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About this book

Riley-Smith's acclaimed book is now regarded as a classic short study. The updated fourth edition of this essential introduction features a new Preface which surveys and reviews developments in crusading scholarship, a new map, material on a child crusader, and a short discussion of the current effects of aggressive Pan-Islamism.

Table of Contents

1. What Were the Crusades?

Abstract
The crusading movement was one of the great forces in our history. Fought on a vast scale, in terms of geography and the numbers of men and women involved, the crusades dominated the thoughts and feelings of western Europeans between 1095 and 1500 so profoundly that there was scarcely a writer on contemporary affairs who did not at some point refer to one of them or to the fate of the settlements established in their wake on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, in Spain and along the Baltic coast. For good or ill, they introduced new forces into the politics of the eastern Mediterranean region which were to last for over 600 years and they helped to foster elements in Latin Christianity which are now seen as integral to it. It is hard to be indifferent to their history: they were launched in support of a cause which has been portrayed as the most noble and the most ignoble, and over the centuries men have turned to them for inspiration or as an object lesson in human corruptibility. They still had some appeal as late as the nineteenth century. In modern times the French have seen them as the first of their nation’s colonial enterprises.
Jonathan Riley-Smith

2. A Just Cause

Abstract
Christian writers were generally in agreement that the just cause for a war must be reactive. It was just to defend one’s country, laws and traditional way of life, just to try to recover property unlawfully taken by another, perhaps even just to enforce by physical means a properly delivered judicial sentence. It was not legitimate to wage a war of aggrandizement or conversion. This principle applied to the crusade no less than to any other war, but St Augustine’s definition of just violence, that it avenged injuries, presupposed a less passive attitude on the part of the community which had been wronged than was later to be acceptable, and in the central Middle Ages this was reflected in the notion of the crusade as an instrument of vengeance, which seems to have grown in force throughout the twelfth century, and in a wide interpretation of the injuries to be avenged, which could include any violation of righteousness, God’s laws or Christian doctrine. In the middle of the thirteenth century the influential canon lawyer Hostiensis seems to have believed that Christendom had an intrinsic right to extend its sovereignty over any society which did not recognize the rule of the Roman Church or Roman Empire.
Jonathan Riley-Smith

3. Legitimate Authority

Abstract
Christians are faced with the problem of reconciling the demands on the individual of love with the apparent need to resort to force in a sinful world. St Augustine’s answer proved itself to be generally acceptable. In a private capacity no man ought ever to kill, even in his own defence, but he may be justified in doing so as a public duty. Warfare must be legitimized by a public authority, the powers of which are normally considered to include the right to authorize it. A difference between crusades and other holy wars was that the ruler who legitimized them was not an emperor or king, but the pope, who claimed to be acting on Christ’s behalf; and resulting from the papal initiative were the privileges enjoyed by crusaders, particularly the indulgence, which could be granted only by him.
Jonathan Riley-Smith

4. Who Were the Crusaders?

Abstract
There could be no crusade without crusaders and what made a man or woman a crusader was the making of a vow, which was introduced by Pope Urban II. At Clermont, the pope asked his audience to make promises and told those who answered his call to sew crosses on their clothes as a sign of their commitment. Most of those who made such vows were lay people or secular priests, who would resume their normal lives when their vows were fulfilled or when a campaign was considered to have ended. There were also crusaders of another type, the brothers (and in some cases sisters) of the military orders, who made vows of profession and were therefore permanently engaged in the defence of Christians and Christendom. Crusade vows, whether specific and temporary or permanent ones of profession into a military order, were symbolized by the wearing of crosses, either on everyday clothes or on religious habits.
Jonathan Riley-Smith

5. When Were the Crusades?

Abstract
We are now coming to the end of our enquiry and have reached the stage at which we can make a definition. A crusade was a penitential war which ranked as, and had many of the attributes of, a pilgrimage. It manifested itself in many theatres of war: Palestine and the eastern Mediterranean region, of course, but also North Africa, Spain, the Baltic shores, Poland, Hungary, the Balkans and even Western Europe. The Muslims provided the opposition in North Africa and Spain as well as in Palestine and Syria, and, from the fourteenth century onwards, in the Aegean and the Balkans; but crusaders were also engaged in campaigns against Pagan Wends, Balts and Lithuanians, Shamanist Mongols, Orthodox Russians and Greeks, Cathar and Hussite heretics and Catholic political opponents of the papacy. The cause — the recovery of property or defence against injury — was just in the traditional sense, but it was related to the needs of all Christendom or the Church, rather than to those of a particular nation or region. A crusade was legitimized by the pope as head of Christendom and representative of Christ, rather than by a temporal ruler, and being Christ’s own enterprise it was positively holy.
Jonathan Riley-Smith
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