Tag Archives: Crusades

The Crusades Drag On

Gustave Dore does the Fourth Crusade.

When I open a book called The Fourth Crusade I sort of expect to read about the Fourth Crusade, so the preface to Jonathan Phillips’s The Fourth Crusade came as a speed bump. It’s a two-page argument that the “holy war” has no equivalent in modern Western societies—we’ve given it up for the “just war,” so good on us. It became easier to understand what the hell this was doing here when I checked the copyright. This book about a turn-of-the-thirteenth century European army whose targets had nothing to do with the stated purpose of their war would have been getting its final polish at about the time George W. Bush’s Iraq war was getting started. The preface is a troll prophylactic. “I’m not criticizing the Fearless Leader!” says Jonathan Phillips. “Honest!”

Once you’re past the prologue this is a readable layman’s overview of a war that, even by crusading standards, was pure sleaze from start to finish. It started with propaganda: a round of sermons exhorting the faithful to head out and take Jerusalem back from the Moslems. (Wikipedia gives most of the credit to Fulk of Neuilly. According to Phillips the guy didn’t actually do a hell of a lot, but I wanted to mention him because I like the name “Fulk.” More parents should name their kids Fulk, is what I say.) Some people signed on, partly out of self-interest: crusading would buy them forgiveness for their sins. Which was great, because by the time a crusade was over they’d need it. Continue reading The Crusades Drag On