Crusades in the eleventh century were carried out by religious ideals whereby a society’s rights were determined by their religious affiliation. Evidently, Muslims and Christians had been interacting before the major crusades were implemented. Initially, Christian pilgrims traveled from Europe to the Middle East and although tolerance between the two communities was limited, the interactions were relatively peaceful. To understand the cultural implications of crusades, it is necessary to explore their justifications. Moreover, the nature of interactions determined both positive and negative outcomes.
One of the early motivations for a crusade was as a response to Muslim interference in the pilgrimage activities. Notably, the Seljuk Turks engaged a Christian society in war (Jotischky 11). The Christian community, known as the Byzantine Empire suffered significant casualties and were forced to seek protection from allied groups. Christians in Europe identified the Byzantine Empire as an ally purely for their religious beliefs and responded with the first crusade. Therefore, religious affiliations fueled the crusades.
Historically, religious wars were fueled by convictions of supremacy whereby each group was convinced that they could infringe on the rights of others who did not share similar ideals. Soldiers for the crusades were targeted using unconventional practices (Riley-Smith 7). For instance, the Pope expressed that all soldiers who took up the religious cause would receive certain spiritual rewards. Particularly, the soldiers would receive redemption from any sin that they had made. Therefore, a large number of the participants in the crusades were morally burdened by former actions on society.
However, the crusades were also motivated by economic reasons. The crusades provided an opportunity for ambitious European businessmen to explore possible trade routes within the regions characterized by the conflict (Throop 1). Moreover, there were interests in land resources and the opportunities to engage in other commercial activities, proving that the crusades were not purely motivated by religious ideals. Regions such Levant in the Mediterranean were controlled by Europeans who settled after expansion strategies targeted regions with economic benefits.
One of the religious convictions for the crusades was a desire to control physical sites there were considered to have spiritual significance. For instance, several crusades in the eleventh century were predominantly about controlling Jerusalem, which was considered a holy site. Arguably, the crusaders were not interested in diplomatic relations with the Muslim societies; however, the Europeans were influenced by the natives’ ways of life.
One key implication of crusader activities in the lands that they invaded was the absorption of advanced knowledge applicable in medical, education and industrial domains (Banitalebi et al. 1). The Crusaders were not initially interested in cultural exchanges; however, they witnessed the way of life in the regions they traveled to and passed on the information to Europe when survivors of war returned home. For instance, universities in Europe developed courses on Islamic culture as a resource for understanding Muslim ideology after the era of crusades. Learning institutions in Europe were interested in the foreign regions since they recognized evidence of intellectual processes in key pillars of society.
The interaction between crusaders and Muslim territories impacted the European way of life since the crusaders benefited from exploring community practices that were relevant in the Middle East. Notably states can find solutions to persistent challenges such as conflicts over resources by exploring practices applied in foreign regions. The advanced societies in the Middle East provided early versions of case studies whereby effective social structures could be mirrored.
One of the positive implications of crusader activities in Europe included a centralization of political authority whereby the Church received political leverage and support from masses especially after victories in wars with the Muslim states. The Pope unified European interests after successful expansion of territories, which resulted in a collective outlook in the resources and information gathered from the crusades and pilgrimage activities. Moreover, communication between the two regions was improved by the establishment of common languages, which was possible through practices such as intermarriage between European settlers and the natives.
However, there are several negative implications of the crusader activities. Mainly, many lives were lost in the crusades. Moreover, as much as cultural diversity facilitates absorption of new practices, European identity eroded as a result of the integration of new practices. Moreover, crusader activities sparked criticism of Christian ideology limiting the influence of Christianity on facilitating progressive practices.
From a modern perspective, the crusades involved mass killings whereby soldiers acted on instructions that were not vetted or challenged. Therefore, the violence experienced was due to a lack of accountability which led to the development of vague justifications for war. Christianity as described by Jesus Christ, endorses cultural tolerance, peace, forgiveness, and selflessness, values that were not promoted in the religious wars. Moreover, from a liberal perspective, people should not infringe on the rights of others due to religious or cultural differences. The political and economic ambitions that sustained the violence experienced in the crusades display tendencies of forceful occupation which are similar to the western imperial domination of resource-rich Africa.
In conclusion, one of the social implications of crusader activities was the transfer of knowledge, and practices from Muslim territories to Europe. The Middle East was characterized by advanced intellectual resources; therefore, Europe benefited by adopting advanced scientific principles in industries such as healthcare and fashion. Moreover, they received a new outlook on social manners and diverse perspectives on subjects such as liberty which is relevant in social environments. Evidently, the transfer of practices was largely one-sided, since the Muslim civilizations were mostly reluctant to integrating foreign practices into their way of life, as common in conservative societies. Evidently, advances in the West were facilitated by the concepts borrowed from the crusades.
- Banitalebi, Masoumeh, et al. “The Impact of Islamic Civilization and Culture in Europe During the Crusades.” khanacademy.org, vol. 2, no. 3: 182-187, 2012, Accessed 7 Nov 2017.
- Jotischky, Andrew. Crusading and the Crusader States. Taylor & Francis, 2017.
- Riley-Smith, Jonathan. The Crusades: A History. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014.
- Throop, Susanna. “The Impact of the Crusades.” Khanacademy. Accessed 7 Nov 2017.