iamafish wrote:well, i was entertained by your suffering.
however, I dad rather object to the moralising of the last episode, mostly from Kathleen, and the more general assumption that the crusaders were just terrible, bloodthirsty and materialistic people. Bar a few of the crusade leaders, none of the crusaders went on crusade for money. Actually most of them sold or mortgaged land and put themselves and their families massively in debt to fund a crusade. Even Louis VII of France got hugely in debt to the Templars while in crusade. The crusades were never an economic venture because not only were they never profitable (but in fact constituted a huge expenditure of resources) but the whole concept of doing things for purely economic reasons just doesn't make much sense in medieval terms.
The most interesting thing about the crusades is that they happened because the crusades genuinely believed that what they were doing was right, even virtuous. They actually believed that going to the east to liberate or protect the holy land was god's will, and doing so would constitute an act of penance.
It's completely unhelpful and kind of silly to sit around in the twenty-first century and talk about how awful and evil the crusaders were, and make baseless and stereotyped assumptions about their motives and beliefs. I thought the whole point of having brad there in the first place was to bring a bit of historical depth and interest to the whole thing.
Anyway, rant over. Well done for actually getting through that appalling mess of a video game. It was entertaining to watch you suffer... although, next time, maybe pick a shorter terrible game, for your own sanity!
Let me tackle the personal stuff there first, Iamafish, before I go into your academic criticisms.
The "whole point" of having me there was to hang with Graham, Paul, and Kathleen, and secondly to provide a bit of PhD-level historical context for the viewers' interest and entertainment. That this maybe was not the historical context that you heard in school or your own reading should not be a surprise though. What can I say? That's how teaching works - when you encounter new information, it is up to you whether you will incorporate it, question it, or dismiss it. With my students, I encourage questioning, rather than dismissing; and that includes questioning your own prior understanding as well as what I have to say. That said, I will absolutely own any accusation you may care to fling that while paying attention to a video game and a conversation I may not have delivered lecture-quality ad lib speeches, and may not have explained a concept as thoroughly as you may have needed to understand, or indeed convince. To your points:
Yes, crusaders believed it was God's will (hence their rallying cry, "Deus Vult!") that they should take the holy land, but if you believe that "none of the crusaders went on crusade for money," well that's just factually incorrect. Lots did. But they didn't do it JUST for money. Just like today, the middle ages was a time where money mattered, and politics of power mattered. They just had different concepts about wealth and how it was accumulated, and different structures of power than we do (though not nearly as different as most people imagine). So while they didn't do it for "money" as you might think of it today (wine was actually a more universal coin than the Florin), the promises of wealth, economic, and political gain were just as real as the promise of salvation. More so, being tangible.
I don't even know where to begin with "doing things for purely economic reasons just doesn't make much sense in medieval terms," except to point out that the study of medieval economic history -how things were done in the Middle Ages for largely, or entirely economic reasons- is an entire historical discipline onto itself, and one that makes up the majority of my research into London's craft guild communities. Perhaps this distinction between how money and economics were viewed is what you meant? The distinction between money as we think of it today and modern economics? That the economic aspirations of crusaders was not realised in the crusades does not mean that they were absent, nor does their failure there indicate great piety, any more than a man who loses everything betting on a race-horse and losing does not mean that his motivation to do so was because he was solely a lover of animals and interested only in the horses' best interests. The debt that many of them took on is perhaps better seen as a failed investment, than evidence of single-minded and selfless devotion. That said, an alterior motive does not diminish the fact that crusaders saw themselves as on a holy mission. Some folk betting on horse races also genuinely like horses, after all.
That said, I can assure you that crusaders don't need you to leap to defend their honour. There are hundreds of wonderful romantic fictions praising crusaders, which frankly, protesteth too much to be read as anything but defenses in themselves. There are still more excellent, humourous criticisms of their slovenliness, their ignorance, and less humourous, their selfish and violent natures. While the 'demon curse' in that game was ridiculous in the extreme, check out the story of Sir Gowther, a medieval romance about a half human, half demon knight and his journey from monstrous acts, to bestial habits, to eventually salvation through holy violence in the Middle East. He's made a saint, in the story. Read between the lines and it is a story deeply concerned with breaches in chivalric ideals, and the inherant problems with the idea that violence could be spiritually restorative. Medieval people were skeptics sometimes too.
Part of a historian's work is understanding that documentary history is a kind of fiction: it tells a story from a perspective, and the goal of a document is almost never to preserve knowledge for the future, at least much beyond the writers' lifetime. You have to understand how documents are used and what purpose they were meant for before you can interpret them, and if you take your understanding from secondary sources alone, you miss out on that (and in my classes, you'd get a middling mark).
Most of the time, documents in history exist to present the writer's interests as being worthy, as part of a campaign to convince someone to enact those interests, or for political, social, or, yes, economic gains. As a result, many Medieval records claim that more or less everything was done as part of trying to maintain divine favour, particularly when it comes to civic politics. But in practice these claims are used as an excuse for everything from preserving positions in civic counsels ('lest unruliness crop up and the City lose the favour of the heavenly father', to disasterous results), to enacting laws restricting one guild's power compared to another, maintaining the exile of political enemies, or reducing the authority of rival court jurisdictions.
The point I'm really making is that history is complex, because people are complex. But the only view most people ever get of it is an oversimplified summary. You are right in that the crusaders cannot be viewed as wholly acting on economic interests: they aren't, but nor are they acting wholly on pious interests, and in the grand narrative of historical records, acts with primarily economic intentions (especially in, the Middle Ages), far outnumber those done with primarily pious ones. Churches were also indoor market-places, after all.
How's that for a bit of depth and interest?