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

Page View

Baldwin, M. W. (ed.) / The first hundred years
(1969)

I: Western Europe on the Eve of the Crusades,   pp. [2]-29 PDF (10.8 MB)


Page 3

I 
WESTERN EUROPE 
ON THE EVE 
OF THE CRUSADES 
The crusades had their origin in eleventh-century western Eu rope and to
understand them one must know something of the environment in which they
emerged. No mere static description of the land and its people can serve
this purpose. The picture must be a moving one that shows the basic forces
that were slowly molding medieval civilization, for the crusades were a natural
product of these forces. The eleventh was the first of the three great creative
centuries of the Middle Ages — an era of pioneers, soldiers, and statesmen.
During its span the political and economic institutions that had been gradually
taking shape since the sixth century were firmly cemented together to form
the foundations of medieval civilization. While many of those who were to
make the twelfth century an age of saints, scholars, artists, and creative
literary men were, born before the first crusaders set out for Pa lestine,
their day lay in the future. The great lay figures of the eleventh century,
William the Conqueror, the emperors Henry III and Henry IV, Roger I of Sicily,
and Alfonso VI of Castile, were 
 soldier-statesmen, and their ecclesiastical counterparts, pope Gre gory
VII, the early abbots of Cluny, and archbishop Lanfranc, were priestly statesmen.
They sought essentially power, order, and efficiency. Even the chief monastic
order of the period, that of Cluny, represented administrative rather more
than spiritual re form. The hardy peasants who cleared forests and drained
marshes to bring new land under cultivation and the Genoese and Pisan seamen
who swept the Moslems from the coasts of Europe must have been moved by the
same vigorous spirit as their conquering lords. In short, both expansion
and organization marked the eleventh century. The crusades were a part of
the former and were made possible by the latter. 
3 


Go up to Top of Page