Hundreds of years have passed since the last crusader knight laid down his sword, but the centuries of medieval warfare we collectively call the Crusades continue to hold powerful sway over our modern world and the tense conflicts between religions and entire civilizations.
Just how powerful was the impact of the Crusades on the spiritual and political landscape of the medieval world?
- They provided a central rallying point for Christianity, strengthening the power of Christendom and spreading its authority throughout Europe and the Near East.
- They led to the West’s vast expansion of geographical territory across new parts of Europe, an expansion not seen since the height of the Roman Empire.
- They represented a paradigm shift that fused religion and warfare in a new way.
- They contributed to a cultural and intellectual awakening that brought about a deeper Western interest in and knowledge of Islam.
And this impact has resonated through the centuries, contributing to everything from the rise of the Ottoman Empire to the Protestant Reformation and infiltrating other aspects of life, including
- military strategies,
- political ideologies,
- theological issues, and
- international trade and commerce.
Because the Crusades were so consequential to history—both then and now—it’s essential that we understand the context, motivations, and preconditions of these military campaigns. And in doing so, you’ll get a fresher understanding of an era in history with which we’re still trying to come to terms.
How the Crusades Changed History plunges you into the series of Crusades to the Holy Land (and elsewhere), from the calling of the First Crusade in November 1095 until the collapse of the last crusader state, the Kingdom of Jerusalem, in 1291. Delivered by master medieval historian and award-winning professor Philip Daileader of The College of William & Mary, these 24 lectures are more than just an enriching recount of captivating historical events. They’re an intellectually rewarding exploration of the ways in which the Crusades shaped the history of the medieval world—and laid the seeds for our own.
Dispel Misconceptions about the Crusades
The Crusades remain lively topics of debate among historians and scholars, and they’re rife with contradictions and misconceptions that require us to peel back layers of history and confront some startling truths that go against what we traditionally think about medieval crusading.
Take, for example, these points:
- Most Christians weren’t motivated to join the Crusades out of economic considerations but in hopes of gaining indulgences from the Catholic Church to decrease or eliminate time in purgatory.
- Crusading campaigns reached far beyond Jerusalem and the surrounding Holy Land, extending all along the Mediterranean and throughout much of northern Europe.
- The Crusades were not universally supported; rather, the period saw critics who questioned particular campaigns—many of which were disastrous failures.
As you’ll learn with this course, these and other truths about the Crusades demonstrate that, rather than being grand wars, many of these military campaigns were tangled misadventures. And yet you’ll see that, for all their messiness, the Crusades made an indelible impact on the identity of Western civilization.
A Fascinating, In-Depth History
Professor Daileader spends the first 17 lectures of the course delivering a riveting in-depth narrative history of the Crusades that takes you in and around the medieval world and sweeps you up in the crusading fervor that led to some of the era’s most intriguing—and disastrous—campaigns. You’ll immerse yourself in the causes, battles, and consequences of the period’s major crusades—as well as some campaigns often overlooked.
- The First Crusade: Rather than a single expedition, the First Crusade was a series of loosely coordinated waves that left Europe over the space of several years after Pope Urban II’s initial call in 1095. More than 90% of those who were part of the First Crusade were not professional knights; rather, they were the populous, peasants and craftsmen led by a smattering of minor nobles and a popular preacher named Peter the Hermit.
- The Northern Crusades: Crusading was not just relegated to the Holy Land. Crusading campaigns also took place in parts of Europe. The Northern Crusades facilitated German and Christian expansion into eastern Europe and opened up a theater of war that was easier for crusaders to access than Syria and Palestine, but they siphoned off crusaders who might otherwise have worked to reclaim Jerusalem from the Ottoman Turks.
- The Children’s Crusade: One of the period’s oddest crusades, the Children’s Crusade of 1212 consisted primarily of processions of French youths—many between the ages of 6 and 14—carrying religious symbols toward Jerusalem to reclaim it for Christendom. More peaceful than other crusades, the Children’s Crusade lacked the militaristic overtones of other campaigns; medieval chroniclers make no mention of its participants bearing arms.
View the Era with a More Inquisitive Eye
Once you reach the end of the major crusading period in the late 13th century, you take a step back in a series of thematic lectures that treat a host of topics with an inquisitive eye. Professor Daileader’s goal with this section of the course: to clarify your picture of the Crusades and to provide you with a stronger grasp of their broader historical consequences.
You’ll get a chance to probe issues and questions that have intrigued historians for centuries:
- What did contemporary religious thinkers and critics say about the Crusades? What effects did their views have?
- What was the experience like for individuals who took up the crusader’s call? Why did they go? What did they take with them? How did they live day to day?
- How did everyday life in western Europe compare with that in the vulnerable crusader states?
- How did medieval Islam respond to the Crusades?
By taking this approach, you’ll come to see how this frenetic period of warfare paved the way for subsequent historical movements and moments, including the centuries-long dominance of the Ottoman Empire, the Protestant Reformation, the prevalence of missionary campaigns around the world, and more.
Learn from One of America’s Best Professors
How the Crusades Changed History places you in the hands of a historian and teacher named one of the best professors in the United States by The Princeton Review and a four-time winner of Harvard University’s Certificate of Distinction in Teaching.
Just minutes into the first lecture of this engaging course, you’ll find out why Professor Daileader’s lecturing style—filled with eye-opening insights, clear-cut explanations, gripping stories, and touches of ironic humor—has been praised by so many of our customers around the world.
“Whether the Crusades deserve admiration, opprobrium, or something else entirely is a matter for individuals to decide for themselves,” notes Professor Daileader at the start of his engrossing lecture series. “Our goals are to understand the Crusades and to assess their consequences.”
And by doing so with this course, you’ll have the knowledge necessary to come to your own conclusions about just how important and consequential these centuries of warfare were to Western civilization.