Crayenborgh essay (unfinished)

Crayenborgh Essay: Crusades
By Jonathan Even-Zohar

Then came Islam, spread by the tribes of Mudar; whereupon conditions were once more revolutionized, taking much the same forms which we know to-day and which have been transmitted to us by our ancestors. Later on the power and glory of the Arab dynasties was overthrown, and the generations that had laid the foundation of that power and glory passed away: hegemony then passed into the hands of the non-Arabs, such as the Turks in the East, the Berbers in the West, and the Franks in the North.1

These Franks in the North are known in European history as the Crusaders. These chivalric mounted knights escorted by armed pilgrims and commoners held several severe assaults on the Arabic Dar-al-Islam in Syria and Palestine, thereby capturing ‘old’ centers of civilizations such as Antioch and Jerusalem. But mostly these Europeans were fighting a Christian Holy War in order to recover the Holy Land, securing pilgrimage and bringing death to the infidel, Deus Vult. This essay is part of the Honours Class Crayenborgh Lecture series held in 2005 on the topic Europe and Islam. Crusading holds a perculiar twofold position in history. It is approachable from the lane of real history (politics and society), as it is also an issue of religion, violence and ideology. I will briefly discuss both, attempt analysis and finish with several remarks and a conclusion.

Religion, violence and ideology.
Bloodbaths, cannibalism, total slaughter of women and children and the destruction of ancient places of worship are not exactly very sound methods to make first contact with a neighbouring sister-civilisation, as they are not exatcly turning the other cheek. Yet, it seems the Crusades were popular. It is not difficult to imagine that bringing Jerusalem and the Holy land within the political and religious sphere of Christianity would be seen as a vital and bright sign of how 'we' are right, and 'they' are doomed. The crusades however unavoidably did reestablish contact between the two spheres. Italian merchants integrated well with the growing Ottoman Empire, only calling for a crusade every few years, and mostly because of financial disputes. This process continued as other Christian nations got involved and as martime trading empires extended their influence into America, Asia and Africa. By this time the Muslims were no longing surrounding Europe. The imminent threat had become that of the Turk, who by coincidence was no longer threatening Christianity, but Europe!
What we are essentialy dealing with when discussing the crusades is the phenomenon of full-on and extensive use of military force combined with seemingly massive support and participation of the people. The first example that then comes to mind is one of twentieth century world wars. These are seen as extreme examples, without historical precedents. Unique. Sure, they have their roots in history. Nazism is full of rhetorical use of history. Those turks that did decide to slaughter Armenians probably had some deeper feeling of history and so did the Armenians that decided to slaughter Turks. The Japanese must have been aware of their potencial Imperial power to expand beyond their island's territorries. To get to understand violent ideologies there is no better way to 'peel the historical union' then to look at violent religious ideologies such as Crusades, (lesser) Jihad or Rinzai Zen Master Nantembo “just war”, because in essence they are the same.2 Still, it is important to keep in mind that these religious violent ideologies that causes a severe assault or a genocide are never singular causes and processes. To say the least, there are many unions to peel. A crusader could slaughter in the Holy Land one day and buy grain in the arabian marketplace another day. One can be a fanatic, but in order to survive, realism, compromise and pragmatism cannot be ruled out. The day Jerusalem fell in 1099, Venetians probably cheered for more then one justified divine reason.
Why does a person want to fight for his God, his nation or his teacher? Does a person actually have a choice in a place in history and society where one religion is dominant in the politics and in the media? Does the religious ideology come before or after historical mechanisms such as economy, demography and geography? Would the people endorse religious violence when given a choice?
It is not sufficient to say that religions simply incite this kind of behaviour due to their absolute nature, because most religious themes are peaceful and are about the experience of religion as a personal and spiritual matter, a promoter of social cohesion and acceptance instead of rebellion. At some points in time, in some places religion does incite people to fight and die for the Almighty. I am convinced, however, that this is neither a spontanious interpretation of Gods Will by the masses, nor a fully appreciated and fully understood social deed, but certainly is an act of society.3 So who then is the agent for Holy War? Where is the snake? What is his motivation and why does he succeed? I would argue that the snake is in Papal Rome, and then spread throughout the political centres of Europe.

Political and Papal
The raiding organization we call Crusading did not develop instantly. Raids (and counter-raids) existed in Al-Andalus at the beginning of the eleventh century. Not really a matter of religion according to Professor Simon Barton, who tells a story of a world full of mercenaries, cross-religious exchange and plain medieval politics between church and king. I will come back at this issue, but for now it should be noted how much Europe's nobility was already aware of their growing militaric strength, visible in the renewed successes in Spain.
Considering political evolution now with the strong militaristic aspect of European – Christian – society that developed since antiquity. Thus, after the Roman Empire has fallen it is Christianity – personified by the Pope – which takes the emperor’s seat. Most power is then transferred to the quasi-tribal-chiefdoms of Europe. These Germanic and Frankish tribes have since then got acquainted with statehood as the start to form kingdoms, which one by one turn towards the pope by becoming Christian. The most powerful manifestation of this can be seen in the case of Charlemagne. After the fragmentation of his Empire, the European continent suffered badly from the terror of feudalism. If one had military might, one could suppress the farmer’s and local society as a whole. Thus the only social mobility that was found in these days was the feudal military, which by the way was mostly hereditary.
Looking at to the geopolitical development in Europe, prior to the Crusades, the most obvious developments are the enforced spread of Christianity into the European interior and the military campaigns in Al-Andalus. In both these projects, violence spread itself and the lands were colonized, mostly viewed as a positive thing.4 And while these West-Europeans rebuild their continent, they seemed to lose a view on the world itself. As proposed by the famous Belgian historian Henri Pirenne in 1928, it seems the West had become too busy with itself and no longer with the Mediterranean and it's politics and economies. Pirenne then states that the final fall of the Roman Empire or in this case the Roman and Mediterranean world-view, was a direct result of the Arab conquests of the 8th century.
After this horrific event, popes – almost all Romans – manage to reinvent themselves as protectors of the Frankish kings - not an unreasonable alliance because of the their growing power – and thereby securing their European Empire. After Byzantine Emperor Anastasius I had granted Clovis the title of Consul in 507, it was now (752) Peppin III that was given the title Patrician of the Romans. Pope Stephen II has travelled all the way from Rome to Paris in order to anoint the future son this Peppin III, Charles.
Much is left unchanged in Europe until the eleventh century. In this century the church finally perfects the Christian schism (1054) by having both patriarchs excommunicate each other. Much of Scandinavia and Hungary are Christianized (1000) and many more opportunities arise when Byzantine emperor Alexius I asks for military support from the West. After Pope Gregory VII has unleashed the papal power in his dictatus papae, in which he eliminates investiture by worldly figures, Pope Urban II takes up Alexius' demand in much the same fashion as pope Alexander II justified crusades in Al-Andalus some thirty years before:
Let those who have been accustomed unjustly to wage private warfare against the faithful now go against the infidels and end with victory this war which should have been begun long ago. Let those who for a long time, have been robbers, now become knights. Let those who have been fighting against their brothers and relatives now fight in a proper way against the barbarians. Let those who have been serving as mercenaries for small pay now obtain the eternal reward. Let those who have been wearing themselves out in both body and soul now work for a double honor.5
To sum up the political significance of the crusades, it is vital to realize the particular position of the House of Christendom as opposed to the Dar-al-Islam. It is important to note that this House of Christendom was far from complete, as virtually the entire central-eastern plain of the continent was largely pagan, and that the Southern regions were under serious threat from Muslim powers. Where exactly the pope got the idea that assisting the Greek emperor against his Seldjuk adversaries meant the Western Church could now beat the Eastern one by capturing the Holy Land is unclear, but politically not unreasonable. Conquering the Holy Land, bringing peace to the Christian Empire and expansion in general is every leaders wish, whether pope, caliph, emperor, king or lord.

So it is important to keep the political outlook on the world of the age's politics and media in the back of your head when looking at religious motivations of fanatical and ideological violence. The justification of mass-fanatic violence is a question of debate. Not only for historians years after the justification occurred, but also for the decision-makers themselves. Justification is a matter of authority. What authorities existed during the individual justifications? At first the direct social circles. The people you talked to. And second the media that shape your world-view. Norman Housley explained the feeling of apocalypse that was in the air. To this most historians add the danger Islam posed to Europe.
The reconquista for one shows us the development of this threat. After Charles Martel had stopped a Muslim army in Southern France Al-Andalus stabalised. It was in essence a land of mercenaries, violence-loving nobles and intra-religious interaction. Let it be clear though, that the Christians played the role of barbarians in the towns and villages, while the Muslims were mostly talking, travelling, trading and living in cities filled with cultural and market-driven cosmopolitanism. This encompasses the situation well into the eleventh century. Then forces start to shift. In a chain of action and reaction succesive fundamentalist berder regimes do away with the Andalusian part of the Middle Eastern Caliphate. The Roman Caliphate then pulls the trick and convinces the war-hungry nobles to eat the Christian apple, offering absolution to the people who's deeds they so wholehartedly critisized. With pride the cross(bow) is then taken and King Alfonso IV of Aragon manages to drive several succesive campaigns into Al-Andalus. The spanish world has by then changes permenantly. This shift is best noticable in the medieval literature from the Spanish bishops. While they were very hostile towards monastry-raiding nobles at first, they glorified all their deeds once these brought death to the infidel. Absolutist religious stands continue to combat each other until 1492 and the expulsion of all that remained other than yourself. Consequently Europe never left the tradition of fanatical and religious-like violence. We should not forget other episodes such as the home-crusades against cathars, the medieval baltic expansion, the 17th century's religious wars. Looking at all these cases would perhaps provide answers to todays fanatical and religiously motivated violence in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and America.

Remarks on Crusades
Glorious knights dressed in white with large red crosses, ready to save the world from imminent disaster, sailed and traveled to the Holy Land of Palestine and Syria at the end of the eleventh century. Without alliances, bonds or deals they struck through the Seldjuk and other Turkish lands and captured old centers of civilization like Tyre, Antioch and Jeruslam. They even managed to capture Constantinopel a century later. This armed movement reintroduced Europe to the world, and brought them out of their self-indulgent sphere the Arabs called the fog of perpetual winter. It did not take long before Muslims recaptured their lands. In western historiography this is symbolized by the figure of Saladin, who recaptured Jerusalem and elaborately gave order for the washing of the Dome of the Rock with rose water. Yet, while the crusades remained a hot issue in western minds for some time, the tomb of Saladin was allowed to decay in Damascus. It is then Saddam Hussein who connected his faith and destiny to that of Saladin, pointing at the Crusader State of Israel and their infidel capture of Jerusalem. What Saddam probably did not know was that he was looking at history through western glasses, for what had really happened played a minor role in Middle Eastern history, as opposed by the big contemporary Mongol invasion from the east.
Still the crusades are a very hot issue among scholars, considering the many research groups, journals, institutions and historical societies that are dedicated to the crusades. Also interesting is the fact that the crusades seem to attract scholars not only from history and oriental studies, but also theologists, journalists, psychologists and sociologists. This seems to have more to do with nine-eleven and in general the rise of the study of Islam and its history then with thousand ninety-nine and the crusaders themselves. So then the question to pose is the following. To what extent can the study of the crusades contribute to the understanding of Islam and the relations between the Islamic world and the Christian one over the entire span of their history.
It is noticeable that the very word crusade still has some positive connotation in our language, meaning “A vigorous concerted movement for a cause or against an abuse”, while most synonyms of the word are themes on violence and war. Some events in world history get labeled as being unique. Retelling the story of the crusades can follow a very narrow definition; there are just four real crusades. One can also follow a broader definition that encompasses the idea of crusading. In this essay I will discuss the political realities of the crusades, as well as the ideologies that dominated actions before, during and after the crusades. Thus the crusades is a political story, inspired by a religious ideology as well as an ongoing chain of action and reaction to keep these ideologies alive, till this modern day and age.
Crusades-historian Norman Housley defines the crusades by staying close to the “harts and minds” of the participants: a pre-apocalyptic act of madness in order to achieve the ultimate goal of capturing and rescuing the Holy Land, to bring death to the infidel and to ensure a place in heaven. This definition is then made static and applied to all following crusading movements. Even the involvement of economic powers such as Venice and Genoa is then considered entrepreneurship with a hidden religious agenda.
It is perhaps wise to define ‘crusades’ as a dynamic idea that existed in a civilization through the power of politics and religion combined. Perhaps every individual or social unit formed its own idea on the crusades. There may even have been Christian officials preaching against crusades prior to the rise of 'heretics'. Here the topic touches on religious violence as a part of society and a part of authority. This debate follows largely discussions dealing with world religions and religious violence on being brought into existants by power-driven states. Persecution is then just another form of repression. What makes it interesting though is the forming of 'the threat' and 'the other'. This takes root in the expanding universe of “mentality history”, next to materialism and historicism. This approach allows an historian to try and recreate ideas and explain them historically. A Crusade is such an idea. What makes this idea differ from common warfare? Why was such an idea attractive and how did this idea evolve during the crusades, in the history that followed and in the history we write?
World historians who are browsing long-term history look for mechanisms, patterns and wave that are beyond the minds of the people in history. World history is seen as a labaratorium for humanity in which we can discover our fate. It has been claimed that the crusades fit within a world-economic scheme. The global market had all the goods, but Europe wasn't plugged in until the crusades. Andre Gunder Frank puts much weight into this economic explanation, yet I see no causality that would base the crusades in an economic sphere of reasoning. Some scholars put forward the fact that European nobility had produces too many landless princes and had been seeking new lands to conquer, but that does not explain the violence of the excursion to Jerusalem, or the destruction of a 20,000 man strong thriving Jewish community in the Rhineland prior to this trip. Everything points at frenzy, madness, excessive violence and destruction, known to us only in modern day soccer hooliganism.
Gunder Frank's world-economic thesis is all about disregarding culture. Another world history scholar is David Landes. He views the crusades as being the proto-rise of the west. Finally the bellicose society of Europe managed to sort out their home problems and unite against the Muslims, something that gave them a cultural flavour of succes and indirectly legitimized and shaped the portuguese conquest of and trade expansion into the world. Landes emphasises the lack of central political authority in the Christian Middle Ages on a statelevel. I would like to add to that the rise of the Pope in the eleventh century, which obviously did manage to form some kind of political authority in organising and legitimising the crusades into Prussia, Iberia, Palestine, Sicily, Nicea and the Rhineland.

In this essay I have mapped out several approaches to the crusades. I would like to conclude these approaches and connect them to the present day relationship between Europe and the Islam, which has not only caused for trouble, but also made this essay possible.

Pre-apocalyptic madness
It's the first sunday of June in 1098 and Jaques of Tautavel has just heared the most awe-inspiring sermon in his life. Pope Urban II had called for a crusade and the vicar of Tautavel had just spread the news. Several Flemish knights were apparently on their way through the straits of gibraltar, and they would recruit in Marseille in a week. Jaques decided to leave his homeland and make a change. He would make an inhuman trip to Jerusalem, but he died at the gates of Antioch by enemy archers. Why did Jaques take up the Cross? The answer lies in the Cross itself. This image, this religion was not just something that was interesting to discuss during dinner. Instead it was life, it stood for everything. And if everything was bad, the cross could assist you. Not that you would read some bible, or exchange deep thoughts with your friends. No, you were a God-fearing creature. Your place in society was work. Nothing you did could alter your life. Now, when your local know-it-all vicar brings message of crusade, of rescue of the Holy Land in order to secure heaven and forgive sinfullness for all Christians in this day of the approaching apocalypse. You go with the crusaders. Not only because these knights impressed you, because you totally hated all infidels (probably for not being so afraid as you) and because all world politics were in someway connected to the Allmighty, who you feared.

Meanwhile in Rome
Pope Urban II probably had brains, and he probably used them. He had received a request for mercenaries from Byzantium, his predecessor had reassured papal dominance over the Holy Emperor and his bishops in Spain had finally earned the respect of the Christian nobility. He could smell his chance and he took it. He called for a council where he could meet with the Clunians and other important people from his lands. He called for a crusade through the most extensive and oldest communication-network in Europe. He gave bellicose Europe an incentive to kill infidels. They would be pagan, muslims, jews and later on cathars and heretics.
Ruling from Rome he probably knew about history, about the strength of former Empires and he could probably come up with some wild fantasies. Now he could mobilise miles christi and build his Kingdom of Heaven. That these miles christi appeared to be more sinfull then the devil was not an issue at the beginning. Christianity had become a nationality. This was not the first time that the message of Christ was abused, but – not quite nearing the succes of jihad – this Christian venture soon became a matter for kings and other worldly figures.

The spices!
Italian city-states are often given the honor of playing a vital part in the development of modernity as Eurocentric scholars like it. These states were so unique, they developed modern diplomacy, art, thinking, warfare, trade-techniques and even food like Pizza. We must realise however that all this was only possible because of the crusades. For after most fanatic types were gone or their role had deminished, Italian traders got to dominate contacts with Turkish and Egyptian sultans and their cities. They got to understand humanity is a way impossible in the old land-locked and inward-Europe of the eleventh century. The Genoese and others managed to integrate economically into the Middle East through trade and tax-farming. So we can see the crusades as Europe's first venture into the world. Too bad we couldn't make it a better one, for perhaps Osama Bin Laden would have been a simple camel-merchant.


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