The Debate on the Crusades

This book investigates the ways in which the crusades have been observed by historians from the 1090s to the present day. Especial emphasis is placed on the academic after-life of the crusades from the sixteenth to twenty-first centuries. The use of the crusade and its history, by humanists and other contemporary writers, occupied a world of polemic, serving parochial religious, cultural and political functions. Since the Renaissance humanists and Reformation controversialists, one attraction of the crusades had lain in their scope: recruited from all western nations, motivated by apparently transcendent belief systems and fought across three continents. From the perspective of western Europe's engagement with the rest of the globe from the sixteenth century, the crusades provided the only post-classical example to hand of an ideological and military world war. 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. Despite the explosion of literary attention, behind the empathetic romanticism of Michaud or the criticism of Mills and Scott, the themes identified by Thomas Fuller, Claude Fleury, David Hume, Edward Gibbon and William Robertson persisted. The idea of the crusades as explicit precursors to modern events, either as features of teleological historical progress or as parallels to modern actions remains potent. The combination of ideology, action, change, European conquest and religious fanaticism acted as a contrast or a comparison with the tone of revolutionary and reactionary politics.

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‘This is a stimulating and thought-provoking discussion...'
MARCUS BULL, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The Catholic Historical Review_ (vol. 102, no. 1)
January 2016

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