Historiography of the Crusades

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The historiography of the Crusades is how historians and the popular culture have dealt with the Crusades. There are many viewpoints, since Western and Eastern judgments differ sharply. The dichotomy is "crusade" as a valiant struggle for a supreme cause, and "crusade" as a byword for barbarism and aggression. This contrasting view is a millennium old and the crusades were controversial even among contemporaries.

Western sources speak of both heroism, faith and honor, emphasized in chivalric romance, but also of acts of brutality. Orthodox Christian and Islamic chroniclers tell stories of barbarian savagery and brutality, although it was not until 1899 that the first Islamic history of the Crusades was written. Prior to the growth of Arab nationalism in the 20th century, the Crusades were virtually ignored in the Islamic world.[1]

In the 21st century the most widely accepted approach among scholars is the pluralist school of crusade history. It has a broad definition that includes as crusades all those medieval military endeavors that were penitential in nature (like pilgrimages), were authorized by bishops or the Pope, and whose participants typically engaged in the rite of taking the cross and the crusader’s vow.[2]

Popular reputation in Western Europe[edit]

Legend and literature surrounded the Crusades with an aura of romance and grandeur, of chivalry and courage.[3]The myth is only remotely related to reality. The countless tales of the gallant knights of the Cross glitter in hyperbole. Many stories are true about the crusaders' feats of valor. However the crusaders occupied the Holy Land only temporarily. In their major mission, the crusaders lost in the very long run.

In Western Europe, the Crusades have traditionally been regarded by laypeople as heroic adventures, though the mass enthusiasm of common people was largely expended in the First Crusade, from which so few of their class returned. Today, the "Saracen" adversary is personified in the lone figure of Saladin; his adversary Richard the Lionheart is, in the English-speaking world, the archetypical crusader king, while Frederick Barbarossa and Louis IX fill the same symbolic niche in German and French culture. Even in contemporary areas, the crusades and their leaders were romanticized in popular literature; the Chanson d'Antioche was a chanson de geste dealing with the First Crusade, and the Song of Roland, dealing with the era of the similarly romanticized Charlemagne, was directly influenced by the experience of the crusades, going so far as to replace Charlemagne's historic Basque opponents with Muslims. A popular theme for troubadours was the knight winning the love of his lady by going on crusade in the east.

The ever-living Frederick Barbarossa, in his mountain cave: a late 19th-century German woodcut

In the 14th century, Godfrey of Bouillon was united with the Trojan War and the adventures of Alexander the Great against a backdrop for military and courtly heroics of the Nine Worthies who stood as popular secular culture heroes into the 16th century, when more critical literary tastes ran instead to Torquato Tasso and Rinaldo and Armida, Roger and Angelica. Later, the rise of a more authentic sense of history among literate people brought the Crusades into a new focus for the Romantic generation in the romances of Sir Walter Scott in the early 19th century. Crusading imagery could be found even in the Crimean War, in which the United Kingdom and France were allied with the Muslim Ottoman Empire, and in World War I, especially Allenby's capture of Jerusalem in 1917.

In Spain, the popular reputation of the Crusades is outshone by the particularly Spanish history of the Reconquista. El Cid is the central figure. In a broader sense, crusade was used, in a rhetorical and metaphorical sense, to identify as righteous any war that was given a religious or moral justification.

Catholic Church[edit]

Linder (2001) examines 15th-century Catholic Church liturgy designed to generate support for the war effort against the Turks and to legitimize its aims. Two types of Contra Turcos Masses were used: masses converted to this function through the addition of appropriate three core prayers and complete dedicated masses. The most popular example of the first type was the triple prayer set originally established by Clement V as a Holy Land crusade liturgy and subsequently mobilized against the Turks. The second type is represented by nine different mass formularies that were introduced after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Most surviving liturgies are of German or French provenance, indicating extensive use not only among the front-line populations but also in areas far removed from any threat. The liturgy displays an its intense crisis rhetoric. Its predominant stance of vulnerability and defensiveness entailed aggressive mobilization and the conceptualization of the Turk as the actual, specific manifestation of the generic infidel, the competing religious Other; and the remarkable continuity - in form and in content - that linked this liturgy with its parent liturgies (mainly those of the campaigns against the pagans and the Holy Land Crusades) further accentuated these traits. The communicative function and value of this liturgy is highlighted by the concentration of the direct, unmediated communicative elements in that part of the mass that was the most accessible to the laity.[4]

Modern Western historians[edit]

The historical memory of the crusades has been sharply divided. The Catholic tradition in Europe looked upon them favorably, but the Protestant historians were more negative. Martin Luther once suggested that the Turks were God's instrument for punishing Christians. In recent decades a sense of western guilt is apparent, as in the 1995 BBC television series, presented by Terry Jones, which portrayed the crusades as a long, misguided war of intolerance, ignorance and barbarism against a peaceful and sophisticated Muslim world.[5]

Knobler (2006) examines the use of the crusades as a national symbol from the 19th century to the 1910s in France, Spain, the Ottoman Empire, Ethiopia, Britain, Russia, and Bulgaria. The Enlightenment and its secular ideological successors held the crusades as an example of medieval barbarity. Enlightenment thinkers like historian-philosophers Voltaire and David Hume denounced the crusades, as did the historian of Byzantium Edward Gibbon, who wrote:

"The principle of the crusades was a savage fanaticism; and the most important effects were analogous to the cause…. The belief of the Catholics was corrupted by new legends…. The active spirit of the Latins preyed on the vitals of their reason and religion…. The lives and labours of millions, which were buried in the East, would have been more profitably employed in the improvement of their native country."[6]

In the 19th century, however, romantic writers like novelist Sir Walter Scott created heroic images of the crusaders. The romantics and conservative adherents of the European ancien régimes appropriated crusading imagery for their own 19th century political goals, downplaying religion to fit within a modern, secular context and presenting crusades as a counterpoint to liberal ideas of nationalism.

Knobler (2006) explores three primary themes: memory of the crusades as it relates to debates over the generation and use of national symbols; the crusader as a romantic hero; and the Muslim recollection of the crusades as a shameful blot on the past of Christian nations. The crusades appealed to many Europeans because they reflected a morally unambiguous time, sparked romanticized images of warfare in a time of imperialist expansion, and provided heroic templates for modern "crusading" imperialist heroes.[7]

Runciman[edit]

Peters (2011) says that Steven Runciman's three volume narrative history[8] published in England in 1951-54 by Cambridge University Press, "instantly became the most widely known and respected single-author survey of the subject in English."[9]

Riddle (2008) says that for his day Runciman was the “greatest historian of the Crusades.” He reports that, “Prior to Runciman, in the early part of the [20th] century, historians related the Crusades as an idealistic attempt of Christendom to push Islam back.” Runciman regarded the Crusades “as a barbarian invasion of a superior civilization, not that of the Muslims but of the Byzantines.” [10]

Madden (2005) stresses the impact of Runciman’s style and viewpoint:

It is no exaggeration to say that Runciman single-handedly crafted the current popular concept of the crusades. The reasons for this are twofold. First, he was a learned man with a solid grasp of the chronicle sources. Second, and perhaps more important, he wrote beautifully. The picture of the crusades that Runciman painted old much to current scholarship yet much more to Sir Walter Scott. Throughout his history Runciman portrayed the crusaders as simpletons or barbarians seeking salvation through the destruction of the sophisticated cultures of the east. In his famous "summing-up" of the crusades he concluded that "the Holy War in itself was nothing more than a long act of intolerance in the name of God, which is a sin against Holy Ghost.”[11]

Vaughn (2007) says "Runciman's three-volume History of the Crusades remains the primary standard of comparison." However Vaughn notes that Tyerman "accurately, if perhaps with a bit of hubris, notes that Runciman's work is now outdated and seriously flawed."[12]

Legend and literature in the West[edit]

Popular legend and much popular literature surrounded the Crusades with an aura of romance and grandeur, of chivalry and courage.[3]The myth is only remotely related to reality. The countless tales of the gallant knights of the Cross glitter in hyperbole. Many stories are true about the crusaders' feats of valor. However the crusaders occupied the Holy Land only temporarily. In their major mission, the crusaders lost in the very long run.

The historical memory of the crusades has been sharply divided. The Catholic tradition in Europe looked upon them favorably, but the Protestant historians were more negative. Martin Luther once suggested that the Turks were God's instrument for punishing Christians. In recent decades a sense of western guilt is apparent, as in the 1995 BBC television series, presented by Terry Jones, which portrayed the crusades as a long, misguided war of intolerance, ignorance and barbarism against a peaceful and sophisticated Muslim world.[5]

National symbol[edit]

Knobler (2006) examines the use of the crusades as a national symbol from the 19th century to the 1910s in France, Spain, the Ottoman Empire, Ethiopia, Britain, Russia, and Bulgaria. Though the Enlightenment and its secular ideological successors held the crusades as an example of medieval barbarity. Enlightenment thinkers like historian-philosophers Voltaire and David Hume denounced the crusades, as did the historian of Byzantium Edward Gibbon, who wrote:

"The principle of the crusades was a savage fanaticism; and the most important effects were analogous to the cause…. The belief of the Catholics was corrupted by new legends…. The active spirit of the Latins preyed on the vitals of their reason and religion…. The lives and labours of millions, which were buried in the East, would have been more profitably employed in the improvement of their native country."[6]

In the 19th century, however, romantic writers like novelist Sir Walter Scott created heroic images of the crusaders. The romantics and conservative adherents of the European ancien régimes appropriated crusading imagery for their own 19th-century political goals, downplaying religion to fit within a modern, secular context and presenting crusades as a counterpoint to liberal ideas of nationalism.

Knobler (2006) explores three primary themes: memory of the crusades as it relates to debates over the generation and use of national symbols; the crusader as a romantic hero; and the Muslim recollection of the crusades as a shameful blot on the past of Christian nations. The crusades appealed to many Europeans because they reflected a morally unambiguous time, sparked romanticized images of warfare in a time of imperialist expansion, and provided heroic templates for modern "crusading" imperialist heroes.[7]

Christian Jihad[edit]

A crucial recent development is the recognition, variously interpreted, of the parallel between crusades and the Islamic concept of jihad.[13] Secular critics of the crusades see both jihad and crusade as providing a religious justification for war and intolerance. Supporters present the crusades as defensive responses to Islamic jihad and, in some cases, advocate a renewal of the crusades [14] a view that may be linked, by both critics and supporters, to current US policy in the Middle East.[15]

A June 2, 1944 message to Allied troops before the Normandy landings, began with General Eisenhower stating, "Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months." His later bestselling memoir was entitled Crusade in Europe.

Ardent activists for specific reforms often christen their program as crusades, as in the "Crusade against Adult Illiteracy," or a "Crusade against Littering." The term may also be used to pejoratively characterize the zealotry of agenda promoters, causing it to take on different connotations depending on the audience: for example, with the moniker "Public Crusader" or the campaigns "Crusade against abortion," and the "Crusade for prayer in public schools."

George W. Bush in 2002 described his anti-terrorism campaign as a crusade but was compelled to repudiate the term when it was pointed out that the word, because of the historical events to which it referred in the Middle East, was regarded as offensive by some Muslims and Jews.

Islamic perspective[edit]

Muslim historiography does not cover the crusades with the same intensity as the West. One modern reason could be that Turks were primarily responsible for the defeat of the crusaders, and Arab historians (who have written much of modern Islamic history) may have underplayed this, due to the Turks role in establishing the Ottoman Empire - a period that suppressed Arab nationalism for seven centuries into the era of World War I.[16]

Thomas Patrick Murphy has proposed that this view has caused Muslims to set up intellectual barriers and become very isolationist in their policies, causing them to be left behind in the "world scene."[17] The most devastating long term consequence of the crusades, according to historian Peter Mansfield, was the creation of an Islamic mentality that sought a retreat into isolation. He says "Assaulted from all quarters, the Muslim world turned in on itself. It became oversensitive [and] defensive… attitudes that grew steadily worse as worldwide evolution, a process from which the Muslim world felt excluded, continued.".[18]

Saladin[edit]

Muslims traditionally celebrate Saladin as a hero against the Crusaders. Crusaders are now portrayed to feel little to no remorse for what they did and when the Muslims, compared that to Saladin’s perception of being a man of honor.[19]

The great Muslim hero was Saladin--but he was a Kurd and not an Arab or a Turk. Having defeated the crusaders in 1187, and become sovereign and founder of the Ayyubid dynasty in Egypt and Syria, Salah al-Din (Saladin) has been for a century the object of an intense glorification in the Arab world. Farah Antun's play Sultan Saladin and the Kingdom of Jerusalem (1914) illustrates how the historical figure of Saladin came to be presented as a prophet of Arab nationalism. Antun (1874-1922) was an Arab-speaking Syrian Christian who presents Saladin as the champion of a just jihad against the Crusaders and as a faithful upholder of the virtues of wisdom, determination, and frankness; Antun was calling on the peoples of all Arab countries to unite against Western imperialists. The refusal of Antun's Saladin to become embroiled in quarrels within Europe had obvious echoes in World War I and caused the play to be censored by the British authorities in Egypt. In Palestine, the glorification also took the form of pilgrimages to Nabi Musa and became an occasion to celebrate the memory of the great hero of Muslim history. A recent myth proclaims him the initiator of Palestinian pilgrimages. The figure of the past has become the modern hero of Arab nationalism, giving hope to a society prey to war and dispersion. At the same time, however, the pilgrimage ritual highlights the limits of the hero: constantly appealed to and put to the test, he has begun to show signs of fragility.[20]

Current views[edit]

Today, most Muslims see the Crusades as "something they won but just another invasion among many in their history," according to Dr Jonathan Phillips.[21] It wasn't until recently that the Muslim world started to take a renewed interest in the Crusades. "There is a straight line for propagandists to draw," says Dr Phillips.[22] In the 21st century, such as the Pan-Islamism movement, continue to call Western involvement in the Middle East a "crusade". Today many Muslims consider the Crusades to be a symbol of Western hostility toward Islam.[23] In the minds of contemporary Muslims, the Crusades were Western invasions motivated by the West’s greed and hatred for Islam, while the Christian West thought that they were reclaiming the Holy Land and stopping the spread of Islam. For the West, these wars were known as the ‘crusades’ which comes from the Latin word for cross. The Muslims, on the other hand, referred to the wars as “Frankish Invasions” using the Arabic word al-ifranj, which is the term for "French", although it was applied to Westerners in general.[24]

Eastern Orthodoxy[edit]

Like Muslims, Eastern Orthodox Christians also see the Crusades as attacks by "the barbarian West", but centered on the sack of Constantinople in 1204. Among vast quantities of gold,[25] which was accumulated for more than 1300 years by the Roman Empire, many relics and artifacts taken from Constantinople are still to be found in the West, in the Vatican and elsewhere, like the Greek Horses on the façade of St. Mark's in Venice. Both the cultural and the economic capital gained after of the sack of Constantinople played a significant part in the rise of the Italian cities that gave birth to renaissance.[25]

The eventual fall of the Christian Byzantine Empire was mostly caused by Fourth Crusade's attack against the Eastern Orthodox, largely at the instigation of the infamous Enrico Dandolo, the Doge of Venice and financial backer of the Fourth Crusade (1202–1204). The Byzantine lands had been a stable Christian state since the 4th century, though had been in a crisis immediately before the Fourth Crusade. After the Crusaders took Constantinople in 1204, the Byzantines never again had as large or strong a state, and finally fell in 1453 to the Muslim Ottoman Empire under the command of Sultan Mehmed II.

For the Eastern Orthodox, the Fourth Crusade could be presented as an anomaly, though this does not explain the Northern Crusades which also targeted Orthodox Christians.[citation needed] In this context, the Fourth Crusade's crusaders could have felt compelled to abandon the secondary aim in order to retain Dandolo's logistical support in achieving the primary aim. Even so, the Fourth Crusade was condemned by the Pope of the time (Pope Innocent III) and is now generally remembered throughout Europe as a disgraceful failure.

Jewish community[edit]

Though the Muslims in power at the time tried to protect the Jews in The Holy Land, the Crusaders' atrocities against them in the German and Hungarian towns, later also in those of France, England, and in the massacres of Jews in Palestine and Syria have become a significant part of the history of anti-Semitism,[26] although no Crusade was ever declared against Jews.

These attacks left behind for centuries strong feelings of ill will on both sides. The social position of the Jews in western Europe was distinctly worsened, and legal restrictions increased during and after the Crusades. They prepared the way for the anti-Jewish legislation of Pope Innocent III and formed the turning-point in medieval anti-Semitism.

It must also be noted that Pope Innocent III reiterated papal injunctions against forcible conversions of Jews, and added: "No Christian shall do the Jews any personal injury...or deprive them of their possessions...or disturb them during the celebration of their festivals...or extort money from them by threatening to exhume their dead.".[27]

The crusading period brought with it many narratives from Jewish sources. Among the better-known Jewish narratives are the Solomon bar Simson Chronicle, the chronicle of Rabbi Eliezer bar Nathan, The Narrative of the Old Persecutions or Mainz Anonymous, and Sefer Zekhirah and The Book of Remembrance by Rabbi Ephraim of Bonn.

Documenting the effects of the Crusades[edit]

Over the course of 200 years, historians now estimate, some 2 million Europeans died in the Middle East crusades.[28][29] The Northern Crusades caused great loss of life among the pagan Polabian Slavs, and they consequently offered little opposition to German colonization (Ostsiedlung) of the Elbe-Oder region and were gradually assimilated by the Germans, with the exception of Sorbs.[30]

The conquest of Prussia was accomplished with much bloodshed over more than 50 years, during which native Prussians who remained unbaptised were subjugated, killed, or exiled. To replace the partially exterminated native population, the Teutonic Order encouraged the immigration of German settlers. The Albigensian Crusade killed an estimated 1 million people, not only Cathars but much of the population of southern France.[31]

One turning point in the historiography of the Crusades was the analysis of the effects in which the Fourth Crusade had on Constantinople, leading up to the subsequent fall of the Byzantine Empire, which the First Crusade (prior to the Great Schism) had nominally been intended to protect from Muslim encroachment on the Holy Land. The Byzantine Empire had from the start maintained that the Crusades were an inappropriate response, claiming they had asked for reinforcements to defend the empire itself, rather than to establish Western city states in the Levant.[citation needed]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Amin Maalouf, Crusades Through Arab Eyes
  2. ^ Nicholas Paul and Suzanne Yeager, eds. (2012). Remembering the Crusades: Myth, Image, and Identity. Johns Hopkins U.P. pp. 3–4. 
  3. ^ a b See Dana Carleton Munro, "War and History,' American Historical Review 32:2 (January 1927): 219–31 online
  4. ^ Amnon Linder, "The War Liturgy Against the Turks in the Late Middle Ages." Historia: Journal of the Historical Society of Israel (in Hebrew) (2001) (8): 73-105. Issn: 0334-4843
  5. ^ a b Donald E. Queller and Thomas F. Madden. The Fourth Crusade: The Conquest of Constantinople (2nd ed. 1999), p. 1, Most historians have a negative view of the reliability of the BBC series.
  6. ^ a b Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, (1776), ch 61 p. 1086
  7. ^ a b Adam Knobler, "Holy Wars, Empires, and the Portability of the Past: the Modern Uses of Medieval Crusades." Comparative Studies in Society and History 2006 48(2): 293-325. Issn: 0010-4175 Fulltext: Cambridge Journals; see also Elizabeth Siberry, The New Crusaders: Images of the Crusades in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries (2000)
  8. ^ A History of the Crusades: Volume 1, The First Crusade and the Foundation of the Kingdom of Jerusalem (1951); A History of the Crusades: Volume 2, The Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Frankish East (1952); A History of the Crusades: Volume 3, The Kingdom of Acre and the Later Crusades (1954)
  9. ^ Edward Peters (2011). The First Crusade: "The Chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres" and Other Source Materials. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 314. 
  10. ^ John M Riddle (2008). A History of the Middle Ages, 300 - 1500. Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Incorporated. p. 315. 
  11. ^ Thomas F Madden (2005). The New Concise History Of The Crusades. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 216. 
  12. ^ Mark K. Vaughn, review of Tyerman, God's War: A New History of the Crusades, in Naval War College Review, (2007) 60#2 p 159
  13. ^ Opinion journal
  14. ^ Findarticles.com
  15. ^ CS monitor
  16. ^ Hillenbrand, The Crusades, Islamic Perspectives p. 5
  17. ^ Murphy, Thomas Patrick. The Holy War. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1976. pg. 198.
  18. ^ A History of the Middle East, Second Edition, London: Penguin Books, 2003, p 21.
  19. ^ Trumpbour, John. "Crusades". The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World, edited by John L. Esposito. Oxford Islamic Studies Online, http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article (accessed Feb 17, 2008).
  20. ^ Emma Aubin-Boltanski, "Salah Al-din, un Heros a l'epreuve: Mythe et Pelerinage en Palestine," [Saladin, a Hero under Scrutiny: Myth and Pilgrimage in Palestine]. Annales: Histoire, Sciences Sociales (in French)] 2005 60(1): 91-107. Issn: 0395-2649
  21. ^ Jonathan Phillips, The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople.
  22. ^ Highly charged, BBC News, May 4, 2005
  23. ^ “Crusades” In The Islamic World: past and Present., edited by John L. Esposito. Oxford Islamic Studies Online, http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article (accessed Feb 17, 2008).
  24. ^ John Trumpbour, "Crusades" in The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World, edited by John L. Esposito. Oxford Islamic Studies Online, http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article (accessed Feb 17, 2008).
  25. ^ a b Phillips, Jonathan (2005). The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople. New York: Penguin. 
  26. ^ Crusades (Christian Warfare with Islam in Palestine), jewishvirtuallibrary.org
  27. ^ Innocent III: Letter on the Jews 1199, Internet Medieval Source Book, Fordham University, 1996, Retrieved on 2006-11-27.
  28. ^ European European Wars, Tyrants, Rebellions and Massacres (800-1700 CE)
  29. ^ God Wills It!, TIME
  30. ^ Wend -- Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  31. ^ Massacre of the Pure, Time, April 28, 1961

Bibliography[edit]

  • Chevedden, Paul E. "The Islamic View and the Christian View of the Crusades: A New Synthesis," History (2008) 93# 310, pp 181-200.
  • Constable, Giles. "The Historiography of the Crusades" in Angeliki E. Laiou, ed. The Crusades from the Perspective of Byzantium and the Muslim World (2001); major overview of scholarship;online
  • Constable, Giles (2008). Crusaders and crusading in the Twelfth century. Ashgate. p. 3ff. 
  • Edgington, Susan B. and Sarah Lambert, eds., Gendering the Crusades (2002)
  • Ellenblum, Ronnie. Crusader Castles and Modern Histories (Cambridge University Press, 2007) 304pp
  • Housley, Norman. Contesting the Crusades (Blackwell, 2006) 198pp, covers the main historians and debates
  • Illston, James Michael. 'An Entirely Masculine Activity’? Women and War in the High and Late Middle Ages Reconsidered (MA thesis, University of Canterbury, 2009) full text online
  • Lock, Peter. The Routledge Companion to the Crusades (2009) pp 255-87 on historiography and historians
  • Madden, Thomas F. ed. The Crusades: The Essential Readings (2002) ISBN 0631230238284pp, articles by scholars
  • Munro, Dana Carleton. "War and History,' American Historical Review 32:2 (January 1927): 219–31. On medieval histories of the crusades. online edition
  • Paul, Nicholas and Suzanne Yeager, eds. Remembering the Crusades: Myth, Image, and Identity (2012) excerpt and text search
  • Rudyard, Susan J. ed. The Medieval Crusade (Boydell & Brewer, 2004) 177pp; historiographical studies
  • Siberry, Elizabeth. New Crusaders: Images of the Crusaders in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries (2000)
  • Tyerman, Christopher. The Crusades: A Very Short Introduction (2006) pp 1-11 excerpt and text search
  • Tyerman, Christopher. The Debate on the Crusades, 1099-2010 (Issues in Historiography) (2011)