One thing not even Madden can excuse is that cultural and social exchanges between Christians did not lead to compassion towards members of other faiths, particularly Jews. In fact, the crusading impulse invariably, more so with every successive crusade, brought examples of the persecution of Jews in the region. The first crusade almost immediately spawned mass killings of Jews down the Rhine en route to Jerusalem, supposedly because Jews' wealth was obtained through usury, or lending money at interest. Usury was prohibited by the Church, even though many Christians borrowed from Jews, and Jews were denied entry into almost every profession by the Church at the time, other than money-lending (Madden 17-19). Jews everywhere began to dread crusades, because they knew that their safety would be threatened by zealous Christians, or Christians who wanted an excuse to kill and steal from Jews.
The Third Crusade was lead by Richard the Lion-Hearted of England and Phillip of France. This third crusade provided the famous setting, of course, of the Robin Hood epics, which depicted the English populace suffering prohibitive taxes and controls during the reign of Richard's brother John, while Richard was attempting to secure Jerusalem at great political and economic expense to his nation. Richard's abuse of power was not limited to his foregoing his kingdom back home. Although Madden praises Richard's legendary valor, Richard also slaughtered 2,700 Muslims prisoners when negotiating with the Muslim leader of Jerusalem (Madden 84-88).
Even after all of this bloodshed, the 'fruits' of the first, second, third, and fourth crusades did not secure Jerusalem, which fell from Christian control in 1291. Yet Madden optimistically concludes that the "the crusades that failed or did not materialize," at least "forced Muslim powers to divert resources from conquest to their own defense," and freed vulnerable Western Europe in the long run from Turkish influences by weakening the...
The idea advanced by most historians that the reason Europe was so vulnerable during the crusading era to later onslaughts by foreign powers was because of a diversion of manpower from learning, medical, and technological advances to the crusades he likewise dismisses.
Madden also, perhaps most horrifyingly, defends some present day crusades in both his introduction and his conclusion. He mentions the terrorist attacks of 9/11 without contextualizing them, as a cooler historian might, in terms of the long-standing state of tensions that have existed between the Islamic and Christian world since, well, the crusades. Instead, Christian-Muslim tensions are wholly blamed on the supposed inherent brutality of Islamic culture. He delights in pointing out, that the Islamic faith had a notion of holy war before the Middle Ages and the crusades. Of course, this doctrinal point had done little to prevent the systematic persecution and killing religious minorities of Jews by Christians long before the crusades. Later crusades in the name of God, like the gold-seeking conquistadors in Mexico, he further suggests, were really motivated by morality not mammon, by the Spanish drive to eliminate human sacrifice...never mind the colonialism that followed.
In seeing the past, we are more likely to see ourselves. The arguments and data Madden presents may be correct, but his negative view of Islam makes it impossible for him to view his subject in an objective light. Madden presents himself as a truth-teller of sorts, writing against previous and negative accounts of the crusades. However, it is difficult to disagree with many of the dissenting opinions to his own thesis that he cites in his text. It still seems likely that these wars for God had multiple hidden motivations and further contributed to the hatred that existed between the major faiths of the world.
Madden, Thomas F. The New Concise History of the…
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