The Crusades

Jonathan Phillips

in Military History

ISBN: 9780199791279
Published online June 2012 | | DOI:
The Crusades

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The history of the Crusades is a long and complex story. At the Council of Clermont in November 1095, Pope Urban II called the knights of Europe to a holy war to free Jerusalem from the Muslims in return for unprecedented spiritual rewards. The response was far beyond his expectations. Tens of thousands of people, motivated by spiritual zeal and also a blend of honor, obligation, adventure, the search for profit, and, for the few hundred who stayed on, land, set out for the Levant. Their journey heralded a new age in which Christianity and warfare were more closely linked than ever before, a situation that required some theoretical justification but, in a period of such intense religiosity, gave conflict with those labeled as the enemies of Christ a far harsher edge. Crusading brought numerous military issues to the fore: diverse groups of westerners—often rivals at home—had to learn (or not) to work together. They also had to deal with new tactics and to cope with the physical hardships of Asia Minor and the Levant. Once in the Holy Land, the Franks (as they became known) had to govern as a minority population, and this also affected their military structures and strategies coexisting with the various indigenous peoples of the Levant, both Christian and Muslim. Eventually, the leadership of Nur ad-Din and his illustrious successor, Saladin, revived the Muslim holy war (jihad). In 1187 the Franks lost Jerusalem but managed to hold on to their coastal territories; a series of large expeditions attempted to regain the holy city during the 13th century, but the fall of Acre in 1291 meant the end of Frankish rule. In the meantime, crusading had evolved to include campaigns in Iberia, the Baltic, and southern France (against the Cathar heretics), and involved conflicts with political enemies of the papacy and against the Mongols. The loss of the Holy Land did not mean the end of crusading, because campaigns in Spain and northern Europe continued, while the Ottoman threat to Europe was a further stimulus to holy war. Warfare in the eastern Mediterranean also continued, with the Italian trading cities and the Knights Hospitaller prominent. By the time of the Reformation, however, crusading was in steep decline. The focus here is on military matters, but the bibliography includes overviews and introductory material to present the subject in a theoretical and historical context. There is also a need to see the Crusades from all sides, so where possible there is coverage of (particularly) the Muslim perspective.

Article.  11519 words. 

Subjects: Military History ; Pre-20th Century Warfare ; First World War ; Second World War ; Post-WW2 Military History

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