Essay: Cultural and Construction History of the Crusades

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Cultural and Construction History Of the Crusades

Cultural Environment

In 1095 Pope Urban II announced the First Crusade. The actual reasons for the Crusades -- the series of religiously sanctioned military campaigns waged from 1095 to 1291 AD in the Middle East -- remain controversial. The 200-year war was reputedly fought to restore Christian control over the Holy Land. However, modern scholarship has uncovered numerous other motives: feudalism was morphing into capitalism, which meant that new markets and exploited lands were required; the populations in Europe needed a cause in order to allow control to continue by royalty and the Catholic Church; and the Papacy needed a way to establish control over the kings of Europe and have a private army to dispense with its enemies (Riley-Smith). Additionally, crusaders and those who sanctioned their efforts were also motivated by avarice. Urban II and other landowners who supplied much of the militia involved in these belligerent encounters envisioned the claiming of new territory, wealth, and lofty regard from their contemporaries for their actions. Perhaps all of these reasons combined initiated the Crusades.

The routes taken by the Crusading armies, whether by land through Greece, Constantinople, and into the Middle East, or by sea through Alexandria or Tyre, contributed to the expansion of European influence by providing a diverse means for encompassing as much territory as possible on their way to the Holy Land . Furthermore, armies required regular provisions, and with the movement of so many troops and supplies it was necessary to improve shipbuilding, food technology, military arms, navigation, and geography (Asbridge). These measures ensured that the Crusades would benefit European modernization before any fighting took place.

Relationship to Previous Periods

Although it occurred several years prior to the initial launching of the Crusades, the decline of the Roman Empire, and particularly that of its western contingent, played a principle role in the establishment of these future martial encounters. One of the ways in which the Roman Empire's example helped to establish a model for the Crusades was in its demonstration of the efficaciousness of strong, centralized military presence, which it enjoyed for nearly the duration of its tenure and which the Crusaders sought to emulate by amassing an army united under European influence. The so-called fall of the Western Roman Empire in the AD 400s and the transfer of complete power to Constantinople eventually resulted in a power vacuum in Western Europe. This vacuum was filled by a series of rulers who vied with the Papacy for control. The Crusades united Europe under one idea and ostensibly increased adherence to the doctrine of Christianity, which was the general premise under which these series of military campaigns were waged. However, because there were so many different agendas, and due to the relatively unrestrained amounts of freedom these soldiers enjoyed once they left the restraints of Europe, many of the Crusade armies were deflected from their original purpose. For instance, Constantinople was sacked following the Fourth Crusade, and the Sixth Crusade left Europe without the blessing of the Papacy. Islamic forces triumphed in the Seventh through Ninth Crusades. The last, in 1271? -- 2, resulted in the collapse of the remaining Crusader strongholds along the Mediterranean coast. With the technological revival in Europe, however, Europeans were now more interested in trading eastward and re-establishing their own hegemony (Madden).

Contribution(s) to Western Civilisation

The Crusades were by and large a dismal failure for the European monarchs and the Papacy. However, there were some benefits. Political improvements in Europe after the Crusades led to a consolidation of power in the major European capitals and a general unification under the Papacy that may not otherwise have happened. The Crusades also brought knowledge of the East back into Europe and re-established traffic between East and West (The New Catholic Encyclopedia 508).

The political and cultural strife engendered by the Crusades is still apparent in global foreign policy surrounding Israel. Even in the twenty-first century, many Arabs view the Crusades as savage invasions by Christian fundamentalists, and the modern Arab independence movement and Pan-Islamic organisations trace their beginnings to the desire to rid their culture of European influences (The Crusades -- Crusade Legacy). The Crusades established the foundations of the modern nation-state. They also exposed Europe to Islamic culture, technology, and science. Most of all, they opened up the idea of trade and exploration into Asia, Africa, and the New World, eventually resulting in the discovery and European exploitation of these continents (Stark).

The initial crusade was widely deemed to be successful and largely inspired confidence throughout much of Europe. However, it must be noted that success was defined by the plundering, raping, and virtually wanton murder of specified groups of people. The effects of such destruction were plentiful. Individual populations, such as Muslims abroad and domestic Jewish people were targeted and slaughtered, the latter of which begat a lengthy history of calculated violence against Semitic people throughout Europe (Crusades -.Christian Warfare). Yet such devastation was largely perceived on the Continent as being indicative of a present (and future) epoch which was typified by a zeitgeist of optimism and reinvigoration.

Politically and economically, the Crusades befitted a number of individual European nations, foremost of which included Germany, France and Italy. The area currently known as Germany was able to expand its borders to include colonization in Eastern Europe territory Elbe-Order region traditionally occupied b Polabian Slavs (Wend).France was able to aquire regions with cultural and linguistic ties to Catalonia, largely due to the Albigensian Crusade which assisted in the creation of the Dominican Order and Medieval Inquisition (Strayer 143). Italy was able to expand its economic growth in terms of commerce with the East, which was largely regarded as inevitable (Kreis -- The Holy Crusades).

2. Scientific Environment

The Crusades themselves did little to advance science and knowledge outside of military warfare. However, as noted, they did bring the European West into intimate contact with the Islamic Middle and Near East. Although Europe had been exposed to Islamic culture for centuries through contacts in the Iberian Peninsula and Sicily, much knowledge in areas such as science, medicine, and architecture was transferred from the Islamic to the Western world during the Crusade era. In addition, the Crusades are seen as having opened up European culture to the world:

The Crusades brought about results of which the popes had never dreamed, and which were perhaps the most, important of all. They re-established traffic between the East and West, which, after having been suspended for several centuries, was then resumed with even greater energy; they were the means of bringing from the depths of their respective provinces and introducing into the most civilized Asiatic countries Western knights, to whom a new world was thus revealed, and who returned to their native land filled with novel ideas.... If, indeed, the Christian civilization of Europe has become universal culture, in the highest sense, the glory redounds, in no small measure, to the Crusades. ( The New Catholic Encyclopedia 508)

The need to raise, transport and supply large armies led to a flourishing of trade throughout Europe. Roads largely unused since Roman times saw significant increases in traffic as local merchants began to expand their horizons. Along with trade, new scientific discoveries and inventions made their way east or west. The result of this conjunction was significant for Western knowledge, since it partially enabled Europeans to reconnect with Islamic science, which at the time was flourishing. A Many of the Islamic advances previously discussed, such as algebra, optics, and the university system, entered the Western world when the Crusaders returned. These contributed greatly to the subsequent European Renaissance.

Europe was given several boons from Islamic culture in particular during the middle ages. Areas which benefited the most from Islamic advancements in fields such as technology, law, art, medicine, architecture and more were Italy and Spain in particular. Sicily was conquered by Mulsims in 965 and regained in 1091, and benefited from a hybrid Arab-Norman heritage, one of the results of which was the authoring of Tabula Regeriana for ruler Roger II (Lewis B. 148). In the Levant, Arab and Latin traditions mixed freely (Lebedl 109-111).

3. Economic Environment

Background

There were several areas of influence which the Holy Land was able to exert upon Europe due to the commencement of the Crusades. Although there were specific times in Europe's history during this time period in which Catholicism and the Pope were able to unite many of its disparate areas, the development of modern nation states can be attributed to the this Papal influence at the initiation of the era of Crusades. While Europe enjoyed numerous benefits in the areas of arts and science directly attributable to its interaction with foreign cultures during this particular epoch (such as in medicine, science and architecture, the latter of which can most saliently be demonstrated by the construction of the Caernarfon Castle in Wales which was largely designed due to the experience of Edward I who… [END OF PREVIEW]

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