The Crusades Turned Upside-Down image

The Crusades Turned Upside-Down

Rodney Stark is nothing if not provocative in his sociologically-driven, historical reconstruction of the story of Christianity. Here's a paragraph from his The Triumph of Christianity which upsets the apple-cart more than most:

Thus, it is the accepted myth that during the Crusades an expansionist, imperialistic Christendom brutalised, looted, and colonised a tolerant and peaceful Islam. These claims have been utterly refuted by a group of distinguished contemporary historians. They propose that the Crusades were precipitated by Islamic provocations, by many centuries of bloody attempts to colonise the West, and by sudden new attacks on Christian pilgrims and holy places. Although the Crusades were initiated by a plea from the pope, this had nothing to do with hopes of converting Islam. Nor were the Crusades organised and led by surplus sons, but by the heads of great families who were fully aware that the costs of crusading would far exceed the very modest material rewards that could be expected. Most went at immense personal cost, some of them knowingly bankrupting themselves to go. For example, Godfrey of Bouillon sold the entire province of Verdun and also heavily mortgaged his province of Bouillon to finance his participation. Moreover, the crusader kingdoms that the knights established in the Holy Land, and which stood for two centuries, were not sustained by local exactions, but required immense subsidies from Europe. In addition, it is utterly unreasonable to impose modern notions about proper military conduct on medieval warfare - both Christians and Muslims observed quite different rules of war. Even so, the crusaders were not nearly as brutal or bloodthirsty as they have been portrayed. Finally, claims that Muslims have been harbouring bitter resentments about the Crusades for a millennium are nonsense: Muslim antagonism about the Crusades did not appear until about 1900 in reaction against the decline of the Ottoman Empire and the onset of actual European colonialism in the Middle East.

Fiery stuff. For more details, check out Matt’s review.

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