14 November 2013
Were the Crusades Successful?
Throughout the entirety of the Crusades, there were a multitude of goals that each combatant from the Christian, Muslim, and Judaism were trying to achieve. There is a lurking question, and that is: were the Crusades a success for anyone? Some historians will lecture that the Crusades were an overall success, some believe that they were only partially successful in conveying they’re overall message. Then there’s the historians that will lecture that the Crusades were a complete failure.
The Crusades, specifically the first Crusades, had two major objectives. The main overall objective was to turn the control of religious sites back into Christian power. An underlying objective to Henry VII and Urban II was to protect the lands of the Eastern Empire from the Turkish conquests. More importantly, Archer and Kingsford conclude: “The success of the second great object of the Crusades is best regards from a twofold point of view---firstly, as concerns the Empire of the East; and secondly, as concerns the history of the world at large.” (155). This reinforces their argument that the Crusades were a major success. If the Crusades proved to be a failure, chances are that the entirety of Western Civilization history would be completely different.
Or perhaps, the crusades were only a partial success. James A. Brundage seems to believe so. Brundage writes about how the fall of Constantinople hindered the level of success by returning to Ottoman rule in 1453. But more importantly, Brundage points out that the intended goal of the crusades was to have the churches of the east and west reconcile with one another. This reconciliation, according to Brundage, was near impossible anyway. Since the Byzantine and the Roman views of the church were so drastically opposite of one another, reconciliation of any kind would have been a miracle, but the Crusades conflict brought about by the Holy War raging West was only a distraction to the union that eventually came to be. Brundage’s argument comes to the conclusion that as for what the Crusades were initially meant to achieve, they were a failure. But in hindsight, in positive externalities, like the saving of history as we know it, not thought about those of the time, were a success.
What about the perception that the Crusades were a failure? Author Steven Runciman provides quite a lengthy section arguing that the Crusades were a disastrous failure. Runciman argues that during this time the Renaissance was coming around after the end of the Dark Ages, and that the Crusades have no direct link to the prosperity that came about during the Renaissance. This particular point is interesting in itself because Runciman takes the stand as if the economic, social, and educational prosperity in Europe was bound to happen despite the occurrence of the Crusades.
On a different note, Runciman points out a few negative externalities that tend to be ignored when the Crusades are discussed. One of those points is that the Mongol invasions cannot be blamed only on the Crusades and that the Arabs would have had more of an ample opportunity to defend themselves against the Mongols had they not been already handicapped by the Crusades.
An even more interesting point that Runciman makes is that Islam was hit pretty hard by the Crusades’ negative externalities. Other than the Islamic Crusaders fighting against the Christian Crusaders, there was a small third party that was from this region that partook in the fighting as well, most of them heretics.
As for this historian, the overall outcome of the Crusades is a success, but it depends on how readers interpret the situation. In the case of America, the Crusades turned out to be a good thing. Christianity and unity as we know it today would not have existed had the Muslims succeeded in defeating the Christians. Had the Muslims won the conflict, life in its entirety would have been completely...
Cited: T.A. Archer, Charles Lethbridge Kingsford, The Crusades: The Story of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, excerpt. (New York, Putnam, 1984)
Brundage, James A., The Crusades: A Documentary Survey (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 1962)
Runciman, Steven The History of the Crusades, Cambridge University Press, Vol. 3 (1954)
Siege Technology of The Crusades." ThinkQuest. Oracle Foundation, n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2013
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