University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The History Collection

Page View

Zacour, N. P.; Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / The impact of the Crusades on Europe
(1989)

I: The Legal and Political Theory of the Crusade,   pp. 3-38 PDF (14.2 MB)


Page 38

 38 A HISTORY OF THE CRUSADES 
"Christendom" and an important element in every approach to a papal theocracy.
Strictly speaking, the crusade has no political theory of its own, but only
plays an important part in the political theory of the papalists. 
 Moreover, the theory helped greatly to form persistent and influential European
attitudes. The overall effect of the law of the crusade, including the law
governing the treatment of conquered Moslems, was the political one of sealing
Europe off. The relations between the Moslem world and Europe (with, in due
course, America) have been uneasy up to the present day. There has been mutual
respect, occasional contempt, frequent hatred, and almost constant incomprehension.
We can trace this back on the European side as far as the Arab invasions
of Europe through an unbroken series of misunderstandings, but, in that story,
the effect of the crusading period must be considered decisive. Unmodified
crusading opinions can still occasionally be heard from a few Christians,
but many Moslems believe that crusade still informs the whole western attitude,
and, inverted, it has certainly come to influence extremist interpretation
of Islamic law. 
 W. M. Watt, basing his view very fairly on the evidence of contemporary
Moslem historians, and especially on Ibn-Khaldtin (d. 1406), holds that the
crusades were no more important to the Arabs of their time than the wars
of India's Northwest Frontier to Englishmen of the imperialist age.63 Yet,
if so, the Arabs were fatally wrong; there is a clear continuous line from
the crusades to the aggressive imperialism of the western European powers
in the Levant and North Africa in the nineteenth century. The paternalism
of the church within Europe grew into the paternalism of Europe throughout
the world. Even at the height of its intolerance Europe sent experts, excommunicate
but active wanderers, into the Islamic world; these are lost to history because
of the effective cultural barrier which a clerical society closed behind
them. The political achievement of the age was an integrated society supported
by laws of exclusion; law carries no guarantee that its provisions will be
put into effect, but it is likely at least over a long period to express
the wishes and beliefs of a people. Crusading Europe, which retained a capacity
to develop within itself, was one of the most efficiently closed societies
to have flourished under civilized conditions. 
 63. Modern opinions: personal experience of the writer, but on extremist
interpretation see also Gilles Kepel, LeProphèteetPharaon (Paris,
1984), pp. 115—117, 150—158, 198—201. W. Montgomery Watt,
The Influence of Islam on Mediaeval Europe (Edinburgh, 1970), p. 81. 


Go up to Top of Page