Monday, February 9, 2015

Crusades

The current controversy about religious extremism caused me to want to know more about the the Crusades quite apart from the ensuing political brouhaha. I just ordered Thomas Madden's The Concise History of the Crusades in the Kindle version. Madden is a medievalist who has published much on that era including a couple of books on this subject. The one I ordered is the shorter one. Madden has noted that Obama was not the first President to have become embroiled in controversy about "Crusades." After George W. Bush's use of the word Madden wrote "Crusade Myths" in 2002.  (Madden's "The Real Inquisition" is also interesting.)

"Crusade Myths" is very much worth reading. Here are a couple excerpts:
So, what is the real story of the Crusades? As you might imagine, it is a long story. But there are good histories, written in the last twenty years, that lay much of it out. For the moment, given the barrage of coverage that the Crusades are getting nowadays, it might be best to consider just what the Crusades were not. Here, then, are some of the most common myths and why they are wrong.

Myth 1: The Crusades were wars of unprovoked aggression against a peaceful Muslim world.

This is as wrong as wrong can be. From the time of Mohammed, Muslims had sought to conquer the Christian world. They did a pretty good job of it, too. After a few centuries of steady conquests, Muslim armies had taken all of North Africa, the Middle East, Asia Minor, and most of Spain. In other words, by the end of the eleventh century the forces of Islam had captured two-thirds of the Christian world. Palestine, the home of Jesus Christ; Egypt, the birthplace of Christian monasticism; Asia Minor, where St. Paul planted the seeds of the first Christian communities: These were not the periphery of Christianity but its very core. And the Muslim empires were not finished yet. They continued to press westward toward Constantinople, ultimately passing it and entering Europe itself. As far as unprovoked aggression goes, it was all on the Muslim side. At some point what was left of the Christian world would have to defend itself or simply succumb to Islamic conquest. ....

Myth 8: Muslims, who remember the Crusades vividly, have good reason to hate the West.

Actually, the Muslim world remembers the Crusades about as well as the West—in other words, incorrectly. That should not be surprising. Muslims get their information about the Crusades from the same rotten histories that the West relies on. The Muslim world used to celebrate the Crusades as a great victory for them. They did, after all, win. But western authors, fretting about the legacy of modern imperialism, have recast the Crusades as wars of aggression and the Muslims as placid sufferers. In so doing they have rescinded centuries of Muslim triumphs, offering in their stead only the consolation of victimhood. [more]
 Some earlier posts at this site on the general subject:
The current political controversy over medieval events has resulted in a lot of information online in easily digestible form. As I find more I may link to it, too.