Catastrophe or Consolidation? Sigismund’s Response to Defeat after the Crusade of Nicopolis (1396). Mark Whelan (London)
Catastrophe or Consolidation? Sigismund’s Response to Defeat after the Crusade of Nicopolis (1396) Mark Whelan (London) The Crusade of Nicopolis, led by Sigismund, King of Hungary (r. 1387–1437), was decisively defeated by the Ottomans in September 1396 and has been branded as a military and political failure by historians. The crusade was la- belled a “military fiasco” by Jörg Hoensch1, while Pál Engel called it a “catas- trophe” and Aziz Atiya concluded that Nicopolis turned the institution of crusading into “an anachronism” in the minds of contemporary Christians2. Thus, the aura surrounding the Crusade of Nicopolis is not positive in any respect. More importantly, scholars have also interpreted the broader con- sequences of the defeat on the Christian states in the Balkans as equally ca- lamitous. Kenneth Setton has declared that the beating resulted in “the des- olation of Hungary”3 and Aziz Atiya that, afterwards, “eastern Europe was left to its fate” to be conquered by the Ottomans4. They have been joined by Joseph Held, who largely interprets Sigismund’s military reforms after Nicopolis as failures and Jacques Paviot5, who claims that leaders, such as Sigismund, “failed to learn lessons from the battle [of Nicopolis] for a long time”6. While the military campaign may have resulted in defeat, the aftermath for Hungary was hardly as disastrous as Setton, Atiya and Held have made out. Here we will challenge the notion that the Crusade of Nicopolis was a complete failure by drawing attention to how the defeat...
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