Along with the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades are often brought up as “proof” of the evils of Christianity, and western civilization in general. Most of what is brought forward in this regard is simply myth, and has roots in certain anti-Christian, 18th century Enlightenment circles. The commonly believed myth usually goes something like this:
“The Crusades were a series of unprovoked holy wars fought by barbarian dark-aged Europeans against the peaceful enlightened world of Islam. They were led by power-hungry popes and other religious fanatics. These crusaders did this for land, loot, and forced conversions, and the resultant settlements and governments were the west’s first colonies. This caused Muslim culture to decline, and because of this, the crusades are a direct cause for much of the antagonism between Islam and the west in the present day. The are the very definition of intolerance, hate, and a black eye for the Church and the West in general.”
The problem with this is that this view is largely a myth, and at best a modernist distortion by reading modern presuppositions into the past. This page is primarily a resource to debunk the most common myths of the crusades, and to provide some “pointers” for further research into the matter.
The first place to go for an introduction to the Crusades is this article by Dr. Thomas F. Madden, called “The Real History of the Crusades.” Madden is probably the foremost Crusade historian in the U.S., and a specialist in medieval history in general. His “New Concise History of the Crusades” is one of the best resources to own on this topic.
After this, sociologist Rodney Stark has written a book entitled “God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades.” I did a sort of book review (Part 1, Part 2) for those interested. Stark’s book makes a great one-two punch along with the work of Madden.
Our local apologetics group recently did a study on the Crusades that I facilitated, and the powerpoints can be found here:
Finally, this is a topical bibliography, with internet links and journal articles to be added later. All books are linked to amazon or other similar retailer, and almost all major topics are covered: