Author: Jonathan Riley-Smith
Publisher: Columbia University Press
The Crusades were penitential war-pilgrimages fought in the Levant and the eastern Mediterranean, as well as in North Africa, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Hungary, the Balkans, the Baltic region, and Western Europe. Beginning in the eleventh century and ending as late as the eighteenth, these holy wars were waged against Muslims and other enemies of the Church, enlisting generations of laymen and laywomen to fight for the sake of Christendom.Crusading features prominently in today's religio-political hostilities, yet the language and imagery of nineteenth-century European imperialism has deeply distorted the perceptions of these wars. With this book, Jonathan Riley-Smith returns to the actual story of the Crusades, explaining why and where they were fought and how their narratives and symbolism became embedded in popular Catholic thought and devotional life. From this history, Riley-Smith traces the legacy of the Crusades into modern times, specifically, in the attitudes of European imperialists and colonialists and in the beliefs of twentieth-century Muslims. These depictions have profoundly influenced contemporary Western opinion, as well as Muslim attitudes toward their past and present. Whether regarded as a valid expression of Christianity's divine enterprise or condemned as a weapon of empire, crusading has served as a powerful rhetorical tool for centuries. Riley-Smith explains the formation and purpose of crusading imagery, providing crucial insight into the preoccupations of Islamist jihadis and the character of Western discourse on the Middle East.