Thursday, June 11, 2015

Outremer - The native population

The native population of the territories that came under Frankish rule included Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims, Jews, Samaritans and a number of Christian sects: Armenians, Copts, Greek Orthodox (Melkites), Jacobites, Maronites and Nestorians. The early Frankish conquests were accompanied by widespread slaughter of the local urban population, Muslims, Jews and even the Eastern Christians, a policy which left the Franks facing a significant demographic problem. The population of Jerusalem dropped to a few hundred knights and footmen (Fulcher of Chartres 1913:2.6; William of Tyre 1986:9.19). Non- Christians were not allowed to return to Jerusalem, but this was not the case elsewhere. In general, after the initial slaughters and expulsions the Franks came to terms with the existence of the local communities, particularly once the majority of the Crusaders had returned to Europe. Except in the case of Jerusalem there was probably never any intention of entirely eliminating the non-Frankish population from the cities, and the Franks must have soon become aware of the need to rely on the local peasantry for food and many other necessities. Thus most of the rural population remained in place, retaining a near-serf status little different from that which they had held under the Fatimids. The depopulated capital was resettled, not with the remnants of the previous population but with Frankish and Eastern Christians. On the whole the Franks appear to have been reluctant to remain in Jerusalem. It became necessary to pass legislation aimed at making settlement in the city more attractive by easing the tax burdens: tariffs were removed from certain goods entering the city gates. In order to put an end to the widespread absentee landlordship, a law was passed whereby an estate whose owner was absent for a year and a day would become the property of the tenant. An additional means of increasing the city’s population was by the organized settlement of local Christians from Transjordan. They were housed in what had previously been the Jewish quarter, Juverie, in the north-east of the city.

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