Has anybody ever asked you about the Crusades and what you thought of them? Chances are, somebody has. I myself was confronted with this question some years ago and to be honest, I froze. I felt embarrassed since I had no idea what to say in response.
Certainly the topic of the Crusades is not something most ordinary people have devoted much thought and study to. It’s not one of those events in history that lots of people are losing sleep over. And yet, some of us wish we’d been better equipped to answer questions about it!
30 Minutes Is All You Need
Thomas F. Madden is Professor of History and Director of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Saint Louis University. He has written several scholarly works on the history of the Crusades and the impact they’ve had in our modern world.
His most recent work on the topic is a very short and accessible 50 page booklet called The Crusades Controversy.
In six short, but by no means simplistic, chapters, Madden has managed to provide us with enough information to clear away the most common misconceptions and distortions many people still hold about the Crusades.
Two portions of the booklet deserve lengthy quotations.
“the Crusades….were a response to more than four centuries of conquests in which Muslim armies had already captured two-thirds of the old Christian world. At some point Christianity as a faith and a culture either defended itself or was subsumed by Islam. The Crusades were that defense.”
“The eighteenth century saw the rise of the Enlightenment with its strict emphasis on rational thought, religious tolerance, and anticlericalism. In an intellectual atmosphere like that the medieval Crusades did not fare well…the Crusades were described as a bizarre manifestation of medieval barbarism in which thousands of the deceived and the foolish marched through rivers of blood in a pitiful attempt to save their souls. In his famous Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776–88), Edward Gibbon insisted that nothing good at all came out of the Crusades, except perhaps Europe’s exposure to more sophisticated Eastern cultures.”
These two quotes are among the many excellent take-away points of the booklet.
Now you can answer the questions!
I highly recommend Madden’s little booklet The Crusades Controversy. It’s a superb and easy to digest introduction to a topic around which there is much misinformation and even disinformation!.
At 50 pages, you can read it easily in one sitting. I can’t think of a better way to give yourself a sound basic knowledge on this intriguing topic. Enjoy your reading and help set the record straight!