Definitions and directions
in The Debate on the Crusades
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Carl Erdmann's attempt at definition had merely added diversity rather than clarity. The force behind Jonathan Riley-Smith's definition was religious. As Erdmann's pupil Riley-Smith remarked fifty years later, R. C. Smail brilliantly 'foresaw the direction of crusade studies for the next half-century'. The last quarter of the twentieth century was marked by a multifaceted debate on defining what a crusade actually was and, thus, the scope of the subject. Possibly the least predictable development in crusade studies in the past fifty years has been the unmistakable explosion of academic interest and scholarly achievement amongst British medievalists. The reactions to Ridley Scott's lamentable film provide just one demonstration of the unavoidable recent development: the politicisation of the crusades. The crusades were placed more firmly than ever within non-crusading contexts of religion, society and economy.

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