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Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / Volume III: The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries
(1975)

XIII: Moslem North Africa, 1049-1394,   pp. 457-485 PDF (25.3 MB)


Page 473

Ch. XIII MOSLEM NORTH AFRICA, 1049—1 394 473 
turing more respectable and speciously attractive reasons for duping his
saintly brother Louis—that al-Mustansir was an ally of the Egyp tian
Mamluk rulers, that he could cut the supply line and retreat of a crusade
to Egypt, that he encouraged piracy, and that he and his realm could easily
be converted to Christianity. 15 Yet Charles is scarcely mentioned by the
Moslem historians. 
These authors, in their innocence of the intricacies of European political
and dynastic affairs, blame Louis alone for the disastrous decision, and
do not credit him with pious or even sensible motives. One anecdote, reported
by Ibn-abi-Dinãr, ascribes the invasion to Louis's resentment at a
slurring reference to him by al-Mustansir as "the one who was captured by
such as they," indicating his Turkish bodyguard and recalling the fiasco
at Damietta. 
The better-informed Ibn-Khaldun gives a circumstantial account in which European
traders, unsatisfied creditors of a Tunisian merchant who had been executed
several years earlier, complained to Louis and assured him that Tunis, weakened
by a recent famine, could easily be captured. Although Berber rulers did
often attack one another on equally flimsy pretexts, our knowledge of Louis's
char acter and of the magnitude of his enterprise leads inevitably to the
conclusion that in this instance the Moslem chroniclers were illinformed.
Nevertheless, Ibn-Khaldun had extraordinarily accurate information on the
methods by which crusaders were recruited and financial support was provided
and on the identity of their leaders, but he erred in ascribing this data
to Ibn-al-Athir, who had died in 
1234. 
A more serious contradiction concerns the diplomatic preliminaries to the
assault. Ibn-Khaldun's account conflicts with the European version, according
to which the decision to attack Tunisia, in spite of its previous satisfactory
commercial and diplomatic relations with France, was not publicly announced
until the fleet rendezvous at Cagliari in July of 1270. The Arabic historian,
on the other hand, asserts that Louis's plans were known throughout North
Africa as far as Egypt, whose envoy recited taunting verses recalling the
French king's previous captivity and ransoming. Al-Mustansir sent an em bassy
to ascertain Louis's jntentions and to propose "conditions of 
Tunisia for the resumption of payments; see Brunschvig, Berbérie orientale,
I, 58. Appar ently, however, Charles wanted no crusade at all, but when confronted
with Louis's determination he could not decently avoid participation; he
therefore decided that his interests would be better served, or less damaged,
by diverting the crusade from his potential Egyptian ally to his recalcitrant
Tunisian "debtor," but arranged to delay military opera tions in favor of
extended negotiations, from which he emerged the sole beneficiary. 
 15. Brunschvig (Berbérie orientale, I, 57) suggests that the incomprehensible
delusion obsessing Louis was caused by over-optimistic Franciscan and Dominican
missionaries. 


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