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“”Kill them all. God will know his own.
|—attributed to abbot Arnold Amaury|
“”The most signal and most durable monument of human folly that has yet appeared in any age or nation.
|—David Hume, 1778|
The Crusades were a series of military expeditions aimed at the conquest, maintenance and restoration of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem (and sometimes other places). Yes, the followers of so-called "religions of peace" openly stated that they would kill millions
for political power to keep the Holy Land in the hands of their religion.
They might have been considered a response to Islam's four hundred years of unbridled expansion, had they been aimed at, for example, the conquered "Christian" lands in Spain,[note 1] rather than the relatively peaceful and enlightened areas in the Levant. However, this analysis fails to take into account the long-fought conflicts at the edges of Europe, such as the Arab-Byzantine wars. Also, the First Crusade (1095-1099) was in essence a papal response to a request from the Byzantine Roman Emperor to help him against the expansionist Seljuk Turks, who had whooped the previous Emperor's ass at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. The first one worked remarkably well, with Jerusalem being recaptured. Central to the Crusades was the unfathomably bad idea of the Pope declaring that all sins committed by the Crusaders would be forgiven by God, leading to the campaigns being incredibly brutal even by the standards of the time. After the first crusade, they all went downhill. One even attacked the city of Byzantium[note 2] in 1204, dealing the last remnant of the Roman Empire a devastating blow from which it never fully recovered. (1209–1229) Sincere proselytising and plundering Christians also launched Crusades against pagan tribes in eastern Germany, in Poland, and in the Baltic region, and one campaign (the Albigensian Crusade of 1209–1229) targeted a heretic Christian group, the Cathars (this crusade supposedly occasioned Abbot Arnold Amaury's famous quip quoted at the top of the page). Crusades also made for unpleasant experiences for Jews, with the slaughter of thousands - mostly by the Christian side.
Consequences of the Crusades
The importance of the Crusades (at least the first four) in European history cannot be overstated. The Crusades helped to re-link Western Europe to the Silk and Spice roads. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire that part of the world remained largely isolated and outside of various trade routes (too unstable). Crusaders returning home often brought with them "exotic" eastern goods and Western Europeans were willing to trade for them. The desire for silks and spices encouraged the Western Europeans to try and find ways to cut out the middlemen and trade directly with China and India, basically encouraging countries to begin exploring the world. Along with the flow of goods came a flow of ideas.
Many ancient Greek and Latin texts had been forgotten about in the West but were preserved, studied and commented on by the Eastern Romans and Arabs.[note 3] These "new" ideas and their further developments by Muslim scientists flowed west (also north from formerly Muslim Spain) and found a ready home in Medieval Europe's trading hubs — especially the Italian city-states. The rediscovery of these texts in the West, as well as a renewed appreciation for the ancient heritage, helped to spark the Italian Renaissance, and are the reason for Arabic al- prefixes on many words related to the sciences (al-chemy, al-gebra, al-gorithm, etc). Due to this, many later European thinkers came to regard the Crusaders as barbarians (not helped by reports of them doing everything up to and including cannibalism) and Saladin in particular became such a respected figure as a learned and chivalrous opponent that Dante Alighieri placed him among the "virtuous pagans" who did not have to go to Hell.
Conversely the Crusades helped cement a form of radical Islam that would continue centuries later, not helped by Muslims in the East encountering the Mongol army in the same period. Many of the interpretations of scripture popular with modern jihadis were written in this period, particularly the interpretation of Quran 9:5 as the "sword verse."
Of course, it wasn't all silks, spices, and books that the new trade routes brought west: the new trade routes also brought the Black Death to Western Europe, resulting in the death of roughly one third of its population.
Crusade vs Jihad
Muslim demagogues often compare American servicemen to European crusaders in propaganda. You can thank George W. Bush (and Wahhabism) for that one. Well, that and U. S. Military arms inscribed with passages from the New Testament. And the US military almost fielding a self-propelled gun called the "Crusader."
While Jihad has a few more meanings than merely 'killing infidels', "Jihad of the Sword" means "waging war against the enemies of Allah", and "Jihad of the Tongue" means spreading Islam. In these senses, "Jihad" and "Crusade" are more or less mirror images of each other. The people performing Jihad, called "Mujihadeen", are effectively Crusaders of a different religion. In more modern terms, the "Offensive-Jihad" of Sayyid Qutb that most non-Muslims think of when they hear the term 'Jihad', can be more or less summed up with the page quote. The irony should not be lost on anyone.
- 1095-1099: First Crusade – The Pope calls European nations to defend their ally, the Eastern Roman Empire, from Islamic invaders: this is in part thought to have been out of a desire to re-unite the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. Partly due to recruitment efforts and the effort of Peter to Hermit, the People's Crusade took off and arrived before the "official" crusade, pillaging, looting and slaughtering Jews as they went through Europe to the Middle East. Because they consisted of mostly untrained peasants and a handful of minor knights they were quickly destroyed by the Turk army. Then the professional armies of the "actual" crusade arrived and managed to capture Jerusalem.
- 1147-1149: Second Crusade – After the fall of the Crusader State Edessa, the Christians call in reinforcements to the Middle East to regain their lost territory. They fail badly.
- 1187-1192: Third Crusade – Christians led by Richard the Lionheart once again (clumsily) attempt to retake captured territories. They get denied by Saladin, who established a reputation as an honourable and civilised man even in the West. "Good" King Richard I slaughtered over 3,000 prisoners during this Crusade. Saladin still regarded him as the most honourable Christian lord, which says a lot about the others.
- 1202-1204: Fourth Crusade – Logistical problems and the lack of funding force the Crusading armies to take on a side quest and re-install an exiled monarch in Constantinople in exchange for funding, only to have him back out of the promise of payment at the last second. With no money to pay the seamen, no food, and winter approaching fast, the Venetians sent the Crusaders to sack Constantinople. The crusaders took over and set up an unpopular Catholic monarchy that lasted about half a century but the Byzantine Empire was badly truncated (largely due to land grabs the Venetians took as payment) and the Empire never fully recovered. No Muslims (that we know of) were harmed in the making or prosecution of this crusade, and it did very little for the public image of the Crusades at the time.
- 1217-1221: Fifth Crusade – Set out for Israel and got to Egypt instead. Needless to say, it didn't go anywhere.
- 1228-1229: Sixth Crusade – Successful recapture of Jerusalem— by politicking and negotiation instead of fighting! — but not for long.
- 1248-1254: Seventh Crusade – King Louis IX of France gets captured in battle, then bankrupts his country bailing him out. Remnants of Crusader territories destroyed.
- 1270: Louis IX captures Tunis.
- 1271-1272: Financial troubles and the capture of the last major Christian fort of Acre spells the end for the Crusades.
- 1209: DIE, CATHARS! - In southern France. The source of the apocryphal quote at the top of the page.
- 1212?: Children's Crusade – Two boys have visions and inspire 30,000 children to go and free the holy land. Cute, except it goes about as well as can be expected, with the children either dead or sold into slavery.[note 4] Thought by some scholars to be the amalgamation of two different crusade misadventures, this crusade is sometimes presented as the source of the Pied Piper of Hamelin story.
- 1989: The Last Crusade – Han Solo and his father, James Bond, find a magic cup, become immortal, and whoop the Nazis.
It is important to note that, while this list seems simple enough, there is not at all agreement among Medievists about the actual number of crusades, due to the loose definition of the word. A good example of this are the so-called Northern Crusades, which were directed against pagan peoples in what are now the Baltic States.  While contemporaries referred to it as a crusade, nowadays it is often not included among the 'official' crusades, nor is the repression of the Cathar heresy. Also the 8th and 9th Crusade are together called the 8th Crusade by some scholars.
If someone ever tries to tell you that the Catholic church and the Jews of Europe were on the same side during the Crusades, it's up to you determine whether that's an example of fractal wrongness or not even wrong. Not only were much of Europe's Jews marginalized, ghettoized, and pogromed, before, during, and after the period, no Jews had any reason to participate in the 'reclamation' of Jerusalem for global Christianity. Instead, Jews were the subject of much Crusader violence on account of their not being Christians.
The rise of the alt-right has brought with it calls for a renewed Crusade against DAESH specifically, but more
insane "based" people would like to purge the entire Middle East. Of course, the people shouting "Deus Vult!" on /pol/ aren't actually going to pick up a rifle and risk their own skins. They're...uh...busy. They have a perfectly logical response to this though: Calling you a cuck. Over, and over, and over again.
- The Crusades - Pilgrimage or Holy War?
- A virtual college course on the crusades
- Europe : The First Crusade Extra History
- The History of England
- The Crusades: A Short History, Jonathan Riley-Smith. ISBN 0-300-04700-2
- See the Wikipedia article on Northern Crusades.
- The Crusades, PBS
- World Islamic Front Statement, courtesy of the Federation of American Scientists
- "You have chosen... wisely."