had to arrive by ship, or perhaps come from another Christian area much closer to hand - Lesser Armenia, possibly.