Jonathan Phillips offers a comprehensive account of a compelling and controversial topic, whose bitter legacy resonates to this day.
During the last four decades the Crusades have become one of the most dynamic areas of historical enquiry, which points to an increasing curiosity to understand and interpret these extraordinary events. What persuaded people in the Christian West to want to recapture Jerusalem? What impact did the success of the First Crusade (1099) have on the Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities of the eastern Mediterranean? What was the effect of crusading on the people and institutions of western Europe? How did people record the Crusades and, finally, what is their legacy?
Academic debate moved forwards significantly during the 1980s, as discussion concerning the definition of a crusade gathered real steam. Understanding of the scope of the Crusades widened with a new recognition that crusading extended far beyond the original 11th-century expeditions to the Holy Land, both in terms of chronology and scope. That is, they took place long after the end of the Frankish hold on the East (1291) and continued down to the 16th century. With regards to their target, crusades were also called against the Muslims of the Iberian peninsula, the pagan peoples of the Baltic region, the Mongols, political opponents of the Papacy and heretics (such as the Cathars or the Hussites). An acceptance of this framework, as well as the centrality of papal authorisation for such expeditions, is generally referred to as the 'pluralist' position.