What is the significance and development of the Crusades?

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One very important impact of the Crusades is that they helped to bring about the "Age of Discovery."  The Crusades were the first time that European armies had been sent outside of Europe to try to impose European ways on other peoples.  This attitude of wanting to spread European power and culture endured after the Crusades ended and helped inspire European exploration.

The Crusades were also beneficial to Europe economically.  The early successes of the Crusades gave European (particularly Italian) merchants greater access to the overland trade routes from Central Asia and China.  This helped increase trade and strengthen the merchant classes.  As the merchants became stronger, feudalism became weaker.

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