A Cautionary Tale from the Crusades? War and Prisoners in Conditions of Normative Incommensurability

PRISONERS IN WAR, Sibylle Scheipers, ed., Oxford University Press, 2008

10 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2008 Last revised: 16 Sep 2008

See all articles by Frederic Megret

Frederic Megret

McGill University - Faculty of Law

Date Written: December 20, 2007

Abstract

The conventional wisdom is that treatment of prisoners during the Crusades, in an age long before the development of the modern laws of war, can only have been horrendous. Historical evidence seems to partly vindicate this account, but is also testimony to how well prisoners were treated on some occasions. This chapter explores the impact that norms about the nature of war and how it should be waged had on the issue. It suggests that despite the religious intensity of the Crusades and the fact that they unfolded along civilizational divides, there were several strands within the Christian and probably even more the Moslem tradition which guaranteed a degree of moderation in warfare, particularly protection for prisoners. The conclusion is that an overarching law of war is not necessarily a pre-condition to restraint in warfare, as long as a number of other circumstances exist such as a strong deontological imperative of self-restraint.

Keywords: prisoners, laws of war, crusades, religion, international law, international humanitarian law, war, armed conflict

JEL Classification: B30, K30, K33

Suggested Citation

Mégret, Frédéric, A Cautionary Tale from the Crusades? War and Prisoners in Conditions of Normative Incommensurability (December 20, 2007). PRISONERS IN WAR, Sibylle Scheipers, ed., Oxford University Press, 2008. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1263823

Frédéric Mégret (Contact Author)

McGill University - Faculty of Law ( email )

3644 Peel Street
Montreal H3A 1W9, Quebec
Canada

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