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Historians have disagreed about the origins of the First Crusade.
What is your view about the development of the Crusade?
There is such controversy around the origins of the First Crusade because different perspectives have been produced regarding the main social class which started the crusade. These features include Eastern and Western ideas and the motives of crusaders such as whether the crusade started because of greedy rich motives of the knights or because of the poor people eagerness to journey on. Historians have placed emphasis on different elements of the crusade therefore resulting in different perspectives. This produces different explanations as the level of importance with regards to each element varies. Riley-Smith offers the most compelling argument when explaining the key factor behind the First Crusade because, whereas Asbridge and Frankopan may be seen as limited regarding the breadth of evidence used, Riley-Smith ensures to incorporate evidence from all social classes and by doing this he produces a more accurate interpretation on the origins of the First Crusade. Riley-Smith ensures that all evidence used within his argument is linked to the idea of how the participants were doing it not for personal profit but for the benefit of the people in the East as indicated in the crusade vow taken by the volunteers as “they were expected to go on wearing these crosses until they come home with their vows fulfilled”. He has highlighted how the crusaders were so willing to go despite the pilgrimage being “so inconvenient, dangerous and expensive” which reinforces the personal piety of the people as Riley-Smith has cleverly indicated through his extensive range of evidence that the crusaders felt a need to reach out to the east “this desire to go has been aroused in all pilgrims by God and the Lord Jesus Christ”. Through the wide-ranging proof used, Riley-Smith is in a better position than the other historians as he has covered more potential factors and is therefore strengthened. Asbridge, on the other hand, offers a less compelling but still effective argument on the origins of the First Crusade. Asbridge calls to attention the power hunger of the papacy however through the focus on context of the contemporary politics. When comparing the evidence used by Asbridge and Riley-Smith, Asbridge is seen to have less accounts of during the crusade and due to this less reliability could be given to his interpretation of the crusade as his evidence mainly focuses on before the crusade. Frankopan has brought a different perspective to that of both Riley-Smith and Asbridge as he has approached the crusade from an Eastern perspective by implying that it took place due to the influence from the East on the West and in particular Alexius and Byzantine. However the level of reliability given is limited due to the narrow view presented as Frankopan focuses mainly on Alexius’ influence whereas other historians indicate a relationship between key influential figures.
A strength of Riley-Smith interpretation is the focus on statistical evidence which indicated how the majority of Western crusaders returned back to the West “Of these 791 individuals, 104 at most are known to have settled in the East”. This supports his perspective that many crusaders had no intention of staying in the East therefore recruitment was not for individual benefit/purpose but because they wanted to “aid their Eastern brethren”. The quantity of analysis presents factual numerical evidence which is then accurately used by Riley-Smith as evidence to support and strengthen his argument. In addition to this, an account of Peter the Hermit’s meeting with the Patriarch of Jerusalem indicates that the aim was to gather people out of “Christian solidarity”. This supports the idea put forward by Riley-Smith as this account highlights how the West were aroused by the need to show kindness to their brothers in the East. Also it shows the poorer side of society also reacting positively to the call showing that all types of people were willing to journey on.
As a result this strengthens Riley-Smith’s position because through the personal piety it identifies religious motivation being the reasoning and it supports the evidence used by him to indicate all sides of society. Erdmann identifies in “A letter of Urban to the clergy and the people” that “they [the crusaders] expose their persons and their good out of love for God and their neighbours””. This indicates that by being involved in the crusade they were fulfilling God’s expectations. Erdmann has strengthened Riley-Smith’s argument as the letter is seen as important evidence as it is said by Urban which increases its reliability. Also it indicates the theme presented by Riley-Smith which is to liberate the Eastern churches. Supporting evidence from other historians such as Erdmann ensures that a strong positioning can be given to Riley-Smith as this shows that the argument he has put forward has been widely accepted from different historians. His use of evidence as support also is effectively used to affirm his positioning and due to this adaption his argument on the origins of the First Crusade is more convincing.
Riley-Smith uses primary accounts from different individuals who went on the crusade to indicate how all of society was drawn to crusading. This is beneficial for his argument as supportive sources can offer an account of what took place during the crusade. An example of this is Ekkehard the German monk who refers to the crusaders taking up the cross as a “passage of migration”. This supports Riley-Smith’s perspective that many crusaders (especially the poor) were eager to partake and get involved. Likewise Riley-Smith uses accounts to refute common ideologies of why people take part on the crusade such as primogeniture. An account of the Montlhéry clan indicates that the original motive of the people from a higher ranking were not a desire to claim land but led by God “at first to have been drawn to crusading by its spiritual benefits”. This shows that action taken when crusading was led by God. Both these pieces of evidence used by Riley-Smith highlights his ability to use a variety of sources to his own benefit and by doing this he ensures that his argument is consistent throughout. Therefore this ensures his argument is strengthened throughout as he uses more than one piece of evidence in an effective way to highlight this. Krey and August Charles collated different accounts of the crusade one of which was an account of Fulcher who indicated that “Christians were subjected to destructive and savage attacks” there were “moved by compassionate pity; and promoted by the love of God”. This supports Riley-Smith’s thesis as it provides another angle which also argues how it was due to the love the crusaders had for the Christians in the East. Therefore Riley-Smith’s argument is strengthened as Fulcher was a well-known crusader which implies that the information he provides is of value and importance. This becomes reflective on Riley-Smith’s argument and makes his argument more effective as the similarity between both interpretations increases the position in which he is arguing.
Although Asbridge’s argument on the origins of the First Crusade is not as effective as that of Riley-Smith because of the lacking range in evidence, he however still indicates issues within the crusade which are important to take into account. By heavily arguing that the crusade was designed “first and foremost, to meet the needs of the papacy”, the desire to increase the power of the papacy implies that the main key figure to be able to achieve this was that of Pope (Urban). This thesis is a weakness because by pinpointing the whole crusading event down to one main individual implies that Asbridge has failed to look at all other possible people which could have also been influential and by failing to do this thereby produces a limited perspective.
However Asbridge can be strengthened by his use of evidence as although his perspective implies the impact of one individual the evidence used indicates other factors such as the influence of Pope Gregory and the reform movement. The reference to political context is strong because it highlights how Asbridge has made a vital link between before 1095 and the First crusade and he has shown through evidence how the political environment has impacted the crusade. The reference to St Augustine’s foundations for Christian violence was seen to have “erected the crusading ideal” which Urban laid his foundation on. This evidence used from before the Crusade strengthens Asbridge’s argument as because he relates the situation before 1095 to the crusades and indicates how Urban exploited it for his benefit. Asbridge also highlights how in order to get and sustain support, Pope Urban dehumanised the Muslims “daily being butchered like cattle by the Muslims of Asia Minor”. This is effective as presenting the ‘enemy’ violently makes the crusaders more prone to “taking up the cross” and obeying. R. H. C. Davis highlights how there was a hope “to establish the place of the Papacy in regards to the secular power”. This is a clear indication of how the papacy wanted complete control which can then be further used to support the Asbridge’s idea. Davis indicates how the Papacy before Urban wanted to increase its power which indicates that the power struggle between the church and state had been occurring before Urban position as Pope. Davis increases the cogency of Asbridge’s argument as he presents the situation of the West before the crusade took place. The information provided indicates that Asbridge’s argument is accurate to some extent because it also indicates the problem of the papacy thereby providing truth to what Asbridge states.
Due to his own world view, Asbridge is limited because he is too influenced by the modern West Vs. East conflict. When stating the situation before the crusade took place, Asbridge implies conflict through his descriptive language used to explain how “Christendom was in one sense encircled by Islam, with Muslim forces ranged against it to the East”. This shows that the Muslims were against the Christians and a sense of a power struggle between the two sides which links to the time in which Asbridge was writing at. During the 2000s when he was writing there was a lot of friction between the West and East due to issues revolving around terrorism and he uses the evidence from before the crusade to highlight how it is still happening in everyday life. This could be seen as a strength for Asbridge because his evidence and argument can be seen to have high relevance as it can be applied to modern day life. However ultimately the time in which he is writing is a weakness as it hinders his argument from being as factual as that of Riley-Smith. This is because he uses his own interpretation of religious scripture as a way to guide his style of writing and ultimately the argument he puts forward. Another reason why Asbridge’s argument is limited is because many historians such as Paul E. Chevedden and Jonathan Phillips refute his idea of West vs East by highlighting positives regarding their relations. Philips indicates that a reason for crusading is not that of war but of “trade”. This suggests that the argument put forward by Asbridge is somewhat flawed as Phillips has been able to identify another cause which completely opposes that of Asbridge. By refuting, Asbridge’s work is not strengthened as it indicates that there are flaws which make Asbridge become not as convincing and/or effective.
Frankopan’s argument incorporates the Eastern perspective with regards to the Origins of the First Crusade. Although this is a positive as many other historians have failed to do this, Frankopan can be seen as too reliant on the East and due to this he concludes that the crusades formed because of the Eastern influence.
The clear focus on Alexios as the leader of the Byzantine empire and the role he played in forming the crusade indicates that Frankopan is crediting him as he indicates that “Alexios had sent out [letters] and that the efforts that he had made to solicit support for his empire”. This highlights the idea that Alexios was able to manipulate what the west were receiving therefore signifying the great political influence obtained by Alexios.
This interpretation is inaccurate because to support this uses evidence only from the East and therefore can be suggested can be seen to exaggerate the centrality of Alexios in causing the First Crusade. Frankopan makes reference to Ekkehard of Aura who supports Alexios’ commitment as he “recorded embassies and letters… sent out by Alexios to help recruit in the face of serious trouble”. This indicates that Alexios was keen to muster up help from the West.
This account supports Frankopan’s thesis which is a strength for him as it indicates that although he has created a different perspective, there are people who were on the crusade which can support his ideas. The continuation of accounts from different crusaders such as Lupus protospatharius that Frankopan has incorporated shows how “every day and without interruption, came reports from the emperor, countless Christians were being killed”. By doing this his argument is effective as he has indicated how Alexios was able to get sympathy from the West through indicating the problems which were occurring in the East. This therefore supports Frankopan’s interpretation regarding the large influence Alexios had in getting the situation of the East out to the West. His position is further supported by Erdmann who not only recognises Byzantine as a place of great importance “Byzantium… signposts of the political problem of the First Crusade” but he also indicates that Alexios (as argued by Frankopan) did use letters and other sources of communication as a way to “win back the larger part of Asia Minor for the Byzantine Empire”. The effectiveness of this is that it indicates that not only Frankopan recognised the aim of Alexios to rally support but other historians have also seen this. This is beneficial for Frankopan’s argument because it indicates that although Frankopan has touched on an aspect overlooked by other historians, he can still be supported by them with regards to the evidence they use. However even though Frankopan has presented an original perspective of the origins of the First Crusade, due to this he fails to take into account other factors which could have influenced the crusade also such as the Western response towards the East and the situation within the West. Much of Frankopan’s perspective is based on assumption as due to the lack of Western evidence to support his idea, it is unclear whether the West were actually drawn towards the ‘propaganda’ sent by the East or whether it was actually due to what Riley-Smith argued which was the compassion and religious duty of the crusaders. This presents Frankopan’s argument with a huge flaw as his thesis implies, through the reliance on the role of Alexios and the “Byzantine propaganda” that without Alexios the crusade could have potentially never have taken place. Overall regarding Frankopan’s argument, due to the major flaw in his argument he cannot be given much weight regarding the origins because it is clear to indicate that he has not taken into account many factors and due to this his interpretation becomes restricted.
By not taking other accounts (from the West) into account, Frankopan is decreasing the significance of his argument. As he is arguing how the East was influential he needs to add Western sources as a way to back his argument up. Failure to do this suggests that there is no evidence to back it up his idea which therefore makes his argument look imaginative and assumptive. Also the evidence used can be portrayed as documentative based evidence which is also a flaw: “churches in the east were being destroyed; Christians, especially the clergy, were subject to terrible persecution; Asia Minor had collapsed”. The constant use of documentative evidence suggests that Frankopan is just stating things that happened however not applying it effectively to his argument. This inability to do this is a hindrance for Frankopan because it highlights how he is not able to use evidence in an effective manner therefore making his argument to be, although interesting (which is a strength) also minimal because of the lack of a variety of evidence and type of evidence. To provide a wider range of evidence Frankopan needs to expand on ideas such as the importance of Alexios. Runciman has cleverly strengthened his own position by highlighting that Alexios is important due to the statesmanship he had with Urban “Statesmanship might still preserve the unity of Christendom”. This is used by Runciman to provide an expanded reasoning on Alexios’ significance. Because Frankopan has failed to expand his perspective he cannot be seen to have a reliable explanation for the origins of the First Crusade because he fails to provide a coherent, explanative explanation and due to this his thesis is limited.
To conclude many historians have argued different reasons for the formation of the first crusade because the historians have given more weight to different factors based on their interpretation. Riley-Smith can be considered to have the most potent argument. This is because through the extensive research he has been able to closely analyse individual accounts of people who have ventured out on the crusade and from this, he has been able to come to a conclusion. By doing this, his interpretation is thereby strengthened as it shows that the evidence he uses is not only of that time (which is significant in its own sense) but also reliable as the individual are participants and therefore their interpretation of what happened and why they went is important. As other historians have not delved into this I as much detail, this limits them because they become more reliant on their own view towards that interpretation. This flaw is evident in Asbridge and due to this his interpretation in comparison to that of Riley-Smith is presented as weaker. Based on this Asbridge’s outlook on the origins of the First Crusade is lacking because not only has he not taken into account the Eastern perspective but he also lacks the ability to cohesively link evidence of before the crusade to all the participants of the crusade. Frankopan can too be seen to be limited. This is because he has hugely become dependent on evidence from one side which is the East and due to this he has given it the most importance regarding how the Crusade began. This therefore suggests that Frankopan’s argument is minimal as whereas Riley-Smith has incorporated people of different social status’ as evidence Frankopan has not. Due to this is thesis becomes subjective as not only is he using only one side but within that he is giving them all influence. Therefore overall it can be clearly shown that Riley-Smith out of all three historians presents the most convincing argument. Chevedden states in his interpretation of the Origins of the First Crusade that “The image of warfare between Islam and Christendom has promoted the idea that the combative instincts aroused by this conflict somehow produced discordant views of the First crusade”. This suggests that all throughout history, interpretations have always been narrow because of the major divide between many aspects such as religion and class status. This is therefore indicating a major reason for the difference in interpretation which is culture. Riley-Smith. Asbridge and Frankopan have all come from different backgrounds and are writing in different times where their world was focused on different things such as Asbridge writing in the 2000s when terrorism was a major issue. This was seen to sway his view of the East very negatively. Therefore according to that of Chevedden, this is why the interpretations they have put forward of the same event vary so hugely as different events from their current life has reshaped the way they look back, reflect and write history about.
Like chevendden as they have both offered a different perspective and used evidence from that perspective to help support their idea. this draws upon a similarity between the two.doens’t take into account how the West responded to the East as a result of what they were hearing.
This idea of spiritual benefit from aiding the east is further explored by Erdmann through a personal account from Anselm of Ribemont “a participant in the crusade” who wrote “Let our mother, the Western church, rejoice that it has borne sons who have so marvelously aided the Eastern church”.
This view that the Eastern Christians were being oppressed has largely been argued by many Western historians such as Erdmann and Riley- Smith “in response to an appeal for assistance against the Turks”. This indicates that the West were truly concerned for their fellow Christian’s wellbeing. Therefore effective in highlighting why the West decided to launch a crusade while knowing that the costs of going were more detrimental than what an individuals who went would receive from doing so as indicated by Riley-Smith. Therefore this is implying that the main reason for the development of the First Crusade was not because of the common perception which states that it was down to the ‘iconic’ speech at Clermont given by Urban but in reality began due the situation in the East before 1095 which was the maltreatment of Christians thus leading to the decision by the Western Christians to intervene. Due to this it can be said that Urban and his speech at Clermont was not the reason to why the crusade began but instead the direct action of starting/physically
moving towards a crusade movement. The reasoning of why a crusade needed to happen derived from the ‘brutal’ experience Christians received which then led to the aid of which Gregory, Pope Urban’s predecessor,referred all of the West as- “defender of all Christians”. From this it is shown that Urban roles in forming the crusade has been over exaggerated as it was Gregory and “his work [which] created the platform upon which Urban stood at 1095”. Furthermore from this it is evident that the West had to acknowledge and or understand what was taking place in the East before 1095 in order to then decide to go there and “restore the Christians to their former freedom”. Historians such as Frankopan choose to focus heavily on the influence the East actually had in creating a reasoning for the West. He implies that the East were able to influence what the West were hearing and responding to “Every day and without interruption, came reports from the emperor, countless Christians were being killed”. This implies that the East were able to get the message out which then led to the West wanting to help and ultimately deciding to create and carry out the idea of a ‘Crusade’. This decision was then adopted by various people in the West such as Peter the Hermit who according to William of Tyre encouraged people, during his meeting with the Patriarch, to help those in the East out of ‘Christian solidarity’. This is an indicator that the evolution of the Crusades were in no way based on “material gain” as argued by Riley-Smith but due to the being “soldiers of Christ” as argued by Asbridge and wanting to act in order to “liberate all of Christendom”.
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8interpretations have always been narrow because of the major divide between many aspects such as religion and class status. This is therefore indicating a major reason for the difference in interpretation which is culture. Riley-Smith. Asbridge and Frankopan have all come from different backgrounds and are writing in different times where their world was focused on different things such as Asbridge writing in the 2000s when terrorism was a major issue. This was seen to sway his view of the East very negatively. Therefore according to that of Chevedden, this is why the interpretations they have put forward of the same event vary so hugely as different events from their current life has reshaped the way they look back, reflect and write history about.
Like chevendden as they have both offered a different perspective and used evidence from that perspective to help support their idea. this draws upon a similarity between the two.doens’t take into account