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Social Studies 9R – Mr. Berman
Aim #12: What effect did the Crusades have on Western Europe?
What were the Crusades? The Crusades were a series of Holy Wars launched by the Christian
states of Europe against the Saracens. The term 'Saracen' was the word used to describe a
Muslim during the time of the Crusades. In 1095, Pope Urban II delivered his infamous speech in
front of a large crowd at the Council of Clermont, urging them to engage in a Christian “holy war”
to liberate the Holy Land (Jerusalem) from Muslim rule. For their efforts, Urban II promised a
complete remission (forgiveness) of sins. The Pope's preaching led to thousands immediately
affixing the cross to their garments - the name Crusade given to the Holy Wars came from old
French word 'crois' meaning 'cross'. Thus the word "crusade" literally means "going to the Cross."
What were the Objectives of the Crusades? One of the main objectives of the Crusades was at
first to reclaim the Holy Land, in particular Jerusalem, from the Saracens. Additionally, many
groups in European society saw opportunities to benefit personally from the Crusades:
 The Pope believed that a successful Crusade would increase his power and prestige. Also,
he hoped that if Western European and Byzantine Christians fought together in the
Crusades, it could bring about a reunification between the Roman Catholic Church and
the Eastern Orthodox Church of the Byzantine Empire (they had split in 1054 in an event
called The Great Schism).
 Lords and knights saw the opportunity to gain land and steal wealth from the Muslims.
 The kings saw the chance to get lords and knights out of the way by sending them off to
fight in the Crusades, which would increase the power of the kings back home.
 Ordinary people were promised that if they fought in the Crusades, all of their sins would
be forgiven. Also, fighting in the Crusades was an opportunity for serfs to finally leave the
manor and see the world.
1. What were the Crusades?
2. What was the main cause of the Crusades? What reasons did different groups in European
society have to get involved in the Crusades?
How many Crusades were there? There were approximately eight Crusades, although the first
four are the most important:
 The First Crusade (1095-1099): The first crusade is considered by many to be the only
successful crusade for the Christians. The Christians retook Jerusalem and killed most of
the people in the city who were Muslim or Jewish. They established four kingdoms
(Crusader states) in the Middle East.
The Crusader States
 The Second Crusade (1149): The Muslims retook one of the Crusader states of the
Christians (Edessa). The Christians tried to fight back but were defeated.
 The Third Crusade (1189): The Muslim leader Saladin re-conquered Jerusalem from the
Christians. Three great European kings led a Crusade to get Jerusalem back: Frederick
Barbarossa (Germany), Richard I (England) and Philip Augustus (France). The kings
were ultimately defeated by Saladin, and Muslims stayed in control of Jerusalem.
 The Fourth Crusade (1204): Christians set out to retake the Holy Land, but ended up in
Constantinople instead. They decided to loot and destroy the city. The Byzantine Empire
never recovered, and the split between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox
Churches became permanent.
Ultimately, the Muslims win the Crusades and the Holy Land remains under their control!
3. Which Crusade was most successful for the Christians, and why? Why were the other
Crusades not successful? Which side ultimately won the Crusades?
The Effects of the Crusades
The Crusades could not fail to affect in many ways the life of Western Europe. For instance, they
helped to undermine (bring an end to) feudalism. Thousands of lords and knights sold their lands
in order to raise money for a crusading expedition. Thousands more perished in the Middle East
and their estates, through failure of heirs, were taken over by the King.
The ultimate failure of the Crusades hurt the power and prestige of the Pope and the Roman
Catholic Church. The Crusades had been the Pope’s idea, and the inability of the Church to
retake the Holy Land caused many Europeans to question the authority and leadership of the
Crusaders returning from Jerusalem brought back goods that stirred up an interest in trade with
the Middle East. Europeans once again wanted to buy and trade for items like spices and fabrics.
Business between Europe and the Middle East increased. The demand for spices like pepper,
cinnamon, ginger, and saffron grew. Fine silks and jewelry from the Middle East were in demand.
Glass and mirrors became popular items.
The Crusaders brought back more than just material goods. They brought back knowledge and
ideas from the Middle East, which was far more advanced than Western Europe during this
period. They brought back the idea of a university, where higher learning would be made
available. This was a huge change for Medieval Europe, where higher education had largely been
confined to monasteries for years. Furthermore, the knowledge of the scientific, mathematical,
medical and literary achievements of the Middle East gained by the Crusaders through their
expeditions helped to awaken in Western Europe a revival of learning and culture, which
eventually made the Renaissance possible.
In the end, the Crusades opened up the world to the people of the Middle Ages. Medieval knights,
serfs, and merchants who had formerly thought of the Muslim world only as a mysterious faraway place were now enjoying products from the Middle East and learning new ideas from the
Middle East. They were becoming citizens of a larger world. Unfortunately, the Crusades would
also be the beginning of centuries of tension and conflict between the Western world and the
Middle Eastern world, the results of which we are still dealing with today. Also, the Crusades led
to an increase in anti-Semitism (hated of Jews) back in Europe, since Europeans were now
determined to fight any group that was seen as an enemy of the Church and Christianity.
4. Which groups in European society gained power as a result of the Crusades, and why?
Which groups lost power, and why?
5. What effect did the Crusades have on trade between Europe and the Middle East?
6. How could it be argued that the Crusades helped to lead to the Renaissance in Europe?
7. How did the Crusades change the relationship between the West and the Middle East, and
the relationship between Christians and Jews in Europe?
8. Concluding Question: Do the events of the Crusades confirm or contradict the idea that
the Middle Ages were the “Dark Ages?” Explain.