Ideology and Holy Landscape in the Baltic Crusades by Gregory Leighton: Book Subvention Report

Mar 4, 2023

The Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies (AABS) is pleased to recognized the successful conclusion of a Book Publication Subvention awarded to Arc Humanities Press for publishing the monograph Ideology and Holy Landscape in the Baltic Crusades, by Gregory Leighton. Notably, the book is published open access and can be read now through DOAB, Project MUSE, and OAPEN.

Gregory Leighton

©Gregory Leighton, 2023

Gregory Leighton earned his PhD in History and Welsh History at Cardiff University in 2018. His scholarly interests concern the history of the military orders and their activities in the Baltic Sea region from the thirteenth to fourteenth century. Specifically, the link between crusading and pilgrimage activities, and the role played by “landscape” in the crusade ideology for the Baltic crusades form the core areas of his research.

Dr. Leighton currently holds a NAWA-Ulam postdoctoral fellowship at the Nicholas Copernicus University in Toruń, Poland, and has held a Visiting Researcher grant at the University of Stockholm in Sweden.

This book examines how the military orders and the ideology of crusading gave rise to a new sacred landscape in the medieval Baltic region, an outpost of Latin Christianity. Drawing on a wide variety of sources and international scholarship, the book discusses the paganism of the landscape in written sources pre-dating the crusades, in addition to the narrative, legal, and visual evidence of the crusade period. It draws out the key sacralizing elements as expressed in those sources, which structure the definition of sacred landscape, particularly martyrdom, the manifestation of the sacred, and use of relics in battle. By analyzing these aspects with Geographical Information Systems (GIS), a map of the Baltic campaigns emerges that provides a fresh approach to studying contemporary views of holy war in a region with no initial links to the loca sancta of Jerusalem or Europe.


The Impact of an Award: Report from Gregory Leighton

After the publication of Ideology and Holy Landscape in the Baltic Crusades,
Gregory Leighton submitted the following to AABS.
We thank him for his permission to publish his thoughts here.


I am very, very grateful to the AABS for the award of the annual Book Publication Subvention to Ideology and Holy Landscape in the Baltic Crusades, which was published on 30 September 2022. I would like to take the opportunity here to express my gratitude to the AABS for its support for my book, which is a significant milestone to an early career scholar such as myself.

As a result of the AABS granting my book the award, Arc Humanities Press has been able to make the book available in Open Access format (available through DOAB, Project MUSE, and OAPEN). Without the support of AABS, this would not have been possible. Another important result of the Subvention is that the monograph will appear in a paperback edition, which should be published in the next year. As a “first book” author, the Book Subvention was particularly important for me. In addition to helping cover image costs and editorial works, it made my work much more accessible and available.

The Book Subvention has assisted me in the promotion of the book on social media (especially Twitter and Facebook). This promotion has consistently received strong engagement, which speaks to the increasing interest in the Baltic crusades and the military orders among scholars in the Anglophone world. I am currently preparing a blog post for the press, to further aid in promoting the monograph.

Part of the promotion for the book will also involve, this year, a meeting at the Malbork Castle Museum at the invitation of the Museum’s director, Dr. Janusz Trupinda. In late 2022, I approached Dr. Trupinda, and we determined a format for a launch event in this year, though the date is yet to be determined.

With the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the awareness of the neighbouring Baltic States has increased the attention not just of scholars, but of people outside of the academy. This awareness has increased the desire to communicate and understand the history and culture of East-Central Europe to a Western European and North American public (while the medieval history of the Baltic region continues to receive increased attention from scholars). Given the brutal and condemnable realities in the region today and the interest among various groups of people in the history of the crusades and the military orders, it appears that my book arrives at a key moment in the development of western interest in the Baltic Zone and its medieval history.

– Gregory Leighton

Ideology and Holy Landscape in the Baltic Crusades

What is the AABS Book Publication Subvention?

The AABS awards its Book Publication Subvention of up to $5,000 for individually authored books, edited volumes, and multiple-authored books in English that make a substantial scholarly contribution to Baltic Studies. The applications must be submitted by publishers, not authors. Priority will be given to single author’s first monographs.

AABS awards two Book Publication Subventions each year. Applications may be submitted for review anytime, on a rolling basis.

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