"An episode of the crusades”? Historiographical debates on the role of the crusading idea in the formation of Portugal (1915-1947)

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


The idea that the Portuguese nation was a product of a religious struggle opposing Christians and Muslims is a longstanding idea in Portuguese historical culture. According to the historian António José Saraiva, the Crusade was the “first great Portuguese collective myth”, according to which the nation had, since its origin, a divine mission to defend and expand the Catholic faith. In the twentieth century, this idea was still accepted by several Portuguese historians and would be used by the Estado Novo to legitimize its nationalist and religiously-centred view of Portuguese history. However, the publication of Carl Erdmann’s doctoral thesis Der Kreuzzugsgedanke in Portugal in 1925 would laid the foundations of a very different perspective on the subject.
In this paper, we will examine how Portugal’s territorial formation was examined in the light of the European movement known as the crusades by a set of historians during the first half of the twentieth century. Firstly, we will focus on authors who have contributed to perpetuate the so-called “myth of the Crusade”. Secondly, we will address those who have contested this essentialist view, relativizing the primary role of crusading ideals in the formation of the kingdom of Portugal. In the end, we will see how these different interpretations were reflected on two national commemorations of events related with the origins of the Portuguese territory held in this period: the centenaries of the foundation of Portugal (1940) and of the conquest of Lisbon (1947).
Period3 Jul 2018
Event title25th Leeds International Medieval Congress
Event typeConference
LocationLeeds, United Kingdom