When we think about the Crusades, we usually think of knights in red robes and scarlet crosses, or we think of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The average person might think of them as meaningless wars or as a way to stop people from having different religious ideas.
In reality, the Crusades were a series of military campaigns that were, at least at first, less about controlling people and more about wanting to be close to the sacred. It was the same for both the Christians and the Muslims, too. People from all three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, thought of Jerusalem as a sacred place, and it was. Jerusalem was a place where people could look back on happy memories and learn about the history of their people. It was also a place where important religious people had important things happen.
Early in the history of Islam, the followers of Muhammad (570–632) overthrew the Byzantine rule of Jerusalem in 638 through a peaceful conquest. They then set up dynastic rule. The last few hundred years were not very interesting. During the 11th century, on the other hand, there were a lot of events that caused a big change in how Muslims and Christians thought about each other.
It was when the Seljuk Turks (who were Sunni Muslims) ruled the Shi’ite Muslims who had been in charge of Jerusalem for a long time that Christians were persecuted. Islam’s most common sect has always looked down on the Shi’a sect. It began not long after the death of Mohammad and hasn’t stopped since then. When the Shi’ite defeat at Jerusalem took place in 1071, it was a turning point and a call to action.
He spoke at the Council of Clermont in November of 1095. While the main point of the council was to make changes in the Catholic Church, Urban’s speech suggested and pushed for a military response to the Turkish takeover of Jerusalem. It was very important to the Pope that France do something to protect the Holy City. It looked like everyone in Christendom was ready to get together and fight.
The first Crusade began in 1096, and the Crusaders took over Jerusalem in 1099. However, there were more than half a dozen more Crusades after that. As a group, these campaigns were spread out over the years until about the year 1291. In the same way that all of the wars of that time were brutal, these ones were too.
But even though there was a lot of fighting and the threat of bloodshed, there were good people on both sides of this religious fight for land control. There was a time in 1219 when St. Francis of Assisi, who was a Franciscan, went across the battle lines to meet with Sultan al-Mallik Al Kamil, the ruler of the country at the time. In the name of peace, Francis went to the Sultan and told him about his Christian faith, so that there would be no war. After hearing that King Richard had lost his horse in 1192, it was said that Muslim military leader Saladin gave the king two of his horses after hearing that the king had lost his steed. To find out more about these wars, you’ll have to do some research.
Below is a list of suggested books that talk about different aspects of the Crusades. Many of them try to break new ground on things that happened hundreds of years ago, and they try to get rid of a lot of old and often wrong stereotypes. This is what they say:
The Crusader States
By Malcolm Barber
Malcolm Barber’s book, The Crusader States, looks at the places the Christian knights built along the Mediterranean during the Crusades, including cities like Antioch and Tripoli, as well as Jerusalem. He pays a lot of attention to the city-states’ legal authority, economy, and the need to defend territories that have been taken back by the city-states.
By Geoffrey Hindley
If you remember, we talked about Saladin in the beginning of this article. Saladin was a well-known figure to Christians, Muslims, and historians. Saladin was a powerful political and military leader. During the Battle of Hattin, the sultan played an important role in military strategy. Geoffrey Hindley’s book focuses a lot on this, and it led to the end of the Third Crusade.
The Knights Templar at War, 1120–1312
By Paul Hill
In The Knights Templar at War, Paul Hill talks about how the Knights Templar could be used in the military. Hill shows how the group took part in the Crusades in the Holy Land and also in other wars. In this book, you can see how the Templars shaped the medieval battlefield and history as a whole.
A History of the Crusades
By Steven Runciman
Sir Steven Runciman, an English historian, was a “leading expert” on the history of the Byzantine Empire and the Crusades. His most well-known work was a three-volume set of books that looked into the Crusades in great detail. This is what people know about him for. The author of A History of the Crusades, Runciman, moves further down the line of the campaigns’ chronology with each new book. For example, he talks about how people came to have different ideas and how kingdoms rose and fell.
The Crusades Through Arab Eyes
By Amin Maalouf
The Crusades through Arab Eyes looks at the activities and thoughts of Muslims who were part of the medieval Crusades. Amin Maalouf, a talented journalist, editor, and novelist, wrote the book based on records from the time. It gives a quick but in-depth look at how the Islamic world sees the events of the Crusades and how the campaigns have changed the world.
By Jonathan Riley-Smith
Another English historian, Jonathan Riley-Smith, has written a book called The Crusades: A History. In this book, he looks at a lot of things that were important to the Crusades, like theology and politics. He also talks about how the Crusades are seen from a modern point of view and how the term has been revived in today’s political world.
By Terry Jones, Alan Ereira
Though the book doesn’t claim the most original of titles, Terry Jones and Alan Ereira do justice to the historic campaigns in Crusades, examing both their legends and legitimacies. Best known for some of its visual aesthetics, Crusades was printed as a BBC production companion guide.
The Great Betrayal
By Ernle Bradford
When the Crusades were going on, they had a big impact on religious ties in Europe. The Great Betrayal, written by Ernle Bradford who used to work for the BBC, talks about that.
The Crusades and the Expansion of Catholic Christendom 1000-1714
By John France
When John France, a professor at the University of Wales Swansea, writes about the Crusades, he thinks about them in the future, which is why this book is so interesting to read! The book starts with the Crusades and talks about how the wars shaped major historical movements for centuries to come.
The Crusades Controvery
By Thomas F. Madden
Thomas F. Madden, a historian who studies medieval history, says in The Crusades Controversy that Christianity was not the force that led to the fight between Christians and Muslims over the Holy Land. He also says that the Crusades aren’t to blame for some of the problems between Christians and Muslims today.