The Crusades: A Few Addendums

Don’t worry folks, this will be much shorter.

A. Some feedback I’ve seen on the article.

  • The “Inquisition.” I left it in caps because that’s what everyone was doing, but I definitely should have put it in quotes! Someone will have to write a column about the fact and fiction there, but hopefully not me…
  • I read a comment somewhere that said the President’s remarks shouldn’t even be a part of this debate. Not sure I agree with that, but it’s a point of view.
  • The article did seem to come off a bit more “military history” than I’d intended, but I’m OK with that.  I’m fascinated by the intersection of belief and lived experience, and how and why people resort to violence (“war” especially). And what they hope to accomplish through violence. So I’m always asking what shaped people’s responses to war. And regarding the crusades, I agree with Kurt Villads Jensen’s article in Al-Masaq (2003), “Peregrinatio sive expeditio: Why the First Crusade was not a Pilgrimage.” So, I’m bound to bring a political/military perspective to bear, I suppose, in addition to a cultural one.
  • The Eastern Churches. I had meant to make that clearer, that Urban II was in contact with churches in the Eastern Mediterranean, but couldn’t find my notes on the most recent research. But that was another factor in 1095.
  • The concept of “ownership” of the Holy Land. This is a full topic in and of itself, but I think the manner in which the French, Normans, and eventually the Germans asserted a proprietary interest in the Holy Land didn’t make much sense to anyone but themselves. It nonplussed the Byzantines, to be sure, who had a much longer and immediate interest in the Levant. This deserves a closer analysis.
  • Albigensian Crusade. Someone said I’d forgotten them. Nope, they’re there, for a sentence. But very important for what some other folks have mentioned, that…
  • Not all crusades were defensive. Absolutely: I was focusing on the First Crusade in particular because that is where the argument usually concentrates. The Wendish Crusade of 1147, on the Germanic-Slavic frontier, was hardly “defensive,” and was fought in the same manner as in the previous 200 years. Which was with, to us, shocking brutality (my students were a bit shocked when we discussed this yesterday).
  • Regarding “staggering brutality,” David Perry and I had some good, collegial exchanges yesterday, and we both agree that we’re not that far apart, in the end. Leif Petersen, author of Siege warfare and military organization in the successor states (400-800 AD) also had some interesting examples about atrocities in pre-crusades warfare, worth following up. My perspective has been shaped by a couple decades of studying warfare in general, and some years researching the Wehrmacht and the Shoah. To be honest, I think most people don’t grasp how violent medieval and early modern society was in general, and the reaction I get when I manage to convey that to my students often is a kind of shock–and this from the video game generation, no less (I’m not knocking video games per se, I love playing them myself…when I have the time).

B. Some articles that I’ve read since Monday. Kate’s and Andrew’s articles I recommend:

Leila K. Norako, “On Obama’s Crusades ‘Controversy'” , and Andrew Holt, “Crusades were a reaction to Islamic militarism” (see also his website).  Also the exchange between Andrew and David on David’s blog, here.

Other articles that crossed my path:

Jay Michaelson, “The Crusades Were Great, Actually!”

Max Fisher, “Let’s be clear: The Obama Crusades controversy is over whether it’s okay to hate Muslims.”

Murtaza Hussain, “Obama’s Christian Right Critics Agree with Islamic State.”

Virginia Postrel, “Why the Crusades Still Matter.”

Mark Bauerlein, “Un-Presidential Remarks.”

C. I’m still building resource pages for medieval history on this site (as you can tell from some of the still-empty pages), but I there are a couple things I would recommend.

Sites (not always up-to-date, but still useful): Paul Halsall’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook, and The ORB (On-line Reference Book for Medieval Studies).

Also, there is an excellent new collection of documents (unfortunately an expensive one) from the University of Pennsylvania, Crusade and Christendom: Annotated Documents in Translation from Innocent III to the Fall of Acre, 1187-1291.

Finally, I would recommend getting a hold of anything that Norman Housley , University of Leicester, has written on the subject. He’s a very understated, even underestimated, presence in crusades studies, but when I want some perspective on crusades and religious warfare in general, I often find myself going back to his publications for a calm, multifaceted, incisive, thought-provoking analysis (this is honestly my opinion). His books include Fighting for the Cross: Crusading to the Holy Land, Crusading in the Fifteenth Century: Message and Impact, Crusading and the Ottoman Threat 1453-1505, The Later Crusades 1274-1580: from Lyons to Alcazar, Contesting the Crusades (a study of how historians have written about the Crusades), Documents on the Later Crusades 1274-1580, and Religious Warfare in Europe 1400-1536 (which is fairly dense, but the only book that really explains how “crusade” morphs into “religious warfare” in the late medieval/early modern era). And a collected series of essays in Crusading and Warfare in Medieval and Renaissance Europe.

One Reply to “The Crusades: A Few Addendums”

  1. Do you have a recommendation for a “best” general history of the Crusades for non-experts? I looked at Norman Housely’s offerings and none of them seem to fit that particular niche, although I did pick up a copy of his “Fighting for the Cross” (at an excellent price!) upon your recommendation. But it doesn’t appear to be a general history either. Before I read Housely, I’d like to read a good history. What do you recommend?

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