Latin Christendom is one of the most important times in history, and a study of this period can reveal some interesting conclusions about the nature of war and peace. During this particular period, war was a reality of the day. Most people think of this time in terms of the Crusades, where Christians took their war-faring to the Middle East in battles against Muslims, it is worth noting that domestic war-making was also present. Domestic war-making looked much different from the crusades, with the conflicts being longer, more political, and less conclusive than the Crusades, which happened in shorter time frame and were bloodier, too.
There is one stark similarity between the war done in Latin Christendom and the Crusades, which were fought on the periphery of Latin Christendom. War in the domestic sphere was fought over religion, which makes it very similar to the Crusades. The difference, of course, is that the Thirty Years War, which took place between Catholics and Protestants, was fought over the boundaries of Christianity, while the Crusades were fought between Muslims and Christians. The dynamics of these conflicts were very different, but they were both fought to determine which religious forces would have the most political power in a changing world.
One of the central and dramatic differences between the conflicts within Christendom and those of the Crusades has to do with duration. During the Crusades, the battles were fought more quickly and dramatically. While the Crusades lasted for hundreds of years, each one was broken down into spans of only a few years at the most. Quite often, these battles would be fought relatively quickly before the forces would retreat and start a new battle. During the course of the Crusades, the battles were between distinct forces, and those forces would change, necessitating a new understanding of new battles. This is not what took place in Latin Christendom. In Latin Christendom, it was much more true that the battles were fought between sustained forces over the course of time. The Thirty Years War, for instance, was the defining conflict of this time. As the name suggests, the war lasted for three decades, and it was largely contested between the same parties. Because this war lasted for such a long time, there were ebbs and flows that came along with the war. While the Crusades were more intense in the abstract, the battles in Latin Christendom had fewer high points and more sustained action.
Another difference between these battles has to do with the distinctness of the sides that were involved. The war and peace in Latin Christendom often had many different sides competing, and those sides were malleable. Because the war was fought in close quarters, it involved lots of different European powers. Many countries were fractured over the conflict, with people having to choose sides in order to continue fighting the war. This was not the case with the Crusades, where the sides at battle were distinct. This made figuring out the winners and losers much easier in the Crusades, while figuring out such was more difficult with things like the Thirty Years War. Likewise, it was clear when people were at battle in the Crusades, and it was less clear when the fighting had ended in domestic Latin Christendom.
While war was the order of the day during the Middle Ages, it looked different depending upon where it took place. The Crusades were fought quickly and brutally, and each individual battle spanned only a handful of years. The domestic fighting tended to be longer and less distinct, and it was characterized by confusion and political fracturing.
- August. C. Krey, The First Crusade: The Accounts of Eyewitnesses and Participants, (Princeton: 1921), 250-56.
- H. J. Schroeder, Disciplinary Decrees of the General Councils: Text, Translation and Commentary, (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1937). pp. 236-296.
- Leglu, Rist, and Taylor, The Cathars and the Albigensian Crusade: A Sourcebook, Routledge, 2014, 43-46.
- Legnano, Giovanni. Tractatus Bello (1360).
- Makrisi, Essulouk li Mariset il Muluk [The Road to Knowledge of the Return of Kings], in Chronicles of the Crusades, ed. H.G.B. (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1848: reissued New York: AMS Press, 1969), pp. 535-556.
- Trans. by D. C. Munro, Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European History, Series 1, Vol 3:1 (rev. ed.) (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1912), 15- 16
- Usmah Ibn Munqidh (1095-1188): Autobiography, excerpts on the Franks.