What were the social impacts of the crusades?
The Crusades were a series of conflicts launched by European Christians against the Saracens (Muslims) in the lands east of Europe. It is believed these wars commenced in approximately 1095.
The impacts of the Crusades on medieval society were felt for many years after – some permanently.
* The church and the level of power held by the Pope increased over the course of the Crusades. The Pope became a leader as the armies and resources of Christians were thrust into his hands. He was greatly admired with people becoming accustomed to his guidance.
Financial wealth came to the Pope as many crusaders sold their sometimes large estates to him for vastly deflated prices. On many occasions he was simply gifted them in return for prayers and pious benedictions. Returning crusaders who took refuge in church properties also furnished the church with many gifts as a token of thanks.
The increasing religious fervor also saw a rapid increase in gifts and legacies bequeathed to the church as it was seen as the guiding light in the fight against the Saracens.
* Economic Impact – The crusades caused an increase in demand for war resources – ships, people transport and food supplies etc. A very eager economy developed once the “spoils” of war returned with the Crusaders. Silks, Tapestries, perfumes and spices to name but a few of these spoils.
* The crusades undermined the existing feudal system. Many lords and barons failed to return from the Crusades as did many heirs. Many other manors and lands were sold to allow the Crusaders to travel east. The result was that many tracts of land reverted to the control of the government. The existing feudal system was changed forever with one of its key participants (lords/barons) no longer able to exert influence. The “flow on” effect too was that Royalty became stronger and the nobility weaker in comparison.
* Intellectual Effects. The Crusades opened the minds of many of the European participants. Traveling to the east, and having only seen life around their own lands, the architecture, dress, ideas and customs of these eastern societies ignited a desire to learn and the development of a wider world view in the eyes of those returning. It has been claimed that this was one of the factors that gave impetus to the revival of learning that Europe would experience in subsequent decades.