Crusades were the most important part in history of humankind. All social groups were involved in crusades: kings and simple people, high feudal nobility and priests, knights and servants. People, who became crusaders, had different motives: one wanted to become rich, the other wanted adventures, others had only religious feelings… let’s examine nature of crusades in order to make conclusion about crusades: were they a great mistake or not.
Crusades were created by Popes, which promised heaven’s and earth awards for all people, who will risk their life in the sake of saint cause.
A primary reason of crusades was growth of Turk power and the fact that Turks conquered in 1070 the Near East and Asia Minor. Later Turks started to enlarge their borders with desire to conquer Byzantine Empire. Jerusalem’s conquering made anxious Christian world.
These movements coincided with religious rebirth in the Western Europe in 10-11 centuries. The abbacy became influential power in spiritual life of Europe. “Infidel Turk” was depicted as barbarian, whose presence in the Saint Earth was intolerant for the God and a man.
Many kings and barons understood the Near East as the world of possibilities: power, money, and prestige – all this can be the award for liberation of Saint Earth. Peasants had possibility to get free from serfdom. European cities also were interested in crusades by their own economic reasons.
So, what was influence of crusades?
May be crusades really postponed Turkish conquering of Byzantine, but they couldn’t prevent fall of Constantinople in 1453. Byzantine really was in stage of fall. Its final collapse meant appearance of Turks at European political scene.
The biggest profit had merchants and craftspeople of Italian cities, which provided crusaders with equipment, munitions and transport. Italian merchants established connections with the Near East, from where they brought different luxury things: silk, pearls, spices, etc. Evergrowing demand for those things brought super-profit and stimulated searches of new, shorter ways to East. Finally, these searches caused discovery of America. Crusades also played great role in birth of financial aristocracy and promoted development of capitalistic relations in Italian cities.
Thousands of feudal lords died and these losses helped to centralize the power and weaken system of feudal relations. Influence of crusades on church authority was full of contradictions. If the first crusades helped to strengthen Pope’s authority, the 4th crusade discredited Pope’s power completely. Business interests were higher then religious and made crusaders to neglect Pope’s prohibitions and to enter with business and friendly relations with Moslems.
Culture: crusades were the main power which brought Europe to Renaissance. They gave to people wider understanding of environment and received great reflection in literature. Crusades stimulated development of historiography as well.
So, taking into account all aforesaid, we can come to conclusion that although the economic reasons were actually the more influential powers than religious and social, crusades brought more good than bad into development of European countries. There were a lot of mistakes but still crusades influenced economic position and became great incitement for future development.
1. William J. Duiker, June 2003 “World History” 4th edition, publisher Thomson Learning, p. 208