How the Crusades Changed History

Course No. 3931
Professor Philip Daileader, Ph.D.
The College of William and Mary
Share This Course
4 out of 5
44 Reviews
75% of reviewers would recommend this product
Course No. 3931
Audio Streaming Included Free

Course Overview

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.

Hide Full Description
24 lectures
 |  Average 29 minutes each
  • 1
    What Were the Crusades?
    Why do the Crusades still matter, more than 900 years after they began? Here, take a close look at the word “crusade” itself, and some of the many ways it is invoked today. Then, explore some religious ideas that paved the way for the crusading environment and discover who “invented” this fusion of pilgrimage and holy war. x
  • 2
    Before the Crusades—Deep Background
    Examine the long-term historical developments (led by Pope Urban II) that launched the First Crusade in 1095. Make sense of the fragmented politics of the Byzantine Empire and medieval Europe; chart the remarkable expansion and conquests of the Islamic Empire; ponder Islamic and Christian conceptions of holy war; and more. x
  • 3
    Before the Crusades—Immediate Circumstances
    Turn to the immediate events that destabilized peace between the Islamic and Byzantine empires and medieval Europe. Focus on the uncontrolled Turkish migration and Byzantine territorial losses that led to Pope Urban II’s call for a crusade. Also, consider the reasons everyday people responded—and why Jerusalem became the ultimate goal. x
  • 4
    The First Crusade and Conquest of Jerusalem
    The First Crusade was, in a sense, a success—but a messy one. Professor Daileader takes you from the apocalyptic expectations triggered by the expedition and the loosely coordinated waves of Europeans who participated in the critical conquests of Nicaea and Antioch, to the capture of Jerusalem and the massacre of thousands of its inhabitants in 1099. x
  • 5
    The Rise of the Templars
    Encounter a great institutional innovation to arise from the First Crusade: the Templar Order. You’ll learn how the Templars fused the ethics of knighthood and monasticism; how they amassed wealth and property by building churches and acquiring holy relics; and how they came into sometimes vicious conflict with other military orders, including the Hospitallers. x
  • 6
    Defending the Crusader States, 1099–1144
    Jerusalem. Antioch. Edessa. Tripoli. Investigate the early history of these four crusader states (without which there would have been no subsequent crusades). Some states faced Byzantine diplomatic pressure; all faced the threat of an Islamic counterattack. The lecture ends with the Muslim leader Zengi’s fateful capture of Edessa in December 1144. x
  • 7
    The Second Crusade—False Steps and Failure
    The story continues with a look at the tumultuous Second Crusade. Why did this campaign to rescue the crusader states fail? How did Bernard of Clairvaux inspire this next wave of crusaders? How did tangled geopolitics steer where crusading troops traveled? What made the dramatic siege of Damascus such a military debacle? x
  • 8
    Saladin—General and Sultan
    Meet Saladin, the sultan who became one of the most enigmatic figures in the saga of the Crusades. Chart his rise within the ranks of power in Egypt and Syria, witness his conquest of Jerusalem in 1187, and learn how this victory irrevocably changed the geopolitical landscape of the Near East. x
  • 9
    The Third Crusade—We Three Kings
    Go inside the drama of the crusade that pitted two titans of the Middle Ages against one another: Saladin and King Richard the Lionheart of England. As you’ll discover, the aftermath—with Jerusalem still in Saladin’s hands but with surrounding territory restored to Christendom—only escalated tensions even further. x
  • 10
    The Fourth Crusade—Conquest of Constantinople
    Why is the Fourth Crusade considered by historians to be so controversial? How did the expedition get its start? What made the conquest of Constantinople such an unprecedented military success? How did it exacerbate ethnic and religious tensions between Europeans and Byzantines? Find answers to these and other questions here. x
  • 11
    Crusades in Spain
    Travel to the Iberian Peninsula to see the influence of the Crusades in Spain. You’ll learn why the Spanish elevated their wars to the status of “crusades”; how this hurt crusading projects in the Near East; how the crusading attitude shaped the Christian Reconquista of Spain’s Muslims and Jews; and more. x
  • 12
    The Northern Crusades
    Follow the spread of crusading fever to the frontiers of central and northeastern Europe. In what would come to be known as the Northern Crusades, Christian warriors clashed not with Muslims but with the region’s pagan Slavs and Balts in a long, grinding, and brutal affair that would last centuries. x
  • 13
    The Children’s and Albigensian Crusades
    Continue looking at the crusading movement in Europe with a close look at two intriguing campaigns and their aftershocks. The first is the Albigensian Crusade, fought in southern France against heretics. The second is the Children’s Crusade of 1212, a youthful and almost completely peaceful crusade that fizzled after just months. x
  • 14
    Fifth and Sixth Crusades—Tragedy and Oddity
    Turn now to the Fifth and Sixth Crusades in the eastern Mediterranean. You’ll examine why the Fifth Crusade was defeated in a way no Eastern crusade had been before; how the Sixth Crusade gained the (short-lived) recovery of Jerusalem with little fighting; and how both created deep rifts between political and religious leaders. x
  • 15
    Louis IX—The Crusader Saint
    Make sense of the Seventh and Eighth Crusades of King Louis IX of France. As you’ll learn, both Eastern crusades, despite excellent funding and organization, failed; the Seventh Crusade with the capture of the king in Egypt in 1250, and the Eighth Crusade with his death near Tunis in 1270. x
  • 16
    The Hohenstaufen and Shepherds’ Crusades
    Investigate the continued proliferation of crusades to the European interior. Your focus here is the crusade against the Hohenstaufen rulers of Germany (which lasted almost 30 years) and two illicit outbursts of popular crusading enthusiasm against the clergy known as the Shepherds’ Crusades of 1251 and 1320. x
  • 17
    The Fall—1291
    Professor Daileader takes you inside the eventual downfall of each of the crusader states. How did the situation deteriorate so quickly? Why were the Seventh and Eighth Crusades such lackluster failures for crusading troops? Why is 1291 the perfect point at which to assess the consequences and legacy of the Crusades? x
  • 18
    The Crusades and Their Critics
    Almost from their start, the Crusades had their critics. Here, explore contemporary criticism of these military campaigns and the effects (or lack thereof) on the medieval world. You’ll also learn how such criticism helped pave the way for historical events such as the suppression of the Templars. x
  • 19
    War and Travel—The Experience of Crusading
    What was going on a crusade actually like? This lecture reveals what it was like for the average crusader to set out for the Holy Land. You’ll see how crusaders dealt with fear, illness, and financial problems—but also found camaraderie and were changed by their encounters with new places, peoples, and cultures. x
  • 20
    Life in the Crusader East
    Turn now to the experiences of those individuals who lived in the crusader states. You’ll examine the cordial and tense relations between Frankish settlers and local peoples; see how legal distinctions were drawn between Catholic Franks and their descendants; and consider whether the Crusades should be considered a colonial enterprise. x
  • 21
    Cultural Contact and Exchange
    Learn how the Crusades actually worked to promote cultural exchange and exploration between East and West. As you’ll discover, Westerners began to understand the prevalence of Islam throughout the world, which changed previously held notions of geopolitical power. But they also overcame their fear of Islamic culture and embraced aspects of it. x
  • 22
    Crusade and Mission
    Another aspect of the clash between East and West: European missionary efforts among Muslims. Join the contemporary debate over the nature and purpose of missionizing while crusading. Were they a part of the same project or not? Should they be? What was the ultimate decision reached by the Catholic Church? x
  • 23
    The Crusades and the Course of History, Part 1
    In the first of two lectures on the legacy of the Crusades, examine how these controversial campaigns shaped the political, religious, and cultural configuration of southeastern Europe and the Near East—specifically through the emergence of the Ottoman Empire and the final collapse of the Byzantine Empire. x
  • 24
    The Crusades and the Course of History, Part 2
    The spiritual and political influence of indulgences is an often overlooked consequence of the Crusades. Here, see how their corruptive use for personal gain—which skyrocketed in the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries—spurred the Protestant Reformation and the subsequent period that historians call the Age of Religious Wars. x

Lecture Titles

Clone Content from Your Professor tab

What's Included

What Does Each Format Include?

Video DVD
Instant Audio Includes:
  • Download 24 audio lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE audio streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 208-page printed course guidebook
  • Photos & illustrations
  • Maps
  • Suggested readings

Enjoy This Course On-the-Go with Our Mobile Apps!*

  • App store App store iPhone + iPad
  • Google Play Google Play Android Devices
  • Kindle Fire Kindle Fire Kindle Fire Tablet + Firephone
*Courses can be streamed from anywhere you have an internet connection. Standard carrier data rates may apply in areas that do not have wifi connections pursuant to your carrier contract.

Your professor

Philip Daileader

About Your Professor

Philip Daileader, Ph.D.
The College of William and Mary
Dr. Philip Daileader is Associate Professor of History at The College of William and Mary. He earned his B.A. in History from Johns Hopkins University and his M.A. and Ph.D. in History from Harvard University. Before taking his position at William and Mary, he taught at the University of Alabama and the State University of New York at New Paltz. Professor Daileader received William and Mary's 2004 Alumni Fellowship Award...
Learn More About This Professor
Also By This Professor


How the Crusades Changed History is rated 3.9 out of 5 by 44.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Strongly recommended I have bought and listened to many Great Courses lectures, and by many different lecturers, mostly in the area of history. In that area, Philip Daileader is my favorite for several reasons. Basics first: listening to Professor Daileader is like listening to a very knowledgeable friend who is simply talking to me off the top of his head right here in my home [as opposed to certain lecturers who are clearly just reading lifelessly from a script]. But beyond the basics, Professor Daileader steadily and subtly brings the past to life in at least two ways: by showing how human actors in the distant past thought and behaved so much like their modern descendants, and by showing how their thoughts and actions shaped - and continue to shape - our world. Professor Daileader uses his knowledge and subtle humor to bridge the gulf of time between the middle ages and the present.
Date published: 2020-07-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course A very informative, non-biased, course. I really enjoyed it.
Date published: 2019-09-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Not a Duplicate of the “Era” Course The first thing that comes to mind in reviewing this course is how does Dr. Daileader’s “History” compare to Professor Harl’s “Era”? For starters “History” has only 24 lectures, compared to “Era’s” 36. Professor Harl has more lectures with which to work, so one might think that his course delves more deeply into the crusades than does Professor Daileader. But there is more than just the number of lectures to consider. Professor Harl spends his first 11 or 12 lectures giving us the setting—the background of the Europeans, the Turks, the Byzantines and more, while “History” just uses the first three lectures as background material. There is a similar disparity at the end of both courses. “Era”, as the title suggests is about much more than the crusades themselves, while “How the Crusades Changed History” focuses more on each individual crusade and winds up using the last three lectures discussing how the crusades changed (or did not change much) later events. Another difference of note is that while Professor Harl spends some time talking about the Reconquista (something that is a part of the era), Dr. Daileader actually considers this to be a Crusade and discusses how that, what he terms the “Northern Crusades”, and the Albigensian Crusade in France (not covered in “Era”) draw manpower away from the crusades in the Middle East. “History” also highlights the “Children’s Crusade”. There are other differences, both of style and content, but really they are not that important. As far as the material in this course being covered by other courses, including Dr. Daileader’s very fine Middle Ages trilogy, there really is not that much. There are only 2 lectures in “High Middle Ages” devoted directly to the Crusades, although some background material overlaps. Professor Ruiz’s course, “The Other 1492” does cover the Reconquista in more detail than does Dr. Daileader, but otherwise there is no overlap. There may be other courses that cover the Crusades, but I at least, have not taken them. I gave all of the other courses discussed very high marks, so for me there is not much to choose. Professor Daileader may seem to be a bit more dry in this audio only course, but his delivery is good enough, though I think his humor does not come through all that well. For me the main deficiency is a lack of maps. True enough there are maps in the course booklet, but I think that a visual rendering would be preferable. I used an historical atlas for my reference. Another reviewer used online references. Which course to get is dependent on what you wish to learn. Just get them both (and also “The Other 1492”.
Date published: 2019-07-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Course, False Advertising When I saw the title of this course, I thought the focus would be on the impact that the Crusade Era (1095 AD -1290 AD) had on future European history. Did the increase in commerical, military, and pilgramage traffic change banking institutions? With the sack of Constantinople in the 4th Crusade, did that clear the path for the growth of the Venetian Republic's empire? I thought that the course would cover topics like that. Instead, after several lectures detailing the conditions that led to the calling of the 1st Crusade, the bulk of the lectures are a chronological retelling of the Crusades themselves. This is followed by a few lectures on the actual conditions that Crusaders and Frankish settlers encountered, then by two lectures on the long term impact of the Crusades. Now, the lectures weren't bad. But I had already purchased the course on the Era of the Crusades, by Kenneth Harl. Harl's course goes into more depth, taking advantage of his 36 lecture format, compared to this course's 24 lectures. Different instructors can cover the same topic with different emphasis, so it is always worthwhile to take another bite of the apple, if you are interested in the area of history under consideration. However, if you are only going to get one course on the history of the Crusades, I would recommend Era of the Crusades over this one. And frankly (pun intended), the course does not cover what the tile led me to expect.
Date published: 2019-01-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A very informative set of lectures but quite verbose. Am currently listening to the lectures on Buddhism, which are excellent! Jeffrey Fessel MD.
Date published: 2019-01-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Introduction to the Crusades I bought this course because the Crusades are one of my favorite subjects in history, and overall I thought it was a great introduction to the Crusades. Given my prior knowledge of the subject, it was a nice refresher course and I did learn a few new things about the typical Crusader life and experience that fascinated me. However, as I bought the course in audio format, I had to rely on the professor's voice as the primary means of learning and did space out a few times during the lectures because of his bland, monotone voice. As such, I was forced to read the guidebook after each lecture to make sure I didn't miss anything. With all of this being said, I would only recommend this to a friend who already has an interest in the Crusades and would therefore be willing to put up with the professor.
Date published: 2018-12-14
Rated 3 out of 5 by from everything you wanted to know and more A little too much detail in the first 12 lectures gets better at the second half
Date published: 2018-11-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A great leaning experience I had no idea the the Crusades were so numerous, were over such a great period of time, and directed to so many different areas of the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. A complete and detailed presentation that kept my interest from lecture to lecture. A minor issue is the presentation style of the professor. He had significant pauses where there is no comma or period which occasionally confused his point. He also not infrequently dropped the first syllable of words which was distracting.
Date published: 2018-10-14
  • y_2020, m_12, d_2, h_16
  • bvseo_bulk, prod_bvrr, vn_bulk_3.0.12
  • cp_1, bvpage1
  • co_hasreviews, tv_3, tr_41
  • loc_en_US, sid_3931, prod, sort_[SortEntry(order=SUBMISSION_TIME, direction=DESCENDING)]
  • clientName_teachco
  • bvseo_sdk, p_sdk, 3.2.0
  • CLOUD, getContent, 12.33ms

Questions & Answers

Customers Who Bought This Course Also Bought