Two arguments frequently appear in the research of recent years. One that the Crusaders did not bring about far-reaching changes in the agricultural-industrial landscape of the Land of Israel, and the other that the Crusaders did not make any significant contributions as a bridge between east and west. In my lecture I will try to show that in one agricultural-industrial branch, namely the production of sugar, the Crusaders made a decisive contribution of their own to the development of the local industry. And not only that, the improved model of the industry that the Crusaders created in their kingdom subsequently became the model to be imitated and copied in the production centers in Europe.
The process of manufacturing sugar included two main production phases: the first phase in which the cane was crushed and its juice was extracted and the second phase whereby they cooked the juice and let it crystallize to form solid sugar. On the eve of the Crusader conquest the first phase of crushing the sugar was apparently done in our region by simple means, referred to as “dry mills”. In these installations the cane was crushed in stone presses or a crushing basin that was operated by an animal.
We believe the main innovation that was introduced by the Crusaders is a change in the method used to crush the cane. It seems that in the middle of the twelfth century they began to use a greater source of power to crush the cane, namely water power, in the factories of the period. The watermills gradually replaced the dry mills.
When water-powered sugar mills were introduced in the Kingdom of Jerusalem’s factories the entire nature of the local industry was changed. The new means of crushing cane made it possible to produce large amounts of sugar in a short period of time. The increase in the production also had a direct influence on the growth of the sugar trade. Only a small portion of the sugar that was produced was made available to the local market, whereas the main destination of most of the product lay outside the boundaries of the kingdom, in the consumer centers in Europe. In the 1170’s the sugar that was produced in the Crusader East constituted a significant factor in east-west trade.
The Crusader contribution to the sugar industry was actually double. Not only did it comprise a technological improvement that was adopted by local industry and created a new model of advanced factories; it also included the transfer of the advanced model of the new factories to the west, to other regions in the Mediterranean that were under Christian rule. In the lecture I will show how the production principals of the Kingdom of Jerusalem’s factories were copied and brought to Cyprus, Sicily and southern Spain.
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