The Crusades were religious expeditions launched by Christians of Western Europe in 1095 to recapture the Holy Land in the Middle East (present-day Palestine) from the Muslims (followers of Islam, the religion established by the prophet Muhammad; c. A.D. 570–632). After the Muslims occupied these lands, which had formerly been ruled by Christians, the Muslims forbade Christians from making pilgrimages to sacred Christian sites. For nearly 200 years Christians of all classes participated in eight crusades, which were promoted and partially financed by the popes of the Roman Catholic Church, beginning with Pope Urban II (c. 1042–1099). People took part in the Crusades for a variety of reasons, among them religious idealism, political advancement, economic gain, and the desire for adventure. Although the Christians failed to occupy the Holy Land, the Crusades united Western Europe, encouraged travel and trade, and increased religious fervor.
Further Information: Biel, Timothy L. The Crusades. San Diego: Lucent, 1995; Halsall, Paul, ed. Internet Medieval Sourcebook. [Online] Available http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/sbook.html, October 20, 2000; Irwin, Robert. "Muslim Responses to the Crusades." History Today. April, 1997, pp. 43–44; Phillips, Jonathan. "Who Were the First Crusaders?" History Today. March, 1997, pp. 16–22; Saul, Nigel. "The Vanishing Vision: Late Medieval Crusading." History Today. June, 1997, pp. 23–28.