The Crusades, Christianity, and Islam (Bampton Lectures in America)

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9780231146258: The Crusades, Christianity, and Islam (Bampton Lectures in America)

The Crusades were penitential war-pilgrimages fought in the Levant and the eastern Mediterranean, as well as in North Africa, Spain, Portugal, Poland, the Baltic region, Hungary, the Balkans, and Western Europe. Beginning in the eleventh century and ending as late as the eighteenth, these holy wars were waged against Muslims and other enemies of the Church, enlisting generations of laymen and laywomen to fight for the sake of Christendom.

Crusading features prominently in today's religio-political hostilities, yet the perceptions of these wars held by Arab nationalists, pan-Islamists, and many in the West have been deeply distorted by the language and imagery of nineteenth-century European imperialism. With this book, Jonathan Riley-Smith returns to the actual story of the Crusades, explaining why and where they were fought and how deeply their narratives and symbolism became embedded in popular Catholic thought and devotional life.

From this history, Riley-Smith traces the legacy of the Crusades into modern times, specifically within the attitudes of European imperialists and colonialists and within the beliefs of twentieth-century Muslims. Europeans fashioned an interpretation of the Crusades from the writings of Walter Scott and a French contemporary, Joseph-François Michaud. Scott portrayed Islamic societies as forward-thinking, while casting Christian crusaders as culturally backward and often morally corrupt. Michaud, in contrast, glorified crusading, and his followers used its imagery to illuminate imperial adventures.

These depictions have had a profound influence on contemporary Western opinion, as well as on Muslim attitudes toward their past and present. Whether regarded as a valid expression of Christianity's divine enterprise or condemned as a weapon of empire, crusading has been a powerful rhetorical tool for centuries. In order to understand the preoccupations of Islamist jihadis and the character of Western discourse on the Middle East, Riley-Smith argues, we must understand how images of crusading were formed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

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About the Author:

Jonathan Riley-Smith, Dixie Professor Emeritus of Ecclesiastical History at the University of Cambridge, is the author of nine books, including The Knights of St. John in Jerusalem and Cyprus, c. 1050–1310; The Feudal Nobility and the Kingdom of Jerusalem, 1174–1277; What Were the Crusades? fourth edition; The First Crusade and the Idea of Crusading; The Crusades: A History, second edition; The First Crusaders, 1095–1131; and Templars and Hospitallers as Professed Religious in the Holy Land.

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The First Crusade was fought between 1096 and 1102. The crusading movement was at its most popular from the late twelfth century to the late fourteenth, but was still active in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The last crusade league was the Holy League, which began the recovery of the Balkans from the Turks between 1684 and 1699. The last operative order-state of a military order was Hospitaller Malta, which succumbed to Napoleon in 1798. A new military order was founded as late as 1890, although it had a very short life, as we will see. We are faced by a movement that lasted for hundreds of years and touched the lives of the ancestors of everyone today of Western European descent and of many of Eastern European, Jewish, and Muslim descent as well. No one can feel comfortable about this aspect of our collective experience, but for intellectual as well as moral reasons the role of its historians is an awkward one. In the last thirty years their understanding of the movement has led them to reject the long-held belief that it was defined solely by its theaters of operation in the Levant and its hostility toward Islam—with the consequence that in their eyes the Muslims move slightly off center stage—and many of them have begun to face up to the ideas and motivation of the crusaders. The more they do so the more they find themselves contra mundum or, at least, contra mundum Christianum, because their conception of the realities of crusading turns out to be in conflict with those of nearly everyone else, from leading churchmen and scholars in other fields to the general public.

In many ways the Crusades deserve their poor reputation. Like all religious wars, they were marked by indiscipline and atrocities. As military expeditions that were also pilgrimages, they had to be open to all, sinners as well as saints—especially sinners—and there was no system for screening volunteers to identify the unsuitable, who might include psychopaths. The popes, who authorized them, lost control once the armies were on the march, and the fact that the laymen who were entrusted with leadership in the field were volunteers made adequate chains of command hard to establish. The methods employed to encourage recruitment heightened emotions in men who could then be exposed to tension and alienation for very long periods of time. Although it is hard to draw lessons from modern combat psychiatry and apply them to situations hundreds of years ago, it is known that volunteers are more likely to commit atrocities than con­scripts and that over-long exposure to stress is bad for efficiency and discipline.

Measures assuring greater cohesion and control began to be adopted in the thirteenth century. The crusaders bound for the Levant were being transported by sea, which reduced the number of noncombatants, since the poor could not afford a maritime passage, and forced the planners to think about logistics, which were less problematic now that the armies were not encumbered by hordes of the unsuitable. The decision of the papacy to raise large sums from the taxation of the church, which were then allotted to those leaders who were taking the cross, provided a means of subsidizing crusaders through their commanders and therefore of making them more ame­nable, while the introduction from the 1330s onward of crusade leagues enabled the states in these alliances to make use of their "regular" forces (if one can use that term), combining the benefits of crusading with more professional fighting elements. A huge gulf separates the scratch forces of the twelfth century from the Christian navy, which fought the battle of Lepanto in 1571, or the armies of the Holy League, which were recovering Hungary in the 1680s.

There was obviously more to crusading in the central Middle Ages than cruelty and indiscipline, but nothing can eradicate from present-day minds the impression left by those unruly armies. Among the descendants of those who perceive themselves to have been damaged by them, the Muslims and the Greek Orthodox have developed mythistories—to use a word adopted by Dr. Gary Dickson in another context—in which memories of genuine injuries have been embroidered, even re-created, long after the events concerned. The perception most modern Muslims have of the Crusades dates only from the end of the nineteenth century, as we shall see. It constituted, in fact, a transference onto the past of feelings of alienation engendered by imperialism. In the case of the Greeks it was the failure of the West to come to the assistance of the rump of the Byzantine empire in 1453—two and a half centuries after the sack of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade—and resentment building up during the long years of subjection to the Ottomans that seem to have fanned the bitterness, although it is true that the Greek church had suffered from its refusal to reconcile itself with Latin Christianity on papal terms.

The modern reactions of the Jews, who have more right than the members of any other community to consider themselves to have been the innocent victims of the crusaders, are more complex. Pogroms marked the departure of many of the Crusades to the East in the central Middle Ages and the Jews, who memorialized their suf­ferings in the Ashkenazi liturgy, have naturally been inclined to link them to the Holocaust of the 1940s through a chain of terrible events extending over eight and a half centuries. In the last thirty years, however, a more focused approach has emerged among historians of the early persecutions, while those Israelis who are interested in the settlements the crusaders established in the East treat them much more positively than they did in the past, demonstrating how strongly modern priorities are echoed in interpretations of history. The establishment of the state of Israel on much of the territory occupied by the "crusader" kingdom of Jerusalem has led to scholarly and popular engagement with the kingdom's history and institutions. These used to be compared very unfavorably with the achievements of modern Zionism, but they are now being portrayed in a better light. Even quite minor "crusader" sites in Israel are being developed as tourist centers, while Professor Ronnie Ellenblum has traced a progression:

"from the "Jewish" reading of its history, focusing on the slaughter of the Rhineland Jewish communities in 1096, to a Zionist reading of the crusades, focusing on seeing them as an inverse prefiguration of the future Zionist movement, and finally to a reading of the crusades as part of my own country, and to a certain degree, as part of my own history."

On the other hand, leading Christian churchmen in the Western tradition—Catholic and Protestant—are not only ashamed by the fact of the Crusades but are also in a state of self-denial. Embarrassed by this aspect of their past, they have underplayed its importance in their history, while maintaining that it really had very little to do with their religion. In a recent lecture the archbishop of Canterbury stated that "Most Christians would now say that... the crusades... were serious betrayals of many of the central beliefs of the Christian faith." He was echoed by the professor of the History of the Church in Oxford, who asserted that the Crusades constituted "a bizarre centuries-long episode in which western Christianity wilfully ignored its Master's principles of love and forgiveness." Pope John Paul II, who never apologized for the Crusades but gave the impression that he was doing so, would probably have agreed. The issue I have with these leading representatives of the consensus relates not to their theology but to their knowledge of history, because underlying their opinions is the belief that the crusading movement was an aberration, a departure from the norm in Christian history.

This is wish-fulfillment, stemming from a desire to reshape the past of one's religion into a more acceptable form. As recently as the seventeenth century, and perhaps more recently still, most Christians—Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant—had in general no problem with the idea of holy war. From the twelfth century to the seventeenth the consensus of the teaching of the Catholic bishops was that qualified men had a moral obligation to take the cross. This was reinforced by the support of a succession of men and women generally recognized as saints: Bernard of Clairvaux, Dominic, Louis of France, Thomas Aquinas, Bridget of Sweden, Catherine of Siena, John of Capistrano, even probably Francis of Assisi. From Urban II in 1095 to Innocent XI in 1684, pope after pope wrote, or authorized the dispatch of, letters in which the faithful were summoned to crusade, offered spiritual privileges if they responded and threatened with divine judgment if they did not, and the papacy recognized a new type of religious institute in approving of and privileging the military orders. At least six general councils of the church legislated for crusades and two of them, the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) and the Second Council of Lyons (1274), published the constitutions Ad liberandam and Pro zelo fidei, which were among the movement's defining documents. The early Protestants' rejection of the papal magisterium and salvation through works did not prevent them preaching the right of Christians to take up arms in their own defense against the Turks, and it has been pointed out that Martin Luther's approach "resem­bled the Catholic crusade in a number of key respects, notably its emphasis on repentance and prayer." The Huguenot captain Francis of La Noue wrote in the early 1580s a proposal for a modified cru­sade, without an indulgence, to recover Constantinople.

It should also be remembered that no crusade could ever have left Europe merely because a pope had authorized it or a general council had issued some declaration concerning it. Crusaders were on the whole volunteers and this meant that the laity...

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Book Description Columbia University Press, United States, 2011. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. The Crusades were penitential war-pilgrimages fought in the Levant and the eastern Mediterranean, as well as in North Africa, Spain, Portugal, Poland, the Baltic region, Hungary, the Balkans, and Western Europe. Beginning in the eleventh century and ending as late as the eighteenth, these holy wars were waged against Muslims and other enemies of the Church, enlisting generations of laymen and laywomen to fight for the sake of Christendom. Crusading features prominently in today s religio-political hostilities, yet the perceptions of these wars held by Arab nationalists, pan-Islamists, and many in the West have been deeply distorted by the language and imagery of nineteenth-century European imperialism. With this book, Jonathan Riley-Smith returns to the actual story of the Crusades, explaining why and where they were fought and how deeply their narratives and symbolism became embedded in popular Catholic thought and devotional life. From this history, Riley-Smith traces the legacy of the Crusades into modern times, specifically within the attitudes of European imperialists and colonialists and within the beliefs of twentieth-century Muslims. Europeans fashioned an interpretation of the Crusades from the writings of Walter Scott and a French contemporary, Joseph-Francois Michaud. Scott portrayed Islamic societies as forward-thinking, while casting Christian crusaders as culturally backward and often morally corrupt. Michaud, in contrast, glorified crusading, and his followers used its imagery to illuminate imperial adventures. These depictions have had a profound influence on contemporary Western opinion, as well as on Muslim attitudes toward their past and present. Whether regarded as a valid expression of Christianity s divine enterprise or condemned as a weapon of empire, crusading has been a powerful rhetorical tool for centuries. In order to understand the preoccupations of Islamist jihadis and the character of Western discourse on the Middle East, Riley-Smith argues, we must understand how images of crusading were formed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Bookseller Inventory # AAU9780231146258

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