Criticism: History Of The Crusades - Essay

G. P. R. James (essay date 1854)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “Chapter X” in The History of Chivalry, Harper & Brothers, 1854, pp. 214–32.

[In the following essay, James offers an overview of the history of the Second Crusade, which began in 1145. James notes the societal developments that occurred between the First and Second Crusades, and provides an account of the martial developments and ultimate failure of the Second Crusade.]

The loss of Edessa shook the kingdom of Jerusalem; not so much from the importance of the city or its territory, as from the exposed state in which it left the frontier of the newly established monarchy. The activity, the perseverance, the power of the Moslems had been too often felt...

(The entire section is 7267 words.)

Oliver J. Thatcher (essay date 1901)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “Critical Work on the Latin Sources of the First Crusade,” in Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1900, Volume I, Washington Government Printing Office, 1901, pp. 499–509.

[In the following essay, Thatcher discusses and ranks the contemporary Latin sources of the First Crusade and comments on what these sources reveal about the reality of that Crusade.]

When dealing with the history of the crusades in the class room I have always met with great surprise, not to say incredulity, on the part of many students. The legends about Peter the Hermit and Godfrey of Bouillon have not only occupied a prominent place in text-books, but...

(The entire section is 3385 words.)

George W. Cox (essay date c. 1906)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “Causes Leading to the Crusades,” in The Crusades, Scribner, Armstrong and Co., 1906, pp. 1–19.

[In the following essay, Cox reviews the events preceding Pope Urban II's call for a Holy War in 1095, focusing on the ongoing pilgrimages to Palestine and their relationship to the call-to-arms of the Crusades.]

The Crusades were a series of wars, waged by men who wore on their garments the badge of the Cross as a pledge binding them to rescue the Holy Land and the Sepulchre of Christ from the grasp of the unbeliever. The dream of such an enterprise had long floated before the minds of keen-sighted popes and passionate enthusiasts: it was realized for the...

(The entire section is 5615 words.)

Steven Runciman (essay date 1951)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “Principal Sources for the History of the First Crusade” in A History of the Crusades, Vol. I: The First Crusade and the Foundation of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, Cambridge University Press, 1951, pp. 327–35.

[In the following essay, Runciman surveys the contemporary and nearly contemporary source material related to the First Crusade, discussing Greek, Latin, Arabic, Armenian, and Syrian sources.]

The story of the First Crusade is almost entirely covered by contemporary or almost contemporary sources. … [The] chief primary sources on which we are continuously dependent and which do not always agree among themselves need a general critical appreciation in...

(The entire section is 3454 words.)

Aziz S. Atiya (essay date 1962)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Crusade in the Later Middle Ages” in Crusade, Commerce and Culture, Indiana University Press, 1962, pp. 92–119.

[In the following essay, Atiya argues that while many critics cite the late thirteenth century as the end of the Crusades, following the “tragic exit of the Franks from Palestine,” the crusading movement in fact continued into the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.]


Crusading historiography, as already stated, has recently been subject to considerable revision and emendation, and older concepts have given way to new schools of thought. Until the last few decades, historians identified the span of...

(The entire section is 8870 words.)

James A. Brundage (essay date 1962)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “Proclamation of the Crusade” in The Crusades: A Documentary Survey, The Marquette University Press, 1962, pp. 14–23.

[In the following essay, Brundage offers a brief account of the events directly preceding Pope Urban II's Council of Clermont sermon. An eyewitness report of the Pope's sermon directly follows.]


The fruitless efforts of Pope Gregory VII to secure military forces to fight in the East failed in stemming the Turkish threat to Byzantium. Turkish advance into Byzantine territory in Asia Minor continued apace after 1074 and the consequences for Byzantium were nearly disastrous. Provincial governors and army commanders,...

(The entire section is 3634 words.)

Zoé Oldenbourg (essay date 1965)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Reckoning” in The Crusades, translated by Anne Carter, Pantheon Books, 1965, pp. 551–78.

[In the essay that follows, Oldenbourg provides an overview of the history of the early Crusades, examining, in particular, the social effects of the warfare.]


The Crusades have been glorified, discussed, decried, and judged by historians in many different ways, but they remain a great episode in the history of Western Christendom. A close examination reveals them as an extremely complex phenomenon, and yet, unlike most great historical movements, they grew out of an idea which was simple enough in itself. In spite...

(The entire section is 12406 words.)

Joan M. Hussey (essay date 1969)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “Byzantium and the Crusades 1081–120” in A History of the Crusades, Vol. II: The Later Crusades, 1189–1311, edited by Kenneth M. Setton, University of Wisconsin Press, 1969, pp. 123–51.

[In the following essay, Hussey offers a brief history of the Crusades from the point of view of the Eastern Christian Byzantine empire, discussing the conflicts that arose between the Eastern Christian rulers and the Western European Christian Crusaders.]

The middle part of the eleventh century was a watershed in the history of the Byzantine empire. It is only necessary to compare the successful expansion of the frontier under Basil II and his determined onslaught on...

(The entire section is 12651 words.)