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  • Hi there my name’s John Green; this is Crash Course World History,

  • and today were going to talk about the Crusades.

  • Ohhh, Stan, do we have to talk about the Crusades?

  • I hate them...

  • Here’s the thing about the Crusades,

  • which were a series of military expeditions from parts of Europe to the Eastern coast

  • of the Mediterranean.

  • The real reason they feature so prominently in history is because weve endlessly romanticized

  • the story of the Crusades.

  • Weve created this simple narrative with characters to root for and root against,

  • and it’s all been endlessly idealized by the likes of Sir Walter Scott.

  • An there are knights with swords and Lion hearts...

  • NO, STAN. LIONHEARTS.

  • Thank you.

  • [music intro]

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  • Let’s start by saying that initially the Crusades were not a “holy war

  • on the part of Europeans against Islam, but in important ways

  • the Crusades were driven by religious faith.

  • [non-litigious melody reminiscent of a totally litigious melody plays]

  • Mr. Green, Mr. Green! Religion causes all wars. Imagine no war

  • I’m gonna cut you off right there before you violate copyright,

  • Me-from-the-past.

  • But as usual, youre wrong. Simple readings of history are rarely sufficient.

  • By the way, when did my handwriting get so much better?

  • I mean, if the Crusades had been brought on

  • by the lightning-fast rise of Islamic empires and

  • a desire to keep in Christian hands the land of Jesus,

  • then the Crusades wouldve started in the 8th century.

  • But early Islamic dynasties,

  • like the Umayyads and the Abbasids,

  • were perfectly happy with Christians and Jews living among them,

  • as long as they paid a tax.

  • And plus the Christian pilgrimage business was awesome for the Islamic Empire’s economy.

  • But then a new group of Muslims, the Seljuk Turks,

  • moved into the region and they sacked the holy cities and made it much more difficult

  • for Christians to make their pilgrimages.

  • And while they quickly realized their mistake,

  • it was already too late.

  • The Byzantines,

  • who’d had their literal-asses kicked at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071,

  • felt the threat and called upon the west for help.

  • So the first official crusade began with a call to arms from Pope Urban II in 1095.

  • This was partly because Urban wanted to unite Europe and he’d figured out the lesson the

  • rest of us learn from alien invasion movies:

  • The best way to get people to unite is to give them a common enemy.

  • So Urban called on all the bickering knights and nobility of Europe,

  • and he saideth unto his people:

  • Let us go forth and help the Byzantines because then maybe they will acknowledge my

  • awesomeness and get rid of their stupid Not Having Me as Pope thing, and while we are

  • at it, let’s liberate Jerusalem!”

  • I’m paraphrasing, by the way.

  • Crusades were not primarily military operations;

  • they were pilgrimages.

  • Theologically, Christianity didn’t have an idea of a holy war

  • like, war might be just, but fighting wasn’t something that got you into heaven.

  • But pilgrimage to a holy shrine could help you out on that front,

  • so Urban had the key to pitch the Crusade as a pilgrimage with a touch of warring on

  • the side.

  • I do the same thing to my kid every night:

  • I’m not feeding you dinner featuring animal crackers.

  • I’m feeding you animal crackers featuring a dinner.

  • Oh, it’s time for the open letter? [slides through for chair switcheroo]

  • An Open Letter to Animal Crackers:

  • But first let’s see what’s in the Secret Compartment today.

  • Oh, it’s animal crackers. Thanks, Stan...

  • Hi there, Animal Crackers, it’s me, John Green.

  • Thanks for being delicious, but let me throw out a crazy idea here:

  • Maybe foods that are ALREADY DELICIOUS do not need the added benefit of being PLEASINGLY

  • SHAPED.

  • I mean, why can’t I give my kid animal spinach or animal sweet potato

  • or even animal cooked animal?

  • I mean, we can put a man on Mars but we can’t make spinach shaped like an elephant?

  • What Stan? We haven’t put a man on Mars?

  • Stupid world, always disappointing me.

  • Best wishes, John Green

  • One last myth to dispell:

  • The Crusades also were NOT an early example of European colonization of the Middle East,

  • even if they did create some European-ish kingdoms there for a while.

  • That much later, post-and-anti-colonialist view that comes,

  • at least partially,

  • out of a Marxist interpretation of history.

  • In the case of the Crusades, it was argued,

  • the knights who went adventuring in the Levant were the second and third sons of wealthy

  • nobles who,

  • because of European inheritance rules,

  • had little to look forward to by staying in Europe and lots to gain

  • in terms of plunder

  • by going to the East.

  • Cool theory, bro,

  • but it’s not true.

  • First, most of the people who responded to the call to Crusade weren’t knights at all;

  • they were poor people.

  • And secondly, most of the nobles who did go crusading were lords of estates,

  • not their wastrel kids.

  • But more importantly, that analysis ignores religious motivations.

  • Weve approached religions as historical phenomena

  • thinking about how, for instance,

  • the capricious environment of Mesopotamia led to

  • a capricious cadre of Mesopotamian gods.

  • But just as the world shapes religion, religion also shapes the world.

  • And some modern historians might ignore religious motivations,

  • but medieval crusaders sure as hell didn’t.

  • I mean, when people came up with that idiom,

  • they clearly thought Hell was for sure.

  • To the Crusaders,

  • they were taking up arms to protect Christ and his kingdom.

  • And what better way to show your devotion to God

  • than putting a cross on your sleeve,

  • spending 5 to 6 times your annual income to outfit yourself and all your horses,

  • and heading for the Holy Land?

  • So when these people cried out

  • God Wills It!”

  • to explain their reasons for going,

  • we should do them the favor of believing them.

  • And the results of the First Crusade seemed to indicate that God had willed it.

  • Following the lead of roving preachers with names like Peter the Rabbit-

  • Peter the Hermit?

  • Stan; youre always making history less cool!

  • Fine, following preachers like Peter the Hermit,

  • thousands of peasants and nobles alike volunteered for the First Crusade.

  • It got off to kind of a rough start because

  • pilgrims kept robbing those they encountered on the way.

  • Plus, there was no real leader so they were constant rivalries between nobles about who

  • could supply the most troops.

  • Notable among the notables were

  • Godfrey of Bouillon,

  • Bohemond of Taranto,

  • and Raymond of Toulouse.

  • But despite the rivalries,

  • and the disorganization the crusaders were remarkably

  • some would say miraculouslysuccessful.

  • By the time they arrived in the Levant they were fighting not against the Seljuk Turks

  • but against Fatimid Egyptians,

  • who had captured the Holy Land from the Seljuks,

  • thereby making the Turks none too pleased with the Egyptians.

  • At Antioch the Crusaders reversed a seemingly hopeless situation when a peasant found a

  • spear that had pierced the side of Christ’s side hidden under a church,

  • thereby raising morale enough to win the day.

  • And then they did the impossible:

  • They took Jerusalem, securing it for Christendom

  • and famously killing a lot of people in the al-Asqa mosque.

  • Now the Crusaders succeeded in part because the Turkish Muslims,

  • who were Sunnis,

  • did not step up to help the Egyptians,

  • who were Shia.

  • But that kind of complicated, intra-Islamic rivalry

  • gets in the way of the awesome narrative:

  • The Christians just saw it as a miracle.

  • So by 1100CE European nobles held both Antioch and Jerusalem

  • as Latin Christian kingdoms.

  • I say Latin to make the point that there were lots of Christians living in these cities

  • before the Crusaders arrived,

  • they just weren’t Catholic- they were Orthodox,

  • a fact that will become relevant shortly.

  • Were going to skip the second Crusade

  • because it bores me and move on to

  • the Third Crusade because it’s the famous one.

  • Broadly speaking,

  • the third Crusade was a European response to the emergence of a new Islamic power,

  • neither Turkish nor Abbasid:

  • the Egyptian (although he was really a Kurd) Sultan al-Malik al-Nasir Salah ed-Din Yusuf,

  • better known to the west as Saladin.

  • Saladin, having consolidating his power in Egypt,

  • sought to expand by taking Damascus and, eventually Jerusalem,

  • which he did successfully, because he was an amazing general.

  • And then the loss of Jerusalem caused Pope Gregory VIII

  • to call for a