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The conventional studies on acts of conquest undertaken by the Crusaders force during the late first centuries in the 999s to the early second century are often perceived as acts against specific religions. Scholars from different dominions have related the practices as a campaign necessitated by the papal reign to widen the Christian empire through assimilation and widespread massacre of any opposing forces. However, critical research on the movements and attacks of the conquests presents a different view that conflicts with the religious understanding of the practices perpetrated by the First Crusaders. One of the scholars contrasting the contemporary views on the Crusaders’ actions is Nicholas Morton. Therefore, the essay will evaluate Morton’s study on the First Crusaders' campaigns to give a concise argument on whether the First Crusade was not an act of war or hatred against Muslims, as concluded by Morton.
According to Morton, the First Crusaders campaign was characterized as a civilization clash aimed at promoting Christianity’s influence through the papal reign of Pope Urban II. However, the claims are not as precise and based on the conquest’s categorization based on the analysis of a particular scene from the Crusade. As a force comprising mostly Christian believers and faithful followers of the papal leadership, the Crusaders generally operated as per the rules and commands of Christian leadership. Notably, the Crusaders were under the force of not only the leaders in the Christian territory but also; served the needs of the pope. Their service is acknowledged in the pope’s letter, referring to them as the Army of the Lord. Therefore, the Crusaders played a crucial role, despite their affiliation with the Christian dominion that made them be perceived as a force against other distinct religious groups based on their acts of conquest. Precisely, they could be summoned by the pope at any given time, presenting them as a viable force to fight the influence of other dominions, specifically Islam, but that was not the case during the First Crusade.
During the late 900s, the Turk empire comprising of various tribes influenced multiple regions through their quest to gain more power and regional conquest. Through their campaigns under the Saljuq family, the Turks entered the Christian territory, influencing the First Crusaders’ efforts to defend their independence and primal land. Based on Morton’s study’s assessment, the acts of the Turks invading the territory of Christians set the pace for the critical actions of the Crusaders. The impact of the Turks’ conquest attempt compelled the First Crusaders to retaliate to capture their territory back from the Turks. Consequently, massive battles ensued between specific clans of the Turks towards the Christian forces. As the Crusaders continued to gain popularity in the regions they conquered, their objective expanded, and one crucial expedition in their quest was the City of Antioch. Therefore, Morton’s view on the motives of the First Crusade is quite sure. Their first acts against any opposing force that threatened the territory of Christians were to defend the region and not annihilation of the Muslims.
Morton states that during the battles with the Turks, the Crusaders’ key objective was to persevere through their mission of reaching Jerusalem and not promoting religious wars. The claim is valid since the Turkish soldiers were made up of a multitude of different tribes, not only those who practised Islam but also others who still hold on to their Shamanism faiths, such as the Turcopolitans, Syrians and the Armenians. Therefore, the First Crusade was not a campaign castigated towards fighting the Muslims, but since the Crusaders are affiliated and commanded by the Christians, it would be a common misunderstanding of the critical missions of the Crusade.
The First Crusaders’ mission to reach Jerusalem through their conquest is also a critical factor that defines them as multidimensional and not religious. According to Morton, they concurred territories that presented an opposing force and hindered them from reaching Jerusalem, while some were considered to have treaties, for instance, the Fatimids. In the process, the Crusaders massacred not only Muslims affiliated with the Turks but also other tribes to ensure that their conquest to reach and recapture the City of Jerusalem was successful. The capture of Jerusalem from the Muslim rulers was another crucial factor that defined the Crusaders who massacred Muslims, Arabs, and Jews who inhabited it. And according to the book of Mathew, if the salt loses its saltiness, becomes useless, exhibiting the unworthy sense of the Jews who inhabited Jerusalem but were massacred by the Crusaders.
In conclusion, the affiliation of the First Crusaders to the Christian campaign to capture Jerusalem does not present any significant religious associations. Although they engaged in the constant massacre of common Muslims who hindered them from reaching Jerusalem, their objective was never to participate in any spiritual battles. Based on Morton’s article, the conquests undertaken by the Crusaders were to recapture Jerusalem from its inhabitants resulting in a massacre of tribes with different religions. Therefore, Morton’s opinion is correct; the First Crusade was not an act of war or hatred against Muslims.
Halsall, Paul. “Medieval Sourcebook: Urban II: Speech at Council of Clermont, 1095, According to Fulcher of Chartres.” FORDHAM. EDU (1996).
Morton, Nicholas. “Was the FIRST CRUSADE a war against ISLAM?” History Today 67, no. 3 (2017): 11-16.
Munro, Dana Carleton. Letters of the Crusaders. Vol. 1, no. 4. Department of History of the University of Pennsylvania, 1897.
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