The Crusaders


The Crusades by Jonathan Riley-Smith is a short history that exposes his thought of crusading. Jonathan explains how crusading appears in the first crusade. He thus elaborates five main topics to substantiate the development of crusading. They include the argument that the novel message of Pope Urban was conservative, lay people brought about a more positive reaction. Others include the first intended message of crusading had gone through changes as a result of terrible events the first crusaders experienced, and as a result of the experiences, the first crusaders came up with their own ideas of crusade. Finally, the ideas were polished by religious authors to come up with a suitable theology (Riley-Smith, Jonathan, 1986).

The New Concise History of Thomas Madden is another exposure of crusades that took place during the Medieval Ages. According to Madden, crusades involved series of military disagreements that had a religious characteristic. In these crusades, religion is the major topic but not the only one. In his work, Madden aims at bringing out a connection between the medieval two-hundred-years-old crusades and the events in the modern world. For instance, Madden associates the USA attack of September 11, 2001 with the Middle Age crusades. Thus according to Madden, crusades involve all that took place in the past and that which is taking place presently and they happen as a way of fighting for religious purposes(Madden, pp3-11).

In the Crusades by Jonathan Riley-Smith, the concept of crusading comes up from the first crusade in a manner that shows reaction or response to violence in society. This is seen in France where violence had increased due to conflicts associated with land ownership, raiding and turning to lay persons for substance. The power and authority of the kings had been greatly reduced. This prompted the church to act in response to the violence thus aiming at taking control by giving ideas like God’s peace. Therefore, a movement came up to change the world into having priesthood principles. This led to the creation of an idea that God had given duties to perform that included fighting for protecting the church. This aim of protecting the interests of the church is the whole idea of crusading. Consequently, other figures embraced the idea of protecting the church including the use of violence. For instance, Pope Leo IX of 1049 to 1059 used militia to battle against his enemies. In addition, Pope Gregory approved war to fight for the church. He even used scholars to justify use of violence to protect the church (Scott & Landau, 2005).

According to Madden, crusades occurred due to reasons such as poverty. For instance, Madden talks about the mass killing of Jews in the first crusade and says poverty was the main reason behind this crusade. In addition, Madden says that Jews crucified Jesus thus they are enemies to Christians. This contributed to the crusade. According to Madden, the religion of the Western Christians was based on faith. This was demonstrated by being grateful to God when they succeeded in a crusade. Cases where they failed in a crusade such as the second crusade, the Christians termed it a disaster. Sins were part of reasons why a crusade would fail. Therefore, in the event of failure in a crusade, people needed to be purified from their sins. Therefore, in Madden’s case, crusades have not evolved because of violence but they acts of good intentions. This is not the case Jonathan’s crusades where violence led to crusades.

However, these crusades, in Jonathan’s case, lead to increase violence, conflicts and the kings of Western Europe lost their powers. Nevertheless, religion acted as stabilizer of the situation. In other areas, people used natural phenomena to interpret what they considered as godly signs. They could be cleansed from their wicked acts by participating in the pilgrimage. Consequently, crusading became a popular idea among many people of different social status.

Madden stresses that crusades were propelled by religious matters. Madden says that a crusade was made up of people of various social-economical backgrounds such as the poor, rich, sinners, and saints who were motivated by religious and personal desires but the fundamental force was to set Christ’s land free (Madden, 13). The initial crusade took place when Pope Urban II gave a sermon on liberating Jerusalem. Here, Madden presents the idea that religion was not a movement but rather a recreation. Madden portrays religion as one which does not only involve love for God but one which includes other aspects such as people’s culture and life. Therefore, people are willing to fight and protect their churches, their places their boarders (Nicolle, 2001).

On the other hand, in the Crusades by Jonathan Riley-Smith, the concept of the first crusade shows that the crusading served the interests of some authorities. For instance, the message of Urban had a connection with the instructions given by the papacy. Urban acted in response to the demands of the Roman Empire to send fighters to help in sending away Turks. Thus, Urban called on a war, which he claimed was a war meant for Christ. Participating in the war showed love for God. In this way, many ideas of religion as well as spirituality became famous. There was a war to liberate Jerusalem and the born again Christians. These are the ideas of crusading propelled by Urban depicting a crusade as a movement that protects the interests of the church and participating in this crusades led to the forgiveness of sins. This made the idea of crusading to become more familiar among the people.

In crusading, the lay people responded actively to the message of Pope Urban by enhancing the crusades. Of importance is the crusading that happened between 1120 and 1280. Here, crusading involved wars that were facilitated with natural events.  This led to wars they regarded as holy. Others factors that led to crusading include a disease called ergotism. This made many people to participate in crusades in order to avoid the disease. The struggle to avenge for Christ led to a misunderstanding between Christians and Muslims. This led to wars between the two resulting in a mass killing of the Muslims. Therefore, crusading led to emergence of many unfavorable events. This negative change came up because of misinterpretation of Pope Urban’s message.

 In evaluating Madden’s work of crusades, there are facts that come out. For instance, Madden’s stand is biased as far as the information he gives is concerned. Madden, being a Christian, gives information that favors the Christians. For instance, in the crusades that involved Christians, Madden shows that the crusades and wars of Christians towards the Muslims were religious and meant for good reasons. For example, Madden says that the crusades were acts of charity and love (Madden, p198).

Jonathan present issues of the first crusade where the crusaders went through many problems such as deaths, sickness, fear, poverty, among other problems. Therefore, many crusaders formed their own ideas of crusading and their responsibilities in crusading. The victory of crusading made most of the participants to believe that they had taken part in a miraculous act. They believed that supreme beings assisted them in their crusading. Thus, they considered themselves as the chosen children of God and that those who died in crusades had become martyrs. In some cases, crusading was deemed as a way of fulfilling the scripture prophecies. Thus, crusading became an ethically acceptable idea. Therefore, the idea of crusading as presented by Jonathan Riley-Smith is that crusading is movement designed in a holy way meant to fight and defend the interests of the church. The aim is to be a soldier of Christ and protect the church (Holt & Muldoon, 2008).

            On the other hand, Madden integrates crusading ideas in an effective manner despite his history being brief. He does not lose track from the chronology he creates in his work. For instance, the real issues concerning war are brought out. Madden says that some of the soldiers turned out to be cannibals. Lack of food, undernourishment and sicknesses led them to turn that way. Thus, Madden shows that crusades were not only admirable and impracticable ideas but they had earlier started as violent and deadly conflicts.

            Madden is able to recognize current and past figures influencing crusades. He describes the personalities, thus enabling the reader to understand decisions made as well as various situations of crusading. In his work, Madden has incorporated maps, which can assist the reader to have a clear image of the crusades. They thus foster the understanding of the chronology that involved crusading.

             Madden does a good work by giving new approaches to justify some modern day world issues. He has created a relationship between the crusades and the terrorism attack on the USA in September 11, 2001. Thus, he offers the desire to comprehend the connection between the past and the present. Nevertheless, his is a creation of a relationship of events of past centuries and those of modern world. This is a generalization of what happens. This happens when Madden links acts of terrorism to Christian crusades that took place more than eight centuries in the past. Thus, this is an overgeneralization and the study of crusades cannot offer the full comprehension of modern day terrorism activities. Madden creates a relationship between patriotism, colonialism and remembrance of the crusades. Thus, he says that the crusades did not lead to September 11 attack but rather artificial remembrance of crusades built by current day colonial authorities and communicated by Islamists and Arab patriots (Madden, p222).


            Both authors have exposed various facts about crusades making it easier to understand the idea of crusading. The work of Jonathan is very helpful in creating the understanding that crusading is a fight to protect church interests.  On the other hand, Madden offers an interesting work that enables the understanding of past crusades and their effects in modern day world. He achieves his goal by creating a clear and brief history of the crusades. With the clear maps and other simplifications, the book is effective for passing out the information concerning the history of crusades. Thus, both authors have contributed effectively toward understanding of crusades.

Works Cited:

Holt A., Muldoon J. (2008). Competing voices from the Crusades. Greenwood World Publishers.

Madden T. F (2005). The new concise history of the Crusades. New York: Rowman & Littlefield.

Nicolle D. (2001). The Crusades. Osprey Publishing.

Riley-Smith, Jonathan (1986). The First Crusade and the Idea of Crusading.  The United States of America:  University of Pennsylvania Press,

Scott R., Landau D. (2005). Kingdom of heaven: the Ridley Scott film and the history behind the story Newmarket Press.

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