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Wolff, R. L.; Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / The later Crusades, 1189-1311

IX: The Children's Crusade,   pp. 325-342 PDF (7.1 MB)

Page 325

 For more than a hundred years the object of the crusade, the recovery of
the Holy Land, had inspired the warriors of western Europe to undertake expeditions
of great danger and great cost. From the outset, however, motives were mixed.
Many crusaders showed a gross indifference to the purpose of the crusade
whenever temptation beckoned, as it did often enough. Even after the fall
of Jerusalem to Saladin in 1187, crusading leaders continued to put self-interest
ahead of cooperation, and the spectacle of their rivalry was a constant discouragement.
The recent diversion of the Fourth Crusade, and the wholesale confiscations
of lands in the Midi 
 The history of the Children's Crusade can be told only from scattered notices
in several French, German and Italian chronicles, some more authoritative
than others. They have not always been handled with sufficient care, with
the result that late and exaggerated accounts, such as that later inserted
in the Chronica majora of Matthew Paris, have often dominated the story because
of their colorful details. A critical assessment of the sources, and of some
of the older secondary literature, may be found in Dana C. Munro, "The
Children's Crusade," AHR, XIX (1913-1914), 516-524, and in Joseph E.
Hansbery, "The Children's Crusade," The Catholic Historical Review,
XXIV (1938), 30-38. Where the present writer ventures to differ with either
of these authors is sufficiently indicated below. 
 In addition to the articles by Munro and Hansbery, the brief account by
Reinhold Rohricht, "Der Kinderkreuzzug," Historische Zeitschrift,
XXXVI (1876), 1-9, is worth mention, though now in the main superseded. There
is also the old study by J. F. C. Hecker, still of interest, which attempts
to probe the pathological aspect of religious emotionalism, Child-Pilgrimages,
trans. Robt. H. Cooke, in Hecker, The Epidemics of the Middle Ages (3rd ed.,
London, 1859), pp. 346-360. It includes English translations of some of the
longer contemporary, and not so contemporary, accounts. Paul Alphandéry,
"Les Croisades d'enfants," Revue de l'histoire des religions, LXXIII
(1916), 259-282, relies for the events of the crusade (pp. 259-266) on De
Janssens, "Etienne de Cloyes et les croisades d'enfants au XIIIe siècle,"
Bulletin de la Société dunoise (Chateaudun, 1891), pp. 32-40,
and is of no in dependent value. However, Alphandéry has essayed an
interesting interpretation: ". . . c'est dans un rite de consecration
de la jeunesse ou plutôt de l'enfance. . - que nous allons chercher
l'origine des croisades d'enfants" (p. 271). This has now been further
developed in his La Chrétienté et l'idée de Croisade,
II (L'Evolution de l'humanité, XXXVIII bis, Paris, 1959), 115-148,
where the Children's Crusade is interpreted as an expression of the medieval
child cult, related to such movements as that of the child-builders of churches
and bridges, and associated in contemporary minds with the now fully developed
feast of the Holy Innocents. In effect, it becomes a sacrificial rite, by
which the new innocents offer themselves for the salvation of Christendom.
A somewhat different contribution to the study of mass movements such as
this, however, is that of Norman Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millenium (London,
1957), although it has little to say about the Children's Crusade itself
(p. 77). Finally there are brief treatments in some of the standard works
on the crusades, such as Adolf Waas, Geschichte der Kreuzzuge, I (Freiburg,
1956), 253-258, and Steven Runciman, A History of the Crusades, III (Cambridge,
1954), 139-144 (a somewhat fanciful version). 

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