The Real History of the Crusades

I consider that we are in a Clash of Civilizations, which is very much already realized. It's not so much a clash between a virtuous Western culture and a deprived Islamic culture or anything like that, but it is a struggle between (modern) Western liberal democracy and Islamic traditionalist theocracy. Disinformation is always to be avoided, but the Clash of Civilization is far broader.

I certainly see the irony, but not in such a positive way. I find more to draw on from romantic views of history than from real ones - this is a game, not a history reenactment. I find ArM's community overly obsessive with real history; a note regarding what's real now and then would be nice, but sticking too close to history makes for a poorer story. For example, Charles Martel can be seen as the savior of Europe who stemmed the tide of Muslim conquest, yet "historians such as Bernard Lewis contended that Arabs had little intention of occupying northern France". Which makes the better story? In this case too, the "real" history of the crusades makes for an interesting narrative worth exploring regardless of its truth.

I find biased histories, and conspiracy theories in general, more inspiring than plain drab reality. They're already painted in colors befitting a story, whereas reality is not so kind as to accomodate our gaming needs.

By just looking into a newspaper, you will find that today's muslim countries - even Iran and Saudi Arabia - are anything but 'Islamic traditionalist theocracies'. Their societies undergo a difficult, open ended adaptation process, which causes lots of friction and unease, and also religiously motivated violence. The very last any one of them can support is to embrace a polarization of their relations with other countries along religious/cultural lines. And the followers of al-Qaida are no more representative for them than the German RAF or the Italian Brigate Rosse were for the European Left in the 70s and 80s.

That's fine, as long as you don't get real and imagined history mixed up.

Kind regards,


'adaptation' to what? I suspect that what you call 'adaptation process' is what I call the Clash of Civilizations. It is not limited to open wars and conflicts, nor to terrorism. Indeed, the struggle is mostly internal in each country.

'Islamic traditionalist theocracies' is a pretty bad name. But the struggle is NOT between some Islamic traditional theocracy state and some Western liberal democracy state. And Iran is certainly not a theocracy in the traditional sense. There is however a struggle between the idea of liberal democracy and the idea of a traditional, sharia-obiding, religously-led, Islamic society. Again, the struggle is mostly internal, not international.

The struggle is not supported by the House of Saud, it is supported by the faction leading Iran (which is consciously engaged in it in an effort to export the Islamic Revolution without and deepen it within).

Just have to pitch in here. :slight_smile: I'm not very well versed in the Crusades, but I know the basics. But at one point in his article, the guy says that:

"Like all warfare, the violence was brutal (although not as brutal as modern wars). There were mishaps, blunders, and crimes. These are usually well-remembered today. During the early days of the First Crusade in 1095, a ragtag band of Crusaders led by Count Emicho of Leiningen made its way down the Rhine, robbing and murdering all the Jews they could find."

That's a bit of an understatement, isn't it? He fails to mention that at one point, one of the Crusades (was it the second one?) took Jerusalem and proceeded to slaughter every single Muslim they could find in the city. As I said, I'm not very well versed in history (I'm impressed with the research some of you guys are doing :smiley:), but I can't take that article seriously. It just seems to biased, skipping important things, taking the "Christians can do no wrong"-stance throughout.


To an always more dynamical and more wealthy world economy, which gets also ever more intrusive and more encompassing.

Well, in that case you would use the term coined by Huntington in a very proprietary manner. Of course, I then would like your use better than the academically correct one. :slight_smile:


Such a struggle indeed exists. But as far as I know, the muslim world sees their important struggle as one for economic, political and cultural self-determination, and against engulfment into world politics and economy on most unfavorable terms.
Reducing this issue to a clash of ideas about the right government, or - as in some academic discussion - to Huntington's 'Clash of Civilizations', appears to me destructive and self-interested. It also strikes me that, of all the muslim factions, just al-Qaida, interested in creating as large a chasm as possible between muslim societies and the rest of the world, emphasizes a fundamental and unbridgeable contraposition of Islam and democracy.

Kind regards,


Hi Gentlemen,

I've been out of town for the last week for a seminar (International Humanitarian Law - which is becoming ever more relevant these days it seems) and I have thus been out of the loop of the forum.

Thanks to SirGarlon for returning with input from the reading (listening) Prof. Madden. I agree that his articles seem very legitimate, but I also think that some of the his published books in their rewievs and summaries seems somewhat in the same direction. Painting a somewhat onesides picture perfect of the crusaders.

I did actually see him somewhere address such an incident, but only to claim it to be dubious and untrue. To me that does not speak in favour of his academic neutrality either.

Concerning Huntington I have to disagree. His stance is a very dismal and self-realizing vision. And I believe that to reduce contemporary conflicts to a question of civilizations is quite unuanced and dangerous and it can only lead down a path of further conflict closing the door on any potential small steps toward conciliation. In a sense the 'Clash' will only become a reality if we all think it is what it is. This however, is not to say that there's not some huge challenges to the world these days. It is just about much more and much less than civilization.

Concerning roleplay I do also prefer to use biased, polemic, unreliable and downright false concepts of medieval history to influence my plots. As it often makes better stories. In terms of history or the works of historians those are exactly all the qualities I hope and prefer not to come across. Even if we have the saying of how history should remind us of not repeating the mistakes of the past, to the contrary history is very often (mis-)used to argue and motivate the actions of the present. On a personal level we all construct our concept of ourselves on our past, on a national level the states define themselves by their history. History is as often a tool to the newly established nation or liberation movements as much as to the leaders of established nations - especially in times of crisis or armed conflict.

History is a subject of interpretation and as such no historical work is objective or comepletely free of its time or the inherent 'bias' of the historian. Those are the challenges that are met by historians, and none are flawless in that regard, but few - either too immersed in their personal opinions or in their contemporary society - go to far and their academical publishments become too much of a comment on contemporary conflicts or even part of a political agenda. Why or for what reason is unknown, but I think Prof. Madden has ventured down that path with his agenda of the "truth" of the crusades and his onesided defense of the christian part in those periods of conflicts.

Hello all, first post in this forum!

I admit to not being a historian other than being generally well read, and having a good deal of interest in different periods of history. However I disagree with the consensus here that a biased point of view disqualifies one's historical credentials. The study of history is a scientific process, and moreover is not a process limited to differing individuals and their points of view, but is instead to be focused on the body of knowledge as a whole. In short, without biased claims that can be then argued, refuted, and researched, history becomes nothing more than the accumulated propaganda of whatever creed or ideology holds the current balance of power. In short the freedom to make assertations such as these, or indeed to make the assertations that he is refuting in this article, is a tremendous benefit to the study of history, and not a detraction from it.

History is also not served well by evil. In this I mean that any attempt to view the actions of an historical event for the purposes of passing judgement on it, is extremely nearsighted and not in the best interests of the body of knowledge. Prof. Madden does tread some of this ground here, but far less so than some who argue the opposite view. The depictions of the crusades or any other historical event as the work of whatever evil impulse is attributed to the actor removes the burden of explaining just how something like that could actually happen in the first place. I disagree that we need to cast aspersions on the crusades, they happened a long time ago, for reasons that none of us could empathise with, what we do need to do is try to find a way to avoid repeating the mistakes.

Purposefully omitting information contradicting one's own viewpoint, or misrepresenting the contents of the works of others, disqualifies one as a historian.
Please reread the article in question here, , under this aspect. If you need some pointers, consider and crosscheck in particular the following quotes from it:
(1)"The Crusades are generally portrayed as a series of holy wars against Islam led by power-mad popes and fought by religious fanatics. They are supposed to have been the epitome of self-righteousness and intolerance, a black stain on the history of the Catholic Church in particular and Western civilization in general. A breed of proto-imperialists, the Crusaders introduced Western aggression to the peaceful Middle East and then deformed the enlightened Muslim culture, leaving it in ruins. For variations on this theme, one need not look far. See, for example, Steven Runciman's famous three-volume epic, History of the Crusades, or the BBC/A&E documentary, The Crusades, hosted by Terry Jones."
(2)"The Fourth Crusade (1201-1204) ran aground when it was seduced into a web of Byzantine politics, which the Westerners never fully understood. They had made a detour to Constantinople to support an imperial claimant who promised great rewards and support for the Holy Land. Yet once he was on the throne of the Caesars, their benefactor found that he could not pay what he had promised. Thus betrayed by their Greek friends, in 1204 the Crusaders attacked, captured, and brutally sacked Constantinople, the greatest Christian city in the world. "

Kind regards,


Oh yes that little ,doing the Venetians a Favor, to cover our transportation Bill thingie of 1204.
A real Christian and Humanitarian Act.
But where is the Vault to find ?
With the Venetians ?
The Crusaders ?
Or (Gasp) the Byzantines ?
I think it´s best to blame Human Weakness and get over it.
Every great Idea get perverted at some point.......
(Not that I claim the Crusades were a great Idea.).

Hi ShawnG,

Welcome to the forum! And thank you for a well put post.

In the broader picture I agree with some of your points. I do not think that objective historical science exists - it defies the fact that historical research is a discipline of interpretation without absolutes. Thus all historical works have to admit some subjectivity. That being an established fact of the subject, it is important when researching or writing papers not to solehandedly include all testiments to your favour, but most importantly to be loyal to the testiments in contradiction to your thesis.

So no - subjectivity does not disqualify you as a historian. But outright selectivity or manipulation of facts do.

What I have seen of Prof. Madden's articles are beyond subjective - they grossly omit or disregard important material that does not suit his interpretation. Moreso his explanations are unduely unnuanced and dualistic in reducing all to good/bad or right/wrong.

And make no mistake - attacking Madden is not the same jumping in the opposite ditch, and declaring all crusaders as 'evil' and their counterparts as 'victims' of the crusade; Or designating the crusaders as what Madden calls 'protoimperialists' or some such. It is simply a call for a more nuanced view of a long varied series of conflict. It is an uproar against labelling all in black and white as Madden does it.

In the 11-12th century, the Persian courtier, astronomer, philosopher, mathmetician and (arguably, most significantly) poet Omar Khayyam (1048–1131) wrote of the "Two-and-Seventy jarring Sects". That is, back then, he referred to 72 different Islamic sects that "jarred", ie, did not quite see eye to eye.

If a loose Western analogy would be the generally belligerent attitude of the central Catholic church of the same time period vs the pacificist attitudes of other contemporary sects, or of the difference between modern Amish and the KKK, all of whom use the same Bible as their source of inspiration and view themselves as "good, god-fearing christians, doing god's work", it should be easy for any to see that just as there is no one "Christianity", there is no single "Islam" in practice, and has not been for some time.

What the dominant Islamic worldview was in the 1200's would depend largely on that of the ruling body at the time, and the relationship between them and their people and the West. I am comfortable saying that the Crusades did nothing to balm any sore spots in that relationship, nor to pave the way for any burnt bridges to be mended in the millenia to follow.

One of the main problems with the Crusades is that it´s pretty hard to get a historical Chronicle from the Arabs point of View.
(I happen to own such a book but AFAIK it is only aviable in French and German, and I have no real benchmark to measure the Author)

I hold Edward FitzGerald's reinvention of Omar Khayyám's Al Rubáiyát in very high regard as poetry in its own right - and picked my signature for this list from it. As a translation it was harshly criticized by Graves, though.

FitzGerald's full quatrain is:
"The Grape that can with Logic absolute
The Two-and-Seventy jarring Sects confute:
The subtle Alchimist that in a Trice
Life's leaden Metal into Gold transmute."
He felt, that "the Two-and-Seventy jarring Sects" must have been a delicate argument for Khayyám, and added a footnote:
"The Seventy-two religions supposed to divide the World, including Islamism, as some think: but others not."

FitzGerald's intuition was right: he indeed had to do justice to a literary pun of Khayyám. But he could not put his finger onto it. When he wrote his reinvention, the famous Orientalist who later published the answer, Ignaz Goldziher, had only five or six years.
Actually there is a hadith, a saying of Mohammed handed down outside the Quran, which states roughly, that “the Jews are divided into 71 sects, and the Christians are divided into 72 sects; and, my people will be divided into 73 sects, all of whom are destined to hell fire except one, and these are the true believers." (Source: )
Of course Khayyám's learned contemporaries knew this, so he could allude to it - and likely to his time's fiery discussions about it - to make his point.
If you wish to get an impression, what kind of ruckus this hadith still can cause, google for: "72 sects" hadith. 8)

For this one neither needs FitzGerald nor Khayyám, of course.

The book of Maalouf is now available also in English. See ... F8&s=books . I can recommend it.

Kind regards,


what about
"The Crusades Through Arab Eyes"
Amin Maalouf
ISBN 0-86356-023-7

amazon UK
Amazon US

what about
"The Crusades Through Arab Eyes"
Amin Maalouf
ISBN 0-86356-023-7

Oh it has been translated I see.


A number of Muslim sources for the Crusades have been translated into English. For starters, check out the following:

Arab Historians of the Crusades, trans. Francesco Gabrieli (ISBN: 0520052242) - a selection of extracts from various sources for the period.

An Arab-Syrian Gentleman and Warrior in the Period of the Crusades. by Usama ibn Munqidh, trans. Philip K. Hitti (ISBN: 0231121253) - the "memoirs" of a Syrian emir who died in 1188. It purports to be his memoirs, but is clearly intended to be a guide to good conduct. It's also supremely entertaining, especially the section on the Franks.

For an updated survey of Muslim attitudes towards the Crusades, check out Carole Hillenbrand, The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives (ISBN: 0415929148).

I hope this helps.

Oh ja. It does.
(Raise my Amazon -Bill, sigh :laughing: (just kidding))