War Economy, Plunder, Conquest, and the Frontier
This paper explores the possibilities of a comparative study between two societies separated by time and space, but nonetheless defined and studied under hypothetically similar historical categories, at least for a certain period of their histories. The expansion of the northern Spanish kingdoms towards the Muslim South, and the expansion and raids of the Ottomans into the Christian West, have been studied with reference to the structures of a "frontier society". The periods chosen for this study are the eleventh and twelfth-centuries of the Kingdom of León-Castile (the reigns of Fernando I, Alfonso VI, Alfonso VII), and the fifteenth-century of the Ottoman Empire under Mehmed II. The basic idea behind this project is derived from Marc Bloch's address to the Sixth International Congress of Historical Studies at Oslo, in August 1928. There, he remarked that comparative analysis was not another chapter to be added to other histories, but a technique basic to the growth of historical investigation itself. In that respect, this paper is not a comparison of the Spanish and Ottoman societies that revolves around a discourse of similarities and differences, however useful or not that may be. Instead, it focuses on the concept of "the frontier society" as a historical phenomenon, and tries to contextualize it in relation to the particularities of the two societies. Here, I will be concentrating on two aspects of "frontierness": The ideology and economy of warfare, and the perception of the frontier and conquered lands. These will be studied in accordance to their appearances in the chronicles of the two societies. Therefore, this paper is a limited study, concentrating on only one area where glimpses of frontierness may be observed. Its completion can be claimed only when it is supported by research in other fields, especially in material culture and archeology.
Keywords: Frontier, Frontier society, Frontier warrior, War economy, Plunder, Conquest, Leon-Castile, Ottoman
PhD Student, Art History, SUNY-Binghamton University