Empathy and materialism
Keeping the crusades up to date
in The Debate on the Crusades
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The legacy of the Enlightenment had established the crusades as a reference point for cultural commentary as much on contemporary as on medieval society. Remarkably, the patterns of analysis of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century have scarcely gone away: empathy; disapproval; relevance; the role of religion; materialist reductionism. François-René Chateaubriand and Napoleon Bonaparte initiated two of the most influential nineteenth-century developments in nineteenth-century crusade studies. They are the interest in the crusades as a Christian-cultural mission and a precursor of new direct western European political engagement with the Muslim world and the Near East. For Joseph-François Michaud, the crusades offered a familiar, but apparently apolitical and safely distant subject with which to capture a lucrative audience while promoting his far from neutral ideas about western religion, culture, civilisation and France. Michaud's themes of nationalism and colonialism redefined popular as well as academic debate on the crusades.

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