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Crusades And European Expansion Essay Research Paper

Crusades, And European Expansion Essay, Research Paper

The objective of this Essay is to set out the ideological issues behind the Crusades, the reasoning behind them and the actions taken. Also discussed will be the effects of the Crusades, and if indeed the Crusading ideology was an important factor in the expansion of Europe.

In the year 1095, Emperor Alexius beseeched Pope Urban II in Europe for aid against the invading forces of Seljuk Turks, who were pushing at the borders of the Byzantine Empire. When Pope Urban II read the letter from Alexius, Emperor of Byzantine, a glorious vision of sorts came to the Pope and he quickly acted and made plans for the First Crusade. In November of that year, in Clermont, France, Pope Urban II stood before a crowd of European nobles and peasants, and asked for their aid in recapturing the Holy Land, the home land of Jesus Christ, the Land of the Holy Sepulchre.

In addition to the liberation of the city of Jerusalem, Pope Urban II appealed to the material desires of the people as well, for a holy Crusade would provide land to the conquering armies, which would bring an end to the constant land struggle that the growing population of European nobles seemed to be caught in the middle of. Another reason for the undertaking of a military campaign such as this, was the further expansion of the Western Catholic Church, and the possible reuniting of the Western and Eastern Churches under one authority, which of course, would be Pope Urban II and his successors. This well-known speech, lay down for the people of Western Europe, the ideologies of the Crusades that they were expected to take up. These ideologies were the backbone to the efforts of the Crusades and the can also be interpreted as responsible for whatever was to happen next.

There were countless Crusades throughout the next centuries; some were big, some were small, some were successful, and some ended in terrible disaster. Everything was seen as a direct reflection of God’s view of the people at the time. There were eight major Crusades during the next two hundred years.

The First Crusade, 1095-1099, was actually made up of two dispatch s. The first, called the Peasant’s Crusade, left Europe in the spring of 1096 on their way to Constantinople. This roving army of peasants wreaked havoc all over the Balkans against anyone considered an enemy to Christianity, but later in autumn, the real army, the Barons’ Crusade, which was a mix of German and French forces left Europe and matters came under control. The First Crusade was successful in capturing Jerusalem and setting up four Christian states, but much of the army returned home, leaving very few knights to defend the newest addition to Christendom, an expansion of Europe.

Over the next forty years the Muslim armies retook much of the land lost in the First Crusade and in 1146 St. Bernard and Pope Eugenius III preached for a second Crusade to recapture the Christian States lost to the Muslims. The Second Crusade, 1147-1148, is another combination of French and German forces, but leaders did not especially get along. The German army was defeated in October 1147, the French in January 1148, and the Crusade was later abandoned after forces were defeated at Damascus.

Another forty years would pass before meetings would commence to discuss a third campaign against the schismatic forces across the Mediterranean Sea. In 1189, began the Third Crusade, Phillip Augustus of France and Richard the Lion Heart conquered Cyprus and Acre, and made peace with the great Syrian leader Saladin. The Third Crusade is an overall success in the eyes of most of Europe, yet the peace was short lived. Alexius of Constantinople asked the Crusaders for help in overthrowing his rivals, and in 1204 an enormous fleet landed in Constantinople victoriously. This victory was short lived, however, and in four days the Byzantine army, which had previously fled and drove the Crusaders from their grand city. The Christian States in Palestine and Syria were never aided, and the Byzantine Empire never fully recovered from this disastrous Fourth Crusade.

A few years later the armies of Germany, Hungary, and the Netherlands set out on the Fifth Crusade, which lasted from 1218-1221. This time the armies steered away from the normal objective and decided to attack Egypt instead, hoping to split the Muslim Empire in two. In the beginning the attacks along the banks of the Nile were successful, but in the end the Christian armies were defeated at El Mansura. The Crusaders agreed to a truce of eight years and were forced to return to Europe.

The Sixth Crusade finally broke this losing streak that the Christian armies had run into. Frederick and his men recaptured Jerusalem and forced the Sultan of Egypt to sign a treaty. Ironically though, as Frederick was sailing home, the papal armies, which paid no heed to Frederick’s deeds, were invading Jerusalem, even though the city was already theirs.

In 1244 the Turks recaptured Jerusalem. In 1248, King Louis IX led one of the most well prepared campaigns that Europe had ever seen. Under Louis, they took the great city of Damietta without a single loss, but the Egyptians soon returned and pushed their enemies back to their original camps. The Crusade ended in another defeat as Louis IX and his men were surrounded and captured in 1254. The Christian states were lost once again.

Many more Crusades would take place, but none in conquest of the Holy Land. Driving the Muslims out of Spain became a major Crusade that is better known as the Reconquista, or reconquest, and there were also many Crusades into the lands of Eastern Europe and the Balkans. In the centuries to come the fire of the Holy Wars died down, along with their ideology, and the idea of spreading Christianity without violence took to the flame as the morals of the previous Crusades was looked upon by the now, more educated populous of Europe.

The process of distinguishing the immediate results of the Crusades becomes very difficult due to the fact that the time period consists of many centuries. Following the First Crusade four Latin States were set up that would become the counties of Christendom, not of Europe. Although the Muslim armies eventually retook the Latin States, the Latin States gave birth to very strong ties between two otherwise separate worlds. Trade was greatly boosted as nobles returning from the Middle East and Egypt told of luxuries that were available even to the peasant class, such as silk. The people of Europe also discovered how to construct better ships and magnetic compasses, as well as how to use these two together. Yet another unfortunate change that was brought about by the Crusades was the King’s seizing of all lands lost by the countless nobles who valiantly gave their lives on unknown battlefields in previously unknown worlds. The kingdoms of Europe grew by leaps and bounds, as did the power of their respective royal families.

When Pope Urban II launched the First Crusade in hopes of conquering the Holy Land in the name of the Western Catholic Church and uniting with the Eastern Church. Urban II also wanted to rid Europe of the constant strife of land inheritance that feudalism and a large nobility had presented by conquering vast, unsettled lands. There was also the great fame that would accompany any man that could conquer the Land of the Holy Sepulchre and begin a new empire. The city of Jerusalem was liberated from the hands of the heathens in only three of the countless crusades, the First, Third, and Sixth, and even then it was only held for a short period of time. The Byzantine Empire, under Alexius, was hardly helped by the Crusades, as was originally planned, rather it was brought down in 1204, during the Fourth Crusade, when another Alexius needed his political adversaries ousted. As far as vast, unsettled land is concerned, after all the dust of two centuries of war settled, the Christian armies had succeeded in holding on to none of the land they had previously conquered, although all the land back in Europe of the deceased nobles would be seized by the kings of their respected countries. The Crusades were such a valiant cause, yet unfortunately they ended up as just one great misdeed that directly accomplished none of the objectives. It is unjustified then to agree with the notion that the crusading ideology was responsible for the expansion of Europe.

The Crusading Ideology was responsible for setting up Christian states, wherever they were able to take a hold of. However in the case of the expansion of Europe, the ideology is not largely responsible. European expansion was due to the rise of Naval Supremacy at sea, and by holding strategic points such as Goa, Malacca, and Macao. The ties that occurred between people at the end of the Crusades, through trade lines and so forth, is another over-riding factor that helped expand the European presence.



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· J.R.S. Philips, The Medievil Expansion of Europe, Oxford, 1988

· Jonathan Riley-Smith, The First Crusade and the idea of Crusading, Cambridge, 1986

· Jonathan Riley Smith, The Crusades: A Short History, London, 1987

· Richard E. Sullivan, Critical Issues in History- The Middle Ages, Boston, 1966


· Donald E. Querry, Crusades- World Book Encyclopaedia, Chicago, 1994

· Bryce Lyon, Middle Ages- World Book Encyclopaedia, Chicago, 1994


· Michel R. Evans, Commutation of Crusade Vows , International Medievil Research, 3, (1995), pp. 221-228


· Ellis L. Knox, http://history.idbsu.edu/westciv/crusades/00.html, Boise State University, 1995

· Paul Hassal, http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/maps/1090map.htm, Online Medievil Source Book