The religious crusades consisted of a series of wars by Western European Christians. Their primary goal was to recapture the Holy Land (Jerusalem) from the Muslims. The Christians placed a sacred importance on the city of Jerusalem because it was the site of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The crusades carved out feudal states in the Near East, therefore these Crusades were important to the development of early European expansion and colonialism. This was the first time Western Christendom took a militant stand and took their culture and religious beliefs abroad. The crusades had an overall positive impact on economy and promoted the expansion and colonialism of European society.

The cause of the first crusade came from a powerful speech from Pope Urban II at Clermont in France. This persuasive message for a great Christian uprising to take back Jerusalem from the Seljuk Turks appealed to many people of numerous classes. Next, Western European warriors, mostly from France, who devoted much of their life to fighting, were called into duty to take part in the Crusades. The crusading army probably numbered several thousand cavalry and as many as 10,000 foot soldiers. (Spiel vogel pg. 259.) With this overwhelming power, the first crusade was a success, and accomplished its persistent aim of freeing Jerusalem. It also provided a Christian military stronghold in the Near East.

Although it seemed the crusaders were making outstanding progress, there were still many obstacles ahead of them. They faced uncertainties concerning their leader, the popes role, and had no agreement with the Byzantine emperor on whether or not he was supporting them or against them. This dealt the crusaders with another blow that divided them into groups, which didnt always get along. The second crusade (1147-1149) seemed to foreshadow failure from the beginning.

It was becoming difficult for crusaders to stay composed in the East. Muslim had begun to fight back, and recaptured Edessa, on the Euphrates River, this action (the first of four Latin states to be taken back) had begun another crusade. King Louis of France and Emperor Conrad of Germany headed the movement, although a lack of support and un-organization kept them from succeeding. The second crusade finished up to be very unsuccessful. It basically resulted in many Western casualties and no real gains of value. Kings and leaders attribute human sinfulness as to why their missions and tactics dont always go as planned.

People of this time still insist that God controls every aspect of life, including the crusades. Now, it seemed difficult to determine where future developments in the crusade would lead. The Military Religious Orders were created as a group that combined spirituality with knighthood and chivalry. These men took vows of obedience, though were professional soldiers, willing to spend long periods in the East. Following the second crusade these orders steadily gained popularity and support. They began demonstrating a certain high status and became players in European politics.

As time went on The Military Religious Order compiled more money, built castles, and became wealthy and ingrained. In the next few years after the failure of the second crusade, the Muslim prince Salidin came to power in Egypt. The Latin states were able to preserve themselves but were on the defensive. In 1187 Salidin inflicted a major defeat at Hattie and took Jerusalem. The church called for a new, major crusade, though three Western leaders wanted to lead their forces in person. Richard I, Philip II, and Fredrick I were the principal leaders, but all three rulers were rivals to one another.

With Richard I at the head, he took control of a series of cities along the Mediterranean coast but was unable to recapture Jerusalem or much of the previous territory of the Latin kingdom. After the third crusade, the Western forces were only able to gain access to Jerusalem through diplomacy, not arms. In 1199 Pope Innocent called for yet another crusade to recapture Jerusalem. However, the crusaders never fought the Muslims.

They were sidetracked by the Venetians and agreed to take part in a strike on one of their rivals, Zara. The next series of Crusades were not mass movements. They were simply military enterprises led by rulers moved by personal motives. Finally, negotiations created a peace treaty where the Egyptians restored Jerusalem to the crusaders and promised a ten-year reprieve from hostilities.

Even though countless numbers of people died during the Christian crusades, there were many optimistic effects for both the East and the West. After the crusades halted, various trade routes opened between Eastern and Western cities. Also, the Muslims developed new military strategies and techniques during the fights with the Europeans, and they united themselves against one cause, producing a stronger religious nation (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1993). Many Mediterranean trade routes generated an advantageous contact between the culture of East and West.

Many merchants from the cities of Venice and Genoa settled in Cyprus and Crete. From the Muslims these merchants bought spices, sugar, and cloth. Other merchants from Sicily and Aragorn traded for gold wool, and animal skins. Although, the pope tried to stop merchants from trading with the Muslims, he had to repeal his embargo in 1344. Most traded goods came from the Middle East, the combined efforts from both East and West brought about many inventions, such as windmills, compasses, gunpowder, and clocks.

From the Arabs, the Europeans obtained many new ideas and possessions. Merchants traded food and goods like sugar, maize, lemons, melons, cotton, muslin, and damask between themselves. The colors azure, and gules came from the Arabian people, and the Europeans added many Arabian words to the language of English (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1993). The Europeans worked with the Arabs on many scientific accomplishments, such as the windmill, the compass, gunpowder and clocks. The East and West combined their greatest minds and worked on science and mathematics (Child, 1994). Together the Muslims and Christians helped each other, and, together they somewhat benefited from the contact that occurred during the crusades.

When judged and critiqued by military standards, the crusades were a huge failure and disenchantment. But, on the other hand, it was impressive to hold territory under a Christian banner so far from home, given the conditions of transport and communication. The taking of Constantinople during the fourth crusade was detrimental to the Byzantine Empire, and put a halt on movements in the West. For a number of years, scholars were certain the Crusades made Western Europe much more sophisticated. They believed the crusades brought about higher standards in medicine and learning, Greek and Muslim culture, and luxuries such as silks and spices. Some have even gone on to say that the crusades brought Europe out of the provincialism of the Dark Ages.

Though many scholars no longer accept this estimation because of its simplicity factor. It doesnt take into account the trends of population growth, expanding trade, and the exchange of ideas and cultures that existed long before 1095. These trends would have inevitably encouraged East-West exchange without the military or the taking of Jerusalem. The crusades were an integral part of the middle Ages, but only served to hasten changes that were going to happen any way. By far the most important effect of the crusades was economic. The Italian cities prospered from the transport of Crusaders and replaced Byzantines and Muslims as merchant-traders in the Mediterranean.

Trade passed on to Western Europe at a magnificent profit. This power soon became the economic base for the Italian Renaissance. It also caused Spain and Portugal to seek trade routes to India and China. These efforts helped to enhance European trade dominance and colonization and to shift activity from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic.