First Crusade and The Idea of Crusading


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He regarded the Crusades as the culmination of processes that have already started during the times of the Church Fathers. However, until the 11th century only defensive warfare was allowed, which changed with the introduction of the Crusades. He also investigated the nature as well as the origins of the Crusades.

According to Tyerman , , these three volumes 'represent the most astonishing literary phenomenon in crusade historiography since Michaud' as he regarded Runciman as the 'true heir of Michaud'. He added: 'This didacticism provides Runciman's History with its lasting immediacy … Runciman's History is the last chronicle of the crusades' Tyerman Riley-Smith concurred that Runciman wrote the 'most admired history in English' on the Crusades. Madden considered Runciman to be the 'best-known crusade historian in the world', and referred to his History of the Crusades as a 'compellingly written work that is still extraordinarily popular'.

Runciman's point of departure was:. I believe that the supreme duty of the historian is to write history, that is to say, to attempt to record in one sweeping sequence the greater events and movements that have swayed the destinies of man. Runciman vol. He was no friend of the Crusades and was outspoken on many a topic; for example, he called the destruction of the Byzantine civilization 'in the name of Christ … the greatest tragedy of the Middle Ages … The whole tale is one of faith and folly, courage and greed, hope and disillusion' Runciman vol.

Tyerman referred to Runciman's opinion on the Crusades as 'the most ringing modern verdict [ that ] has become justifiably famous'. His three volumes are saturated with literary device, creating imaginative scenes of actors and actions. Current attitudes towards the Crusades. A few of the most recent exponents on Crusades - the late 20th and the early 21st centuries - will now be discussed. This era is responsible for the most research conducted on the Crusades worldwide. The scholars on Crusades have gone so far as to found the International Society for the Study of the Crusades and the Latin East in , with its own journal, Crusades cf.

Wayne Bartlett's book, The Crusades: An Illustrated History , comes across as a sound, straightforward, current account of the Crusades. From the Introduction, it is clear that the author is all too aware of the modern sensitivities surrounding the term 'Crusade' Bartlett For him the greatest lesson of the Crusades is that 'intolerance breeds intolerance' Bartlett Peter Lock gives a thorough account of the Crusades in his book The Routledge Companion to the Crusades , although he addresses the term 'Crusade' in a modern, and not in a medieval sense Lock While he discusses the development of thought on the Crusades, he does not explain why present-day attitudes have changed and are changing towards the Crusades.

The First Crusade and the Idea of Crusading | Taylor & Francis Group

One interesting topic in his book relates 'what the west knew of Islam at the time of the Crusades, and vice versa' Lock Thomas Madden's book, The Crusades: The Essential Readings , is a compilation of works of several authors on the Crusades, focusing on the historical aspect of the movement. In his Introduction, he touches on the changing perspectives on the Crusades Madden , cf. He criticises scholars like Runciman, stating that modern historians disagree with him concerning the characterisation of the Crusades:.

Recent scholarship has overturned the idea that medieval crusaders were motivated solely by a desire for plunder and conquests. New evidence and new interpretations have stressed religious motivations … most crusaders were honestly attempting to perform a selfless act for the good of Christendom. His main concern and focus is the delicate balance between holy peace and holy war, with specific reference to the volatile relationship between Christian and Muslim. He discusses how initially there was 'holy peace' and that the church was averse to the shedding of blood, but during the 10th century this view changed Mastnak Mastnak investigates the reasons behind the changing attitudes from peace to war, and the way that this has shaped the minds of the western world to the point that 'everyone, including the distinguished and angelic thinkers, mystics, all bent their heads and knees before the Crusading spirit' Mastnak According to him, 'holy war magnified the role of a particular religious authority' Partner He also has a significant discussion on the 18th-century Enlightenment, with specific reference to the Crusades Partner Although the Enlightenment was more than two centuries ago, it has direct relevance to the current changing attitudes towards the Crusades.

Christopher Tyerman is a leading authority on the Crusades, arguing that this movement was 'perhaps the most familiar, if misunderstood, of all medieval phenomena' Tyerman xv. In he already stated that 'modern disapproval, like past enthusiasm, is as much a product of our times as of the crusades' Tyerman He narrates how holy war became part of the papal programme Tyerman , as well as the role religion played in Christian and Muslim wars Tyerman In a radio interview that he had with National Public Radio in , he stated that it is not correct to see the Crusades as a precursor of modern conflicts in the Near East - in itself it serves as a wake-up call for many people today.

He confirms Madden's reasoning that the crusaders went to Palestine 'for essentially ideological religious reasons' and not for financial profit, as 'crusaders habitually made thumping losses' Tyerman In their minds the crusaders were conducting a religious exercise through which they could 'gain spiritual merit and benefit' Tyerman The main profits for those participating in the Crusades were the 'spiritual indulgence, the time off purgatory, the prospect of heaven and, of course, relics, which were important' Tyerman The fact that the Crusades were considered to be holy wars by the Christian society at the time means that those who engaged in these wars were performing a holy act in itself, depicting the killing and fighting to be in accordance with God's will Tyerman He closes by arguing that the Crusades are to be viewed as a 'very striking phenomenon of a very different sort of society in the Middle Ages', and as such the Crusades 'should not be discounted as a barbaric eccentricity' Tyerman His book The Debate on the Crusades, Tyerman provides several discussions on the changing thought of the western mind from the time of the Crusades till the first decade of the 21st century.

In his book, The Crusades, Christianity and Islam , Jonathan Riley-Smith reasons that the Crusades were 'not thoughtless explosions of barbarism' but 'considered to be theologically justifiable by a society that felt itself to be threatened' Riley-Smith He defends the Crusades by arguing that it is difficult to understand 'the intensity of the attachment felt for the holy places in Jerusalem, the concern aroused by heresy and physical assaults on the church, and the fear Westerners had of Muslim invaders' Riley-Smith He adds that 'modern Western public opinion, Arab Nationalism, and Pan-Islamism all share perceptions of crusading that have more to do with 19th century European imperialism than with actuality' Riley-Smith According to Riley-Smith , the erroneous idea that the West is still engaged in crusading is very much alive in the Muslim minds and not only in that of extreme Islamists.

With reference to possible apologies whether real or perceived by the Catholic Church and others 8 regarding the Crusades, Riley-Smith points out that:.

In his book The First Crusade: A new History , Thomas Asbridge states that for most of the crusaders the 'booty' they received at the end of the Crusade consisted of religious relics, including a piece of the Holy Sepulchre, as well as an 'array of artefacts, including a single hair from Christ's beard, a whole ball of the Virgin Mary's hair, pieces of the True Cross and the Holy Lance and remnants of numerous saints' Asbridge Marcus Bull , a student of Riley-Smith, wrote a book called Thinking Medieval: An Introduction to the Study of the Middle Ages in , in which he states, concerning the difference in thinking between medieval and modern man:.

The mindsets of the people who conceived, planned and went on crusades were fundamentally different from our own assumptions and values. They were not 'like us' only more thuggish and intolerant. He is of the opinion that modern man needs to make 'mental adjustments' if they want to 'understand the crusaders and their world without importing anachronistic value judgements' Bull Bull continues by stating that one of the biggest challenges in studying the Middle Ages:. Bull argues that the Crusades were a demonstration of the 'complete alterity' of the Middle Ages, that is to say:.

He calls this the 'wormhole effect' - something that happens 'when a piece of the past … is brought into immediate contact with a piece of the present … without asking awkward questions about what happened in the interval between them' Bull He adds that there is a difference between 'what actually happened in the past and what some people would like to have happened' Bull Because so many in the modern world fail to see this difference, there is a 'current misappropriation of the crusades [ which is ] so rampant' Bull An overview of the changing perspectives on the Crusades.

Having referred to some leading literature and exponents of the past five centuries, there is a clear change in perspective on the Crusades, a change that is in line with the trend of each century. The 16th century, which was at the same time the origin of the modern era and the pinnacle of the Renaissance, produced a more romantic, even entertaining view of the Crusades with Shakespeare and Tasso , although some scholars discussed the more serious side of the Crusades Bacon or ventured to criticise it by means of a moral discourse Dresser cf.

During the early-modern 17th century, which introduced a renewed interest in the Bible and classical writers of Greece and Rome, the Crusades were viewed as a historical phenomenon. While Maimbourg's writings were drenched in a positive national and royal bias, scholars like Bongars not only continued the general positive view of the previous century but also balanced it in a rational way, stating that the Crusades were 'most dangerous and most glorious'.

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First Crusade Idea Crusading by Riley Smith Jonathan

Contrary to that, writers like Fuller regarded the Crusades to be a tragedy. The shift from positive or positivistic to the rather negative side has started. The 18th-century Enlightenment, with its trend towards scientific thinking, provided an intellectual atmosphere with a gross negativity towards the Crusades.

Writers like Voltaire 'the whole enterprise was wasteful and pointless; a desire for plunder' , Gibbon 'a bizarre manifestation of medieval barbarism' , Hume 'the most signal and most durable monument of human folly' , Diderot 'a quest for a piece of rock not worth a single drop of blood' and Rousseau 'a pagan phenomenon; an example of trickery' serve as good examples for this period.

Most of these statements were made from a rationalistic point of view and were not based on actual research cf. The rationalism in the 18th century with exponents like Voltaire and Rousseau treated the Crusades in an essentially ironic way cf. Partner On the one hand, they viewed the Crusades as barbaric, but on the other hand, it was seen as a vehicle with which a wider culture and more civilised manners were brought into Europe from the Muslim East Partner The 19th century served as mould for Romanticism and Idealism, with countries like Germany, France and England taking the lead.

The rationality and logical thought of the Enlightenment were questioned, while the romantic nostalgia of the time led to the fact that the Crusades became popularly admired again. Tyerman compliments Michaud by stating that 'nowhere did popular, academic and political enthusiasm combine so productively' Tyerman Modernism and postmodernism were the trends of the 20th century. From the middle of that century linguists started to concentrate on the meaning of texts, rather than just criticising the content thereof. Grousset, Prawer and Setton are examples of scholars who were more focused on the facts and information of the Crusades than on criticising the movement.

However, Erdmann and Runciman still observed a negative stance towards the Crusades.

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The current trend - starting during the late 20th century - in the study of the Crusades depicts less emotion and more information; scholars like Bartlett, Lock, Partner and Asbridge are good examples of this notion. Certain scholars, like Mastnak, seem to lean more towards an 'enlightened' approach, where the Crusades are regarded as more negative than positive.

While the folly of the Crusades may be recognised by modern-day scholars, a more balanced and optimistic view concerning the Crusades is evident among scholars like Madden, Tyerman and Riley-Smith. A last exponent in the person of Bull investigated the different thought patterns portrayed by the people belonging to different eras, which are very important to take note of when doing research on an event like the Crusades.

By investigating the changes in attitude towards the Crusades from century to century, contrary to the expectation of the authors, every century 'boasts' with at least one influential author who was or is negative towards the Crusades, displaying a line of negativity despite the positive accounts.

Through the ages attitudes towards the Crusades have differed from each other, depending on the trend of each century - many exponents supported these so-called holy wars, while others rejected or criticised them. None of the present-day scholars condone the atrocities committed during the Crusades. Instead, they follow a balanced viewpoint, much in line with that of the previous century, in which they recognise the fact that the world and its people have changed a lot over the centuries.

They maintain that it is difficult for modern Christians to identify themselves with their predecessors during the time of the Crusades.

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The idea that Christians would consider it their religious duty to slaughter people in God's Name is an alien concept in current times. Yet at the time of the Crusades everybody bent before the crusading spirit cf. The religious zeal that inspired Christians to wage war in God's Name was common at the time of the Crusades. The threat of the Muslim onslaught, the culture of violence coinciding with the teaching of Holy War, as well as the power and influence of the church and the pope during the time of the Crusades were all contributing factors to the reality and execution of the Crusades.

Considering the fact that joining in a Crusade would mean forgiveness of sins and access to heaven, the importance of religious reasons cannot be overemphasised. If one were to determine blame for the atrocities of the Crusades, the bulk would be placed on the Roman Catholic Church and its popes during that time. While succeeding in enriching and empowering themselves as well as selling the lie of the forgiveness of sins for those joining a Crusade, the popes failed to impress basic human decency on the crusaders, resulting in the terrible atrocities committed by the crusaders - such as the slaughter of Jews and other Christians, as well as Muslims who surrendered in battle, to name but a few, which are the leading contributors to the notoriety of the Crusades in the mind of modern man.

For present-day Christians, the Crusades are something of the past, although it still lives on in the mouths of unthinking politicians. Of recent concern is the fact that the term 'Crusade' also lives on in the modern Muslim mind. Several prominent Muslim leaders of recent years have referred to their western enemies as 'crusaders'. Certain scholars suggest that the pre-occupation of Muslims with the Crusades is relatively new: 'It was only in the twentieth century when the west had become more powerful and threatening, that Muslim historians would become preoccupied by the medieval Crusades' Armstrong This shows that it is easy, yet irresponsible, to take the Crusades out of their historical context and force it into the present-day political agendas and rhetoric.

In the Muslim world, this kind of propaganda has the ability to stir up emotions within the fanatic fringe where the idea of jihad is still adhered to. Resulting attacks on western 'Christian' targets trigger reprisals from the West. Conveniently, the Crusades are then made out to be the 'original scapegoat' behind the conflict between these forces.


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This scenario fits in perfectly with what Bull refers to as the 'current misappropriation of the Crusades'. The nature of the changing attitudes towards the Crusades, just like the reasons behind them, is legion and complex. It reveals not only a changing attitude towards the Crusades but, in fact, a change in awareness about this movement. It seems that certain present-day struggles, along with their political agendas, propaganda and the like, have all succeeded in generating an awareness of the Crusades.

Ideally, modern society should understand the Crusades within their historical context and not refer to them by any means in the process of addressing modern-day differences. The authors declare that they have no financial or personal relationships which may have inappropriately influenced them in writing this article. Armstrong, K. Asbridge, T.

The First Crusade and Idea of Crusading

Bacon, F. Holzboog ed. Bartlett, W. Bongars, J. Boudreaux, R. Caner, E.

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