The Crusades were a series of invasions of the Middle East by Europeans in the name of Christianity. They went on, periodically, for centuries. They resulted in a shift in the identity of Latin Christianity, great financial benefits to certain parts of Europe, and many instances of horrific carnage. The Crusades serve as one of the iconic points of transition from the early Middle Ages to the “high” or mature Middle Ages, in which the the localized, barter-based economy of Europe transitioned toward a more dynamic commercial economic system.
- 1.3: Consequences of the Crusades
- The Crusades had numerous consequences and effects. Three were particularly important. First, the city-states of northern Italy, especially Venice, Genoa, and Pisa, grew rich transporting goods and crusaders back and forth between Europe and the Middle East. As the transporters, the merchants, and the bankers of crusading expeditions, it was northern Italians that derived the greatest financial benefit from the invasions.
- 1.4: The Northern Crusades and the Teutonic Knights
- Often overlooked in considerations of the Crusades were the “Northern Crusades” – invasions of the various Baltic regions of northeastern Europe (i.e. parts of Denmark, northern Germany, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, and Finland) between 1171, when the Pope Alexander III authorized a crusade against the heathens of the east Baltic, and the early fifteenth century, when the converted kingdoms and territories of the Baltic began to seize independence from the Teutonic Knights.
- 1.5: The Emergence of the High Middle Ages
- Europe had enjoyed brief periods of relative stability earlier, culminating around 800 CE during Charlemagne’s rise to power. During the rest of the ninth and tenth centuries, however, the invasions of the Magyars, Saracens, and Vikings had undermined the stability of the fragile political order creating by the Carolingians. Many accounts written at the time, almost exclusively by priests and monks, decried the constant warfare of the period, both that caused by invaders from beyond the Europe.
- 1.6: The Medieval Agricultural Revolution
- In 600 CE, Europe had a population of approximately 14 million. By 1300 it was 74 million. That 500% increase was due to two simple changes: the methods by which agriculture operated and the ebb in large-scale violence brought about by the end of foreign invasions.
- 1.7: Cities and Economic Change
- The increase in population tied to the agricultural revolution had another consequence: beyond simply improving life for peasants and increasing family size, it led to the growth of towns and cities. Even though most peasants never left the area they were born in, many did migrate to the nearest towns and cities and try to make a life there; serfs (unfree peasants) who made it to a town and stayed a year and day were even legally liberated from having to return to the farm.
Thumbnail: Entry of the Crusaders into Constantinopel. (Public Domain; Gustave Doré)