Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Crusades: Benefits of War

Over the recent posts, we have been examining the Crusades. An era of over 200 years in which Muslim armies moved into Christian held territories, and then the Christian countries reacted by sending troops to regain these areas.
Like all conflicts, the results were death, destruction and chaos. The crusades cost numerous lives, destroyed cities and cultures, and also bankrupt many countries. However, even with these downsides, like other wars, there were benefits and those who profited from them.
One of the most important influences the crusades had was upon the Catholic Church. If you remember from previous post, the crusades were a papal proposition. Pope Urban II had requested troops for the First Crusade, and the popes after him also organized future crusades.
When the soldiers came home from the crusades, seeing the horrors of war, they had become dishearten and disillusioned. A great number of them went to church sponsored retreats and monasteries. In order to remove materialism from their lives, they gave their fortunes to the church.
When the crusaders returned, they brought loot which they had gotten from ransacking cities. Much of this money was given as tides to the church. This input of money gave the church more power and influence over the royalty in Europe.
Although, initially the influence of money helped the church expand its power, in the long term, the crusades harmed them.  The word crusades means; “To go to the cross”, this was both a direct meaning, in that the crusaders were heading toward the Middle East, and also a metaphoric meaning, in that it was a Holy War.
The problem with a Holy War is that when it turns sour, such as the crusades did, it puts doubt about those who were the leaders of that crusade. If a Holy War fails, then the leaders, who claimed to be on the side of God, must be wrong and hence not true followers of God. This doubt into the leaders of the crusade, including the church and the infallibility of the pope, help lay the foundation for the Protestant Reformation.
It was the political leaders who were nobles, that helped create the crusades, and it was these crusades that created their downfall. Many of the nobles that went on the crusades never came back. There estates were divided to others. This meant more individuals determining politics in a region, more people making decisions, meaning the lessoning of the feudal system and finally to its destruction.
One of the biggest benefits of the crusades was it helped develop trade. The crusaders went to the Middle East, via certain unknown or little-used trade routes. These crusaders were exposed to new and exciting products, such as spices and fabrics which they had never seen before.  After purchasing, or obtaining through ransacking, these items were sent back to Europe. Europeans became enamored with these items, and wanted more. The routes that the crusaders used to go to wars were now used as trade routes, bringing back goods from the Middle East. The armies that once traveled to the Middle East for war now were used for protection of merchants bringing back goods and products.
When there is a trade of goods, there is an exchange of ideas. As I had mentioned in earlier blogs, the Muslim states had maintained and expanded upon the great scientific, mathematic and art of the Greeks. This knowledge had been lost to the Europeans, this information was only controlled by monks; who considered them historical artifacts and not legitimate knowledge for some countered church teachings. Once these ideas had resurfaced in Europe, they led to what we know of as the Renaissance, or the rebirth of knowledge in Europe.
Combine the events above with the plague which I mentioned in an earlier blog post. There were now fewer peasants, who had more land to work. These farmers now used many of the technologies brought from the Middle East. Furthermore, these former peasants found the ability to begin dealing in goods and products, having more than enough for survival, but now for profit. They now gained political power by increasing their wealth and becoming a middle class.
After the crusades, Europe was poised for a change. A transition from the Dark/Middle Ages, where knowledge was stymied and obedience was enforced with an iron fist to the Renaissance. Debate about all topics such as religion, science, medicine and even architecture was beginning. The changes caused by both the plague, and the crusades were seeded into European consciousness and would grow.
I am often fascinated by how the world would look like today, if there were no crusades or the renaissance. This is the premise for my novel, “Legend of the Mystic Knights”; here the world is still stuck in 1100 A.D., and what we know of history has been completely rewritten.
W.A. Rusho is an amateur historian and author; you may read more about him by viewing his website.


  1. Hello William and thanks form this insights into the crusades. All I can is that I'm truly grateful I did not live in this period.

  2. Sometimes, even our good intentions are not enough. War rarely ends well yet we still battle to this day.

  3. I guess that at the time the Crusaders traveled far more than everyone else. So they were exposed to products, resources and cultures that other Europeans knew nothing about. Noentheless, it's a tough way to open a trade route.

  4. William, with all the years of fighting history behind us you would think that people would have learned enough is enough. Isn't there some kind of saying that we learn from history so as not to repeat the same mistakes? Seems to me we haven't learned a darn thing.

  5. Interesting look at the long-term impacts of the Crusades. It is good that some benefits came out of what was a very cruel period, but perhaps more trade and open thinking might have come about some other way without the Crusades. It's hard to say what would have happened if things had gone another way, but speculating offers interesting settings for fiction.

  6. It's always interesting how the war routes develop into trade routes--opening up our worlds in good ways--after the bad.

  7. I don't know if you received my comment but, It makes sense that the leaders would get blamed for the things that happened at the crusades. They are supposed to know more and should be responsible not just for themselves but for others. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Really fascinating William. I read through your post a couple of times, and the second time I was trying to compare that era with the wars of modern time and what if any ways we may have benefited. Since I'm certainly no expert there may be many (many!) things which I'm unaware, but I could think of a few from both World Wars, but nothing at all comes to mind from "conflicts" of recent times other than a whole lot of suffering and hate. Maybe years from now we'll be able to look back and see the point, or not.

  9. It is interesting to see how the world adapts and change consistently with time. Things may stay constant for many years, but there will inevitably be change. I think we need to remember that as well with our current societies. The things that we accept as a given for today will not necessarily be a reality for tomorrow.

  10. Truly wish the crusaders had learnt how to do business the Middle Eastern way and spread the knowledge on how to bargain in Europe.
    If they had, European businesses would be far more successful in the Middle East today. As it is Middle Easterners often take them to the cleaners.

  11. A couple of points:
    (1) This post inspired me to do a "benefits of world war 1" Google search and I came across an interesting BBC News article on "10 inventions that owe their success to World War One" - check it out at:
    (2) My guess is that the world would look pretty much the same today if the Crusades/Renaissance had not occurred because sooner or later revolutions like the American and French Revolutions would have cleared out the 'deadwood'.

    1. I did add in my novel an evil which terrorized the world, so technology was stagnate for the last 1,000 years. The crusades also created the explorer, so it would of taken more time for the Americas to be discovered, and the revolution may of taken place, but may of been at a later time then we know it.

  12. History is fascinating in that some good always from the bad. Your posts have greatly broadened my knowledge of the Crusades.