This essay stemmed from the reading I did around the First Crusade when getting ready to teach it at Birkbeck. Doing this reading allowed me to pin down something that had bothered me when I’d been first taught about the Crusade, and eventually after having taught it several times I decided it might be worth writing up in scholarly fashion. Presenting to the Birkbeck History Society at their Wye weekend gave me the prompt to actually do that, and thereafter I toyed with the idea of getting it into print somewhere, and asked various people for comments on it, most especially as to whether it was already out there in some form. Though the answer to that appeared to be ‘no’, nonetheless there was little enthusiasm about it, and I concluded that really, it was too short and quirky to make a sensible journal paper. Combined with that was the clear fact that I didn’t have the time or inclination to do enough supporting research to bulk it out to a genuine contribution; I’m very interested in the First Crusade, but not the others so much and I don’t have any great mark to make there, so it has sat idle.
Having finally got myself onto the web, however, it seems silly to let what I think is a defensible piece of scholarly writing hide under a bushel, even if it’s not the glowing light that peer review might let through into a journal. In particular, the importance I originally felt these concepts had in the classroom leads me to think it might be useful to others teaching the Crusade to have it there to refer to. So it comes here. Please bear in mind that this was never really intended to be more than an informal paper, and that I haven’t essentially revised it since 2004, and have no plans to; also that I was probably not at the cutting edge in what was approximately my fourth field at the time. But it may help, or better still interest you. It goes like this.
Material Motivations for
Joining the First Crusade:
resetting the question
It should perhaps be a warning to the historian examining the question of motives for crusading in the close of the eleventh century that he or she is forced to cast the question in anachronistic terms. Not only was the expression “crusading” still centuries away from formulation,1 but it is seemingly a question that the chroniclers of the Crusade all thought more or less obvious in answer.2 This is not to say that they were agreed on what the motives were, as we can see by contrasting Anna Comnena’s conviction, that the Franks were as ever out for what they could take and had duped their people into coming along on a devotional excuse, with the portrayal of Robert of Rheims, of a divinely-inspired mass response to the call to aid Christ’s sanctuary.3 In turn, this is not to say that we should abandon all attempts to answer such questions as anachronisms, but it should warn us to take care with our answers. Obviously, there was a variety of motives and each individual crusader (or perhaps we should say pilgrim) would have answered the question slightly differently. Nonetheless there was a common set of parts from which such responses might have been built, and as Professor Riley-Smith observed when specifically tackling this question, without some generalisation we cannot advance in understanding.4
Nonetheless, as he also observes, prior to a spirited explanation of his own choice in this debate, the emphasis of different historians’ generalisations has varied considerably.5 In recent years, older mono-dimensional explanations, in terms of piety, millennial hysteria, land hunger or simple material greed, or most recently, the social pressure inherent in feudal society, have come under attack as not reflecting the complexity of the choice.6 All these factors will have weighed on each individual to a varying degree. So a first answer to the question is the useless summary, “people went on crusade for varying combinations of a set of possible reasons”.
A more methodical approach, to get us beyond this, might be to attempt to weigh up individual motivations where they can be discerned and suggest from these which factors were the most significant, but this runs into immediate difficulties. We can guess at the motives of a few crusaders.7 Despite the emphasis laid on his piety and good conduct by the author of the Gesta Francorum,8 the actions of Bohemund on crusade, as well as his previous and subsequent ventures against the Byzantine Empire, make it seem plausible that he at least, a prince without a principality, was out to grab land and the fame and money necessary to keep it.9 On the other hand, Professor Riley-Smith among others has drawn attention to Raymond of Saint-Gilles’s membership of the body known as the fideles beati Petri to suggest that his motives might be most easily seen in terms of personal devotion to the ideals of Pope Urban, not just devotional then but ecclesiological,10 and it is difficult to imagine why he should have abandoned his position as one of the richest and most powerful men in France on such a risky venture if not principally for spiritual reasons.11 But these men, perhaps the greatest of the leaders of the crusade, are hardly representative of the rank and file, and only in the cases of their peers do we have even a fraction of the amount of information needed to essay such psychological answers. For the average knight, the closest we can come is the words of charters in which they pledged or sold property to fund their voyage. Phrases like “I… going to Jerusalem on the one hand for the grace of the pilgrimage and on the other, under the protection of God, to wipe out the defilement of the pagans…”,12 whilst illustrating nicely the ambiguity of the practise of crusading at this nascent stage, do not do so in the words of the knight himself or his comrades in other documents, but those of the ecclesiastics redacting them, who might be settling old scores, or even generously ascribing pious motives where such were not in fact the case.13 One can hardly imagine that the ritual of such a transfer encouraged an open expression of a desire to get rich by murdering ‘legitimate’ targets. We are here in the great debate of how reflective of society charters really are, and that should be enough to deter us from treading further in this direction.14 With such a tiny dataset, and that so unrepresentative, especially of the thousands of poor pilgrims, both independent and in others’ followings, we can hardly attempt a statistical answer.
Therefore we must, if an answer is to be found at all, ask the question yet another way. We can perhaps understand the great variety of answers to the question, and the lack of progress in the debate, when we accept that the only answerable frame for this inquiry is “which motives are most likely, given what we know of society at the time and the information and knowledge available to those making the decision to go, to have been important?” This is a question that invites answer in terms of individual estimations of the evidence, and there is no guarantee that consensus can be reached. What follows is therefore no more than another such estimation, but I think that it is sufficiently supportable to make my suggestion, that current historiography is tending to underestimate the importance of material motives for participation and that such motives cannot be treated separately, worth stating in detail.
The Dismissal of the Material Motive
Modern popular views of the Crusades sometimes seem dominated by a secular distaste for this bloody face of religion (which in current political circumstances is perhaps preferable to enthusiasm for it), but akin to this is an assumption that I at least have often encountered, that the crusaders were, in the words of Frank Zappa on a rather different subject, only in it for the money.15 In this at least the academic sphere has failed to communicate that the prevailing opinion is now rather the reverse, and in the formation of this near-consensus Professor Riley-Smith’s work is crucial. If I baldly summarise his case here, it is only because it is well-known and can be more fully found elsewhere.16 The first of the two basic planks of the argument is that, in order to go on the “iter”, a vast financial outlay was required,17 and as well as instructions in fund-raising in accounts of Crusade preaching,17bis we have many charters from would-be-pilgrims mortgaging, pledging or selling property to the Church in order to go, documents which Professor Riley-Smith has all but made his own.18 Of course the Church was an obvious source of finance but is also the instititution which preserves the charters and therefore perhaps not the only one. Nonetheless, wherever the would-be crusader might have sold land, since this land was rarely the interest of him alone, not just he (or she) but their family and heirs needed to be convinced of the worth of the investment which required this outlay for an at-best-dubious return. The second plank is the evidence for this ‘return’, which is very small indeed. A few of the great lords, Riley-Smith suggests, may have come home with treasure worth the name. Those who settled may have been richer than before but most people did not plan to settle when they went and the vast majority of the army returned home after Ascalon. Though they brought back relics aplenty, which were a sort of treasure, they cannot have recouped their costs or had a hope of recovering what they had managed to sell.19 Going on Crusade, in short, was a bad bet, and Professor Riley-Smith believes that this makes financial motivations highly unlikely and therefore stresses the devotional ones all the more strongly. In his arithmetic, moreover, he is preceded by Ekkehard of Aurach, who came to similar conclusions about the motives.20
I do not intend to answer the question on quite these terms, but it seems to me important to wonder whether the would-be-pilgrims necessarily knew that they would come home empty-handed. Perhaps the rather weaker enthusiasm for the Second Crusade was the result of the crushing of this illusory hope.21 Obviously we must avoid anachronistic viewpoints: John France, in saying something very similar, evokes a comparison to the National Lottery to illustrate the eternal flame of human hope against stupid odds,22 but of course the itinerants were investing slightly more than the price of a few loaves of bread, and on the other hand the queues of hopefuls at the Lottery counters have not so far as I know yet set out across Europe on foot to liberate Jerusalem. This is in fact unfair to France, whose argument is more sophisticated, but we do need to consider the times of the crusaders before deciding what constituted ‘human nature’ and adducing it as a factor.
I would say in fact that it is quite possible that those deciding whether or not to go believed that there was money to be had, and that the main reason for this was that they were being told there was. Attempting to say what the potential recruits to the “iter” were told is of course highly problematical: for large parts of the recruiting area we have no evidence for preaching of any kind, and where we do its content is mostly unknown.23 On the other hand, as is well-known, we have several versions of Pope Urban II’s speech at Clermont, but very little detail on his other preaching, which is so often relegated to unimportance, and that speech was in every case committed to writing by the various authors after the successful outcome of the Crusade.24 The writers stress very different angles in their widely-varying reports of Urban’s speech. Nonetheless we may note that both Robert of Rheims and Baldric of Dol explicitly hold out the possibility of massive material gain in their versions of Urban’s speech, Baldric in particular saying: “You will get the enemies’ possessions, because you will despoil their treasuries”, which could hardly be clearer.25
Such incentives need not perhaps have been as explicit as that: Urban’s contemporary writings show concern at the possibility that people would go in pursuit of wealth rather than of penitence, but he did not as far as we know tell them not to go, only excluded them from the associated indulgence.26 The swords of the avaricious would have been hard to do without, one imagines, and perhaps we may wonder whether there were not people in the audience who would hear the words of the Gospel (which appear in Robert of Rheims’s account), “Every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, of children, or lands for my name’s sake shall receive an hundred-fold” with the implications that Robert presumably intended when he placed this citation shortly before a pæon on the richness of Jerusalem.27 In similar ways might have been interpreted the words that the author of the Gesta Francorum imputes to Urban, “Whoever wishes to save his soul should not hesitate humbly to take up the way of the Lord, and if he lacks sufficient money, divine mercy will give him enough”.28 It is difficult to see this as anything other than a suggestion that riches lay on the journey ahead, and even if Urban never said these words, the sentiment is only the flip-side of the privilege supposedly accorded to the pilgrims by him at Clermont, already referred to.29
While we are examining the chronicles for such innuendo, we may perhaps note the attention paid not just by Baldric but also by Guibert of Nogent to the extensive sufferings of recent pilgrims to Jerusalem, from whom the Saracens had reportedly, in some cases quite literally, extracted every last piece of money that they could.30 Again, this is not contemporary writing, and the rhetoric here bears an interesting resemblance to the report of Fulcher of Chartres of similar practices being perpetrated on Saracen captives after the fall of Jerusalem, when it was realised that some of the defenders had swallowed their money to keep it from the crusaders.31 Nonetheless, it seems clear that the suffering of pilgrims to Jerusalem at the hands of the Muslims was a theme of crusade preaching, as not only does it occur in some form in almost all of the versions of Urban’s speech, but it is also the central theme of many of the charters of the departing Crusaders as well as of Albert of Aachen’s and Anna Comnena’s accounts of the preaching of Peter the Hermit.32 This theme was obviously effective enough at provoking Christian outrage to be retained, but Baldric’s and Guibert’s versions may have caused some people to reflect that there must by now be an awful lot of once-Christian gold in the Holy Land, which would of course be in those same treasuries which they were to despoil. It may be significant that these themes are weak in the Gesta and the account of Fulcher of Chartres,33 both of whose authors had actually gone and found out how much money there was to be made; but equally, both seem to have been settlers and by the time they wrote may not have seen their initial motives for going, or those of their contemporaries, as they once had.34
Cowdrey usefully compiled a summary of other sources for Urban’s preaching, but Urban’s letters and other writings do not much enlarge our picture of the mixture of elements in his sermons, only the awareness that people would respond for reasons both pious and avaricious.35 Urban is however not the whole story; if we only knew more of what Peter the Hermit had preached, or indeed anything of the words of Robert of Arbrissel, we might have a significant portion of the recruiting grounds’ information. But we do not: we can only guess that these preachers too, and particularly Peter who, according to Albert of Aachen, had first-hand experience of a pilgrim’s difficulties in Jerusalem,36 would have used emotive themes that worked, and perhaps have been less concerned than Urban about the canonical niceties of indulgences, which Peter is not said to have promised.37
This then constituted some of the crusaders’ information about the likely chances of turning a penny, but not all of them. Repeatedly, in the accounts of Urban’s speech at Clermont and also in his letters, appear phrases like “as many of you already know” and even “as some of you have seen”, referring to the state of subjection of the Holy Land and (again) the exactions levied from pilgrims.38 Such pilgrims would have been a further source of information, and while not all of them can have turned preacher like Peter, many people would have been able to consult pilgrims, if they were not already familiar with their tales, and gather the truth of the preachers’ assertions. It seems likely that from these routes too those considering the “iter” would have been given a picture of a rich Holy Land held in check by an evil, grasping and above-all non-Christian power, legitimate prey for the righteously violent, who were after all well-used to making war pay.39
There is one last source of information that ought to be considered before I go about attempting to integrate this picture into the whole from which, as I shall argue, it has been anachronistically removed. That source is perhaps the grandest: Alexius Comnenus the Emperor of Byzantium.40 Again, sources are troublesome: Alexius is known to have sent envoys to a council of Urban’s at Piacenza in 1095 who urged the liberation of Jerusalem, but what they used as enticements is not recorded.41 We do have the text of a supposed letter of Alexius, which seems to require a dating (on context) to 1091, to Count Robert of Flanders also urging that he bring troops to the aid of the Holy Land.42 The text is fairly plainly not authentic, as among other things it professes Alexius’s willingness to be subject to the Latins if it would save him from the Turks,43 and while various arguments have been adduced to explain the existence of the text we have, whether or not a genuine letter underlies it is still unsettled.44 As we have it, the letter makes great play of the riches of both Byzantium and the Holy Land, and an epitome of it preserved in the Gesta Dei Per Francos of Guibert of Nogent also adds that the women of Greece were justly world-renowned and should be enticement enough for any red-blooded Frank.45 Whether Alexius was quite this bluntly base in his choice of bait for Frankish soldiery we should perhaps doubt, even in the light of Anna Comnena’s account which might make it seem as if that was exactly what the Imperial family expected to work on Westerners.46 In offering Byzantine money however he may well have only been being consistent, as Jonathan Shepard has argued that substantial numbers of Frankish mercenaries had already seen service with the Emperor in campaigns in Anatolia,47 and we have a letter from Anselm of Bec encouraging a young knight not to go to Constantinople in order to take such service.48 It is not therefore a question of whether any, but rather of how many such Greek-salaried knights had come back to tell their fellows in the West of the generous pay of the Emperor. We need not necessarily class all the mentions of appeals from the East (and, in Fulcher’s account, promises to answer them) in the accounts of Urban’s speech as later inventions of Bohemund’s 1106 recruiting campaign, as Joranson and Erdmann both reckoned the letter to Robert.49 Alexius was recruiting in the West, with whatever enticements he thought useful and effective. Given the ambiguities over leadership of the Crusade, we should not overlook the possibility that some of those going East were expecting to be paid, whether or not they also hoped to amass booty on their own account.
Material Motives in their Place
I think therefore that numerous possibilities of personal enrichment were in fact offered to those offered the opportunity of the great pilgrimage to liberate Jerusalem in 1095 and 1096. Whether they were duped into believing that their chances of this were worth acting on is however again, I think, the wrong question, even though such concerns must have met with an especially ready audience in famine-stricken France in 1096.50 It firstly places an undue emphasis on the modern concept of wealth as something that can be expressed entirely in money. There were other kinds of material gain available to the crusaders, most notably that of status and glory. The repeated mentions of renown and glory in the narratives of the Crusade, as well its denial to those who deserted, show this symbolic capital in strong relief, and Urban II saw this too as an unworthy reason for the “iter” which would not gain an indulgence, yet it has been left out of the discussion of material motives because unlike the Crusaders’ missing monetary gains it cannot be quantified. Yet this was indubitably one of the riches of the world, as with glory came status and with status came a following and power.51 This also came with money, of course, and here John France’s suggestion, that those going who did not do so at the behest of a lord hoped to step outside the hedged European patronage system and acquire lordly status themselves, comes into its own.52 Equally, status and following could be expected to bring wealth, and those hoping to acquire position or standing at home by their journey presumably expected some material expression of this to be theirs also.
Even however if it were expressly monetary wealth or treasure that was in their minds, still it was not alone. This is the key of my suggestion: those who heard the pious call to arms heard the other motivators too. Certain people may have responded more to one aspect of what they heard than to others, obviously, but they did not discard one perfectly good reason for going in favour of another. Surely, instead, the more reasons to make this difficult journey that could be piled up on the balance, the easier their decision became. It is not just that those who hoped to gain riches and station by going likely also felt outraged at the persecution of Christians in the Holy Land and heard the call of Christ like that of a feudal lord bidding them to his service;53 such a lord might, as Fulcher pointed out, pay with a twofold honour.54 Also, those who more deeply felt the call of the Holy Places and the injury done to Christendom and their godhead might also have grasped with relief at the idea that there might be some recompense, well deserved to good soldiers of Christ, for the losses incurred in going to Jerusalem. Urban II himself would probably not have objected to those going for devotional reasons amassing pagan spoils, but he might well have been in the minority in seeing the two concerns as separate. If I close by quoting the words which the Gesta Francorum‘s author places in the mouths of his comrades-in-arms at the battle of Dorylaeum, “God willing, today we will be made rich men”,55 it is not because I consider this divine mandate for plunder the quintessence of the crusading ideal, but because it shows that on the ground, Urban’s canon legalities were some distance away from the soldierly reality. Here ideas mixed and worked on people together; the longing for the Holy Places and the desire to liberate the spoils of the pagans for a more personalised Christian use did not strike Baldric of Dol or Robert of Rheims as contradictory, but rather as allies in motivating the minds of Urban’s audience: how much less, then, the potential rank and file as the first suggestions of this great enterprise reached them?
30 March 2005
Last modified 02 April 2012
1. See C. Tyerman, “Were there any Crusades in the Twelfth Century?” in English Historical Review Vol. 110 (London 1995), pp. 553-577, rev. in idem, The Invention of the Crusades (Basingstoke 1998), pp. 8-29 & 127-136.
2. Only Ekkehard of Aurach shows any sense of debate about whether or not to go, though he himself of course did not, at the time: F.-J. Schmale, I. Schmale-Ott (edd.), Frutolfi et Ekkehardi Chronica necnon Anonymi Chronica Imperatorum: Frutolfs und Ekkehards Chroniken und die Anonyme Kaiserchronik, Ausgewählte Quellen zur deutschen Geschichte des Mittelalters 15 (Darmstadt 1972), pp. 19-38 (commentary) & 123-309 (text), cap. 13/40, pp. 124-127, the relevant section transl. J. H. Robinson in Readings in European History Vol. I (Boston 1904), pp. 316-318, online ed. P. Halsall as “Medieval Sourcebook: Ekkehard of Aurach: On the Opening of the First Crusade” at http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/ekkehard-aur1.html, last modified 27th December 1997 as of 30th March 2005.
3. Anna: B. Leib (ed./transl.), Alexiade: règne de l’Empereur Alexius I Comnène, 1081-1118: Anne Comnène, 3 vols (Paris 1937-45); the older translation of E. A. S. Dawes, Anna Comnena (Komnene). The Alexiad (London 1928) is online ed. P. Halsall, “Medieval Sourcebook: Anna Comnena: The Alexiad: Complete Text”, at http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/AnnaComnena-Alexiad00.html, last modified 22nd February 2001 as of 30th March 2005; it is cited hereafter as “Alexiad”, and the relevant chapter here is X.5. Robert: Recueil des Historiens des Croisades: historiens occidentaux Vol. III (Paris 1866), pp. 721-782; the relevant section is at pp. 727-730 & transl. J. Riley-Smith & L. Riley-Smith as “The account of Robert of Rheims (written before 1127)” in eidem, The Crusades: idea and reality (London 1981), pp. 42-45, and the older translation of Dana C. Munro, Urban and the Crusaders, Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European History Vol. I No. 2 (Philadelphia 1895), pp. 5-8 is online as “2. Robert the Monk: Historia Hierosolymitana” in P. Halsall (ed.), “Medieval Sourcebook: Urban II (1088-1099): Speech at Council of Clermont, 1095, Five versions of the Speech”, http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/urban2-5vers.html, last modified 27th December 1997 as of 30th March 2005.
4. “The Motives of the Earliest Crusaders and the Settlement of Latin Palestine, 1095-1100” in English Historical Review, Vol. 98 (London 1983), pp. 721-736, at p. 721.
5. Ibid., p. 721: this article’s preamble, pp. 721-724, makes many of my points for me, but as it dismisses them with the body of the article, without further attention, I have felt it worth drawing out these objections to Professor Riley-Smith’s argument from his own material. It should be noted that Riley-Smith himself, in his The First Crusade and the Idea of Crusading (London 1989; 1993), pp. 41-43, now considers the methodology of this article flawed because of its focus on the settlers rather than the more numerous shorter-term Crusaders.
6. Discussion excellently summarised by Jessalyn Byrd in “The Crusades: Eschatological lemmings, Younger Sons, Papal Hegemony and Colonialism”, online at http://the-orb.net/non_spec/missteps/ch2.html, last modified 28th August 2003 as of 30th March 2005. See also Tyerman, Invention, pp. 5-6.
7. The most exhaustive treatment of this is now Professor Riley-Smith’s The First Crusaders, 1095-1131 (Cambridge 1997), but an initial selection can be found in his “Motives”, pp. 724-734; his inclusion of the three brothers of Zimmern must now be read in the light of A. V. Murray, “The Chronicle of Zimmern as a Source for the First Crusade: the evidence of MS Stuttgart, Württemburgische Landesbibliothek, Cod. Don. 580” in J. Phillips (ed.), The First Crusade: origins and impact (Manchester 1997), pp. 78-106.
8. For the text and a translation of the Gesta R. Hill (ed./transl.), The deeds of the Franks and the other pilgrims to Jerusalem (London 1962), hereafter Gesta: relevant sections are for example capp. 4 & 5, the earlier translation of A. C. Krey (ed./transl.), The First Crusade: The Accounts of Eyewitnesses and Participants (Princeton 1921), pp. 62-64, online as “5. The Gesta: Bohemund” in P. Halsall (ed.), “Medieval Sourcebook: The Crusaders at Constantinople: Collected Accounts”, online at http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/cde-atcp.html, last modified 27th December 1997 as of 30th March 2004.
9. On Bohemund see R. Yewdale, Bohemund I, Prince of Antioch (Princeton 1924; 1980). The hostile viewpoint of Anna Comnena evinced at Alexiad X.11 gives an idea of the particular reputation Bohemund carried among his enemies. See however the comments of P. Magdalino in The Byzantine Background to the First Crusade (Toronto 1996), online at http://www.deremilitari.org/RESOURCES/ARTICLES/magdalino.htm, last modified 21st July 2003 as of 30th March 2005, pp. 7-8, 34-38.
10. “The First Crusade and St. Peter” in B. Z. Kedar, H. E. Mayer, R. C. Smail (edd.), Outremer: studies in the crusading kingdom of Jerusalem presented to Joshua Prawer (Jerusalem 1982), pp. 41-63, at p. 49.
11. On him see J. H. Hill, L. Hill, Raymond IV de Saint-Gilles, 1041 (ou 1042)-1105, transl. F. Costa & P. Wolff (Toulouse 1959).
12. B. É. C. Guérard (ed.), Cartulaire de l’abbaye de Saint-Victor de Marseille. 1, 683-1050 (Paris 1857), no. 169 (1096), transl. J. S. C. Riley-Smith.
13. See Riley-Smith, First Crusade, pp. 36-41, and also J. France, “Patronage and the Appeal of the First Crusade” in Phillips, First Crusade, pp. 5-20 at p. 15, for not dissimilar thoughts on Godfrey of Bouillon; see also M. Bull, “The Diplomatic of the First Crusade”, ibid., pp. 35-48, esp. pp. 41-47, and Riley-Smith, First Crusaders, pp. 3-5.
14. Ibid., pp. 35-37, citing the work of Dominique Barthélemy, in particular his La Société dans le Comté du Vendôme de l’An Mil au XIVe siècle (Paris 1993); see also his “Debate: the feudal revolution. I”, transl. J. Birrell in Past and Present no. 152 (Oxford 1996), pp. 196-205, and the eventual rejoinder of Thomas Bisson, “Debate: the ‘Feudal Revolution’. Reply” in Past and Present no 155 (Oxford 1997), pp. 208-234. The matter is far from settled and I step clear of the debate here.
15. The Mothers of Invention, We’re Only In It For the Money (Warner Brothers 1968, remastered & reiss. Rykodisc 1995).
16. In particular, as well as “Motives”, cited n. 4 above and First Crusade (n. 13), pp. 43-49, What Were the Crusades? (London 1977; 1992), passim but esp. pp. 63-65 and now The First Crusaders.
17. As well as the above, see J. S. C. Riley-Smith, “Early Crusades to the East and the Costs of Crusading 1095-1130” in M. Goodich, S. Menache, S. Schein (edd.), Cross-Cultural Convergences in the Crusader Period: essays presented to Aryeh Grabois on his sixty-fifth birthday (New York 1995), pp. 237-257.
17bis. Pope Urban II’s sermon at Clermont in 1095 as reported by Fulcher of Chartres (see n. 31 below), “Let those who go not put off the journey, but rent their lands and collect money for their expenses”. The translation is that of O. J. Thatcher & E. H. McNeal (edd.), A Source Book for Medieval History (New York 1905), pp. 514-521, here cited from a reprint as “Urban II’s sermon” in D. Anderson & M. Bellenger (edd./transl.), Medieval Worlds: a sourcebook (London 2003), pp. 88-92 at p. 90.
18. See his The First Crusaders for his summation of this material, but also his “Introduction” in Phillips, The First Crusade, pp. 1-4 at pp. 2-3, and Bull, “Diplomatic”.
19. Riley-Smith, What Were the Crusades, pp. 63-65, “Motives”, pp. 722-723 and “Costs”, passim; cf. France, “Patronage”, p. 16 & Tyerman, Invention, pp. 17-18.
21. I am certain this idea is not mine, but have been unable to discover whence I obtained it.
22. France, “Patronage”, pp. 16-17.
23. C. Morris, “Propaganda for War; the dissemination of the Crusading ideal in the twelfth century” in J. W. Sheils (ed.), The Church and War, Studies in Church History Vol. 20 (Oxford 1983), pp. 79-101 at pp. 87-88.
24. See H. E. J. Cowdrey, “Pope Urban II’s Preaching of the First Crusade” in History Vol. 55 (London 1970), pp. 177-188, repr. in idem, Popes, Monks and Crusaders (Hambledon 1986), XVI, & in T. Madden (ed.), The Crusades: essential readings (Oxford 2002), pp. 17-29, whence online at http://www.blackwellpublishing.com/images/Content_store/Sample_chapter/063123022X/001.pdf (PDF file, requires Adobe Acrobat) as of 30th March 2005.
25. Robert of Rheims: as n. 3 above. Baldric of Dol: Recueil des Historiens des Croisades: historiens occidentaux [hereafter RHC Occ.], Vol. IV (Paris 1879), pp. 9-111, the relevant section being pp. 12-16 and transl. Riley-Smith & Riley-Smith as “The account of Baldric of Bourgeuil (written c. 1108)” in eidem, Crusades, pp. 49-53; the older translation of Krey, First Crusade, pp. 21-36, is online as “3. Balderic of Dol” in Halsall, “Medieval Sourcebook: Urban II (1088-1099)”.
26. This is at least the implication of the privilege recorded from the Council of Clermont, reconstructed by R. Somerville in idem (ed.), The Councils of Urban II. 1: Decreta Claromontensia, Annuarium Historiae Conciliorum supplementum I (Amsterdam 1972), p. 74, transl. Riley-Smith & Riley-Smith as “The Council of Clermont Grants an Indulgence to Crusaders, 18-27 November 1095” in eidem, Crusades, p. 37.
27. Translation that of Munro, Urban, pp. 5-8, repr. in E. Peters (ed.), The First Crusade: the Chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres and other source materials, Middle Ages Series (Pennsylvania 1971, 1998), pp. 26-29 in the 2nd edn, quote at p. 28.
28. Gesta cap I; translation that of Krey, The First Crusade, pp. 28-30, repr. in Peters, The First Crusade, p. 26 whence quoted.
29. See n. 26 above. Riley-Smith collects other references to such suggestions in Urban’s sermon as it is reported to us in “Motives”, p. 722 n. 4.
30. Guibert of Nogent: RHC Occ. IV, the relevant section being at pp. 137-140, the whole work now transl. R. Levine, The deeds of God through the Franks: a translation of Guibert de Nogent’s Gesta Dei per Francos (Woodbridge 1997), where it is pp. 42-45; the older translation of the relevant section by Krey in First Crusade, pp. 36-40, is online as “4. Guibert of Nogent: Historia quae dicitur Gesta Dei per Francos” in Halsall, “Medieval Sourcebook: Urban II (1088-1099)”.
31. Fulcher of Chartres: H. Hagenmeyer (ed.), Historia Hierosolymitana (1095-1127) Fulcheri Carnotensis: mit Erläuterungen und einem Anhange (Heidelberg 1913), and in English, F. R. Ryan (transl.), H. S. Fink (ed.), A History of the Expedition to Jerusalem, 1095-1127 (Knoxville 1969), I.28; the older translation of F. Duncan & A. C. Krey (edd.), Parallel Source Problems in Medieval History (New York 1912), pp. 109-115, is online as “Chapter 28: The Spoils Taken By the Christians” in P. Halsall (ed.), “Medieval Sourcebook: Fulk of Chartres: The Capture of Jerusalem, 1099”, http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/fulk2.html, last modified 27th December 1997 as of 30th March 2005.
32. On pilgrimage to Jerusalem, see S. Runciman, “The Pilgrimages to Palestine before 1095” in K. M. Setton (ed.), A History of the Crusades. Vol. I: the first hundred years, ed. M. W. Baldwin (Madison 1969), pp. 68-80, online at http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/cgi-bin/History/History-idx?type=goto&id=History.CrusOne&page=68, as of 30th March 2005. For Albert see n. 36 below; for Anna, see Anna, X.5.
33. See nn. 31 & 5 above respectively. Fulcher’s relevant chapter is I.3, and the Gesta‘s is cap. I; both are online, as “1. Fulcher of Chartres: Gesta Francorum Jerusalem Expugnantium“, from the translation of Thatcher & McNeal , Source Book, pp. 513-517, and as “3. Gesta Francorum” from Krey, First Crusade, pp. 28-30, in Halsall, “Medieval Sourcebook: Urban II (1088-1099)”.
34. J. Shepard, “Cross-Purposes: Alexius Comnenus and the First Crusade” in Phillips, The First Crusade, pp. 107-127 at pp. 112-113.
35. Cowdrey, “Pope Urban II”, pp. 20-28.
36. Albert of Aachen: RHC Occ. IV, pp. 265-713, the relevant section being I.2-5.
37. On the preaching generally see Morris, “Propaganda for War”, and especially Tyerman, Invention, pp. 62-67; on Peter, see most recently J. Flori, “Faut-il réhabiliter Pierre l’Ermite? Une réévaluation des sources de la première croisade” in Cahiers de Civilisation Médiévale Vol. 38 (Poitiers 1995), pp. 35-54, and C. Morris, “Peter the Hermit and the Chroniclers” in Phillips, The First Crusade, pp. 21-34.
38. For example, Fulcher, IV.3.3, “as many of you have been told” (translation from Riley-Smith & Riley-Smith, Crusades, p. 41, for an online version see n. 33 above); Baldric, as translated ibid. p. 50: “some of you have seen with your own eyes… You who are present, you who have returned, you who have sacrificed your fortunes and your blood there for God’s sake, know better with how many injuries they have afflicted you”; the charter of the knight Geoffrey cited above (ref. in n. 12 above), referring to wiping out the “defilement of the pagans”, goes on, “and the immoderate madness through which innumerable Christians have already been oppressed, made captive and killed with barbaric fury”, though this might not refer solely to Jerusalem. From Urban’s own writings, in a letter to “all the faithful in Flanders”, ed. H. Hagenmeyer in Die Kreuzzugsbriefe aus den Jahren 1088-1100: eine Quellensammlung zur Geschichte des ersten Kreuzzuges (Innsbruck 1901); pp. 136-137, transl. Riley-Smith & Riley-Smith as “Urban to all the faithful in Flanders, December 1095” in eidem, Crusades, p. 38: “we believe that you, brethren, learned long ago from many reports the deplorable news that the barbarians… have invaded… the Church of God in the eastern regions”.
39. Several writers make the point that any medieval army would have expected to take considerable plunder, for example W. G. Zajac, “Captured Property on the First Crusade” in Phillips, The First Crusade, pp. 153-180, at pp. 154-155; see also Riley-Smith , “Motives”, p. 723 & n. 3. He rightly points out there, however, that most of the booty captured would immediately have gone on keeping the army fed and watered.
40. See Shepard, “Cross Purposes”, which this paragraph follows closely, esp. p. 116 where he cites the “Acta Translationis SS Reliquiarum in Monasterium Cormaricenum” ed. in Gallia Christiana Vol. XIV (Paris 1856), Instrumenta: Ecclesia Turonensis no. 58, col. 76-78 at col. 76 which expresses the breadth of Alexius’s appeal, but also Magdalino, Byzantine Background, pp. 34-37.
41. Bernold of St Blasien, Chronicon, ed. G. H. Pertz in idem (ed.), Monumenta Germaniae Historica inde ab anno christi quingentesimo usque ad annum millesimum quingentessimum (Scriptorum Tomus V) (Hannover 1844; repr. 1985), pp. 400-467 at p. 462, s. a. 1095: see D. C. Munro, “Did the Emperor Alexius I. Ask for Aid to the Council of Piacenza, 1095?” in American Historical Review Vol. 27 (Washington 1922), at pp. 113-115.
42. Edited in Hagenmeyer, Kreuzzugsbriefe, pp. 10-44 (introduction), 129-138 (text) and 185-209 (notes); for an English translation and commentary, see E. Joranson, “The Problem of the Spurious Letter of Emperor Alexius to the Count of Flanders” in American Historical Review Vol. 55 (Washington 1950), pp. 811-832.
43. Ibid., pp. 814-815.
44. J. Shepard, “Aspects of Byzantine Attitudes and Policy towards the West in the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries” in J. D. Howard-Johnston (ed.), Byzantium and the West, c. 850-c. 1200: proceedings of the XVIII Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies, Oxford 30th March-1st April 1984, Byzantinische Forschungen: internationale Zeitschrift für Byzantinistik Vol. 13 (Amsterdam 1988), pp. 67-118, pp. 102-107, is the latest contribution I have found to a fairly occasional debate.
45. RHC Occ. IV pp. 131-133, transl. Levine, The Deeds of God Through the Franks, pp. 36-38. See Joranson, “The Problem of the Spurious Letter”, p. 816 and n. 22.
46. Alexiad, X.5.
47. Shepard, “Cross Purposes”, pp. 116-121.
48. See Cowdrey, “Pope Urban II”, pp. 23-25 for discussion of this.
49. Joranson, “The Problem of the Spurious Letter”, pp. 822-831, with a quotation of Erdmann’s views p. 822. For the Fulcher reference, see Thatcher & McNeal, Source Book, pp. 514-521, cited here from “Urban II’s sermon” in Anderson & Bellenger, Medieval Worlds, p. 89.
50. The famine is adduced as an explanation by Ekkehard: see n. 2 above.
51. There is no separate treatment of the desire for fame and status among the crusaders: it is touched on in Riley-Smith, “Motives”, pp. 722-723, Tyerman, “Were there any Crusades?”, pp. 555-557 & France, “Patronage”, pp. 15-17 and also Tyerman, Invention, pp. 83-87, though here glory is considered a moral or spiritual motive!
52. France, “Patronage”, pp. 12-17.
53. This last aspect is emphasised in Riley-Smith, What Were the Crusades, pp. 29-33, and the book as a whole serves as the neatest exposition of the idealistic motives available to the Crusaders: again I summarise here secure in the knowledge that Professor Riley-Smith has done his work sufficiently well that only reference to it be needed.
55. Gesta cap. IX, translation that of J. Brundage, The Crusades: a documentary history (Milwaukee 1962), pp. 49-51 ed. P. Halsall as “9. The Battle of Dorylaeum” in idem (ed.), “Medieval Sourcebook: the Gesta Francorum”, http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/gesta-cde.html#dory, last modified 28th December 1997 as of 30th March 2004.
Some very slight tweaks made following a fresh encounter with Fulcher of Chartres….
Here via Muhlberger’s Early History and I’m glad I dropped by. I’m teaching a sophomore survey on Medieval Europe, c. 1000-1450 and will incorporate a major focus on the Crusades. I’ve been reading up on the historiography for my own undergraduate survey days were long ago in the 80s and it’s good to see a balanced and nuanced consideration of material motivations as part of the overall appeal of the Crusades.
Hullo Ancarett, glad to see you finding it useful. This page draws vastly more hits than anything else I’ve put in this blog, and I dread the day some professor finds that their student has cited it and comes to look :-) But it seems to be doing what I hoped it would, which is rewarding.
“The repeated mentions of renown and glory in the narratives of the Crusade, as well its denial to those who deserted, show this symbolic capital in strong relief, and Urban II saw this too as an unworthy reason for the “iter” which would not gain an indulgence, yet it has been left out of the discussion of material motives because unlike the Crusaders’ missing monetary gains it cannot be quantified. Yet this was indubitably one of the riches of the world, as with glory came status and with status came a following and power.51 This also came with money, of course, and here John France’s suggestion, that those going who did not do so at the behest of a lord hoped to step outside the hedged European patronage system and acquire lordly status themselves, comes into its own.”
As someone who has written two books on formal deeds of arms, I take France’s ideas very seriously. Men at arms in any medieval era took big chances in an effort to acquire or maintain an exclusive status — that of brave, capable and dangerous warrior. Most people did not do this stuff — they made more cautious choices.
Another weakness in the Riley-Smith pseudo-consensus is that his charter writers are part of the richest and most influential people on crusade; even if there were much richer ones, they were very near the top. For each mounted knight, add one guy to hold the warhorse, one to hand him the lance, one to do the laundry for the previous three…
More on this later on my blog.
A few histories of the First Crusade that I’ve seen are more perplexed by the presence of the many poor than I think they need to be; as you say, there was employment for them… Thankyou for the other comments too, though, while I agree with France there, I find it difficult to accept everything he says in that paper. His work is sometimes—how to put it—so penetrating that its flanks are left vulnerable…
I think the poor, or at least some of them, were using this consecrated military activity as a way of social (as well as spiritual) promotion.
That makes sense, yes, I’d never thought of the process working that far down the social scale but it is exactly what I’d expect now that I am directed to think about it. Thankyou, when next I get to teach Crusades that point will be in there…
I just thought I would write to say how much I enjoyed your piece on Crusader Motivations.
I am a mature undergrad and my essay title is to do with why so many people took part in the First Crusade. I find the “religious ideals” thing so incredibly frustrating, it is inconceivable that so many people went on Crusade purely for religious reasons.
I think people of all eschelons in society could see an opportunity for advancement when one arose.
Again, I really enjoyed your piece.
it was a different time back then. religion was so overpowering and people were so afraid of sin that the crusade (and its promise of removing sin/penance) was simply too big an opportunity for many to miss.
Ah, but by itself that fails to explain why everyone didn’t just pile into monasteries. No monocausal explanation will do, especially one based on immanent social factors, because the First Crusade was something new. So you have to think in terms of change, not situation.
Jerusalem, the atraction of the hearthly and celestial town, this is what was new
Surely not. Jerusalem had been a centre of Christianity ever since the religion’s inception. What had certainly changed was the level of access to it from the West, however, partly because of a greater economic surplus allowing more people to travel widely, partly because of a deepening popular piety that we don’t fully understand and partly because of Byzantine pressure on the Arab city-states that led to the opening of those routes, which were then of course closed or at least clogged in the 1070s. But even then, twenty years for the protest to reach critical mass? It can’t be the only new factor.
Do you consider this comment to be in contention with the idea that Jerusalem was coming to occupy a much more important position in eleventh-century Latin Christianity? There certainly seems to be some distinction between this idea and the second of your three reasons.
I don’t think those two statements are in conflict, no; a burgeoning popular piety could presumably have contained an attachment to Jerusalem and the Holy Places. I’m just not aware of any sign of such an attachment that excelled, for example, the success of texts like Adomnán’s De locis sanctis in earlier centuries. Until Cowdrey wrote his 1970 paper the scholarship wasn’t even sure that Pope Urban II had mentioned Jerusalem in his preaching! Even with Cowdrey’s point of view accepted, it hardly sings out compared to the themes of brotherly love and pagan horridness. Would you claim otherwise?
The Cowdrey paper I mean being his “Pope Urban II’s preaching of the First Crusade” in History Vol. 55 (London 1970), pp. 177-188, repr. in H. E. J. Cowdrey, Popes, monks and crusaders, History 27 (London 1984), XVI, and in Thomas F. Madden (ed.), The Crusades: essential readings (Oxford 2002), pp. 16-29.)
No, I wouldn’t dispute that – though I think it’s important that what Urban II said or emphasized and what varying subsets of crusaders responded to are not necessarily the same thing.
I’m really just a humble student repeating some basic suggestions which I picked up, I believe, from Bill Jordan’s “Europe in the High Middle Ages” (2001) and from Riley-Smith “The First Crusade and the Idea of Crusading” (1991). Mainly what they’re talking about is increased 10th and 11th century pilgrimages and people starting name their daughters Jerusalem. They’d made it seem to me that there was a new attraction to Jerusalem building shortly before the First Crusade. Maybe I’m splitting hairs, but doesn’t “deepening popular piety” suggest this as well?
I guess what I’m wondering is if Jerusalem was achieving some new prominence outside the specific context of its liberation. You say, not really.
Also, this formatting is getting out of control.
The formatting is stupid, I agree; an experiment with a new theme will occur soon. Riley-Smith’s material I had managed to forget, it’s been so long since I read that book. I wouldn’t want to gainsay it now, he certainly knows the documents better than me for that period. I too could point at several tenth-century women from Catalonia called Gerosòlima, and none before, though I think it should be pointed out, in that case, that firstly that’s much earlier (and yet no Crusade for a century), and secondly that Catalonia basically has no Crusade response we can document in 1095. So though I wouldn’t want to deny the growth of the idea I still question whether it’s a new or the most significant factor.
I do sustain a christian ideology Jerosolimitan centrality after 1000ad. Schematically: before 1000ad, the christian position was a passive one; the hope for salvation, the wait for Jesus’ second comming, resurection of dead, etc. All that changed after millenium. The new moto was that the passed away ‘day’ (aka 1000 years) were the Christ’s reign, and the next episode would be the final battle against a delivered Devil, Gog/Magog at Armaghedon, and the final comming of the celestial Jerusalem (moreless following John’s apocalypse). So yes, Jerusalem had an different role after / post millenium for christianity.
Interesting, especially in the light of some writers (especially—maybe only?—Iberian ones) to interpret the story of Gog and Magog as relating to the Muslims. I could certainly see that the Millennial tie-in would add significance to Jerusalem in certain thought-worlds, but this leads us into the very tangly debate over how many people really cared about the Millennium or had it pinned to the same date as anyone else. At the least, I suppose I would have to conclude that (a) we couldn’t have any kind of Millennial fever before 1000 (or before 1033, really, for those counting precisely) and (b) over time more and more potential dates would clock past and those who reckoned them would fall into the camp that you describe. But there is as I say a considerable argument about whether that mode of thought was at all widespread or significant!
Happy to be of help, that’s what I put it here for!
I haven’t read it, but Brigitte Kasten has apparently written an article that sounds very relevant:
Liebe, Furcht und andere Gründe, nicht auf den fünften Kreuzzug (1217-1221) zu gehen, in: Zurückbleiben. Der vernachlässigte Teil der Migrationsgeschichte, ed. Andreas Gestrich und Marita Krauss (Stuttgarter Beiträge zur historischen Migrationsforschung 6), Stuttgart 2006, pp. 89-124.
Ah, that could be very interesting, thankyou. I’m less interested in why people went on the subsequent Crusades than I am in the First, simply because the First’s success and its legacy present obvious reasons to go in themselves; but reasons not to go would be all the more interesting later on because of that same circumstance. Also, of course, Brigitte Kasten. Thankyou.
Great contents about the crusades history. But we need you to put some websites for useful references please http://thecrusades.wordpress.com
I don’t see any benefit to adding either your site or the one from which you appear to have got all your content to what is not supposed to be a general history. I got my points from elsewhere and my existing references make it perfectly clear where (except the one that doesn’t).
I am a middle school teacher in NC and came across your site while researching the Crusades for my history class this year. I just wanted to thank you for the great information and articles.
We would love it if you could write a couple articles for us, link to us to help us spread trusted resources to other teachers, or even if Tweet or “Like Us” on Facebook. Anything is much appreciated in our quest to spread trusted resources.
Thanks and keep the great resources coming
I’m glad you found this article useful, but it doesn’t look, from what you link to, as if I have much contribution to make here. I suspect that if I corrected that article, for example, it would take it rather out of your audience bracket. And, without that kind of correction, I don’t think I’d want to put my name near it, I’m afraid.
If you have any suggestions as to how we can correct it that would be helpful. Or if you would like to write some other articles that are more on topic that would be great as well
The topic’s fine, but the grammar is shaky and the facts and analysis very one-dimensional. Maybe that’s OK for a school resource, but I’m not at all used to writing at that level. Let me give you an example. The current text contains this:
I don’t think I could get that into something I’m happy with without trebling the length. It would become something like:
The end result would be about four times the length of the current page, and no better than any of the books I might refer someone to instead. And anything less could leave people with misconceptions I don’t want to be responsible for. This is why academics rarely write school texts, alas. We know too much to leave enough out.
hello,I’m from University of Cambridge
My thesis cited your articles, if that violated your copyright, like send an email to with me.
That’s fine, as long as they were cited as per regulations for your thesis of course! It’s as open to fair use as any other academic publication.
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We read informative papers about the crusade movement in this website http://crusades-medieval.blogspot.com
Out of nesting reply..
Specially if you consider that goths claimed to be that very same Gog! :)
But I was not thinking about any millenial fewer, at all. Many of the pre 1000ad documents cite fear of (a sometimes inminent) eternal judice; I guest that those number declined in the course of C11, while at the same time, the number of occurrences of ‘fight for religion’ motives, increased. So, let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water, Silvester II was demonized shorty after his dead (with possesion at the midnight mass of 31-XII-999 included), so the millenial syndrome is not a modern conception; that this was a massive concern, that’s a modern and imo righty discredited one. The switch between passive (pre-millenial) to active (post millenial) christian positions took some generations of ideologues to evolve.
I guess, a possible test, could be to count the % of references about celestial Jerusalem between C10 and C11 sources.
I am vicariously unimpressed by WordPress’ spam filter…
I don’t know what’s up here, all those comments were flagged as spam but displayed anyway (as opposed to forty-odd more that weren’t). Something blipped, presumably! Nice to know it’s being watched I suppose…
My apologies if this question seems a little obvious, but what is the name of the author who wrote this piece? Interesting in citing it for my Undergraduate disseration.
If that’s a serious question, I would counsel against citing it alone, as it was never peer-reviewed; I would advise you to make reference instead to the sources it uses, and if you want to be courteous, then note that they were cited in this piece. That is, the only basis you have to assume this is founded on anything at all is by checking its sources, as no-one else has vetted it bar a cursory look-over by Alan Murray once upon a time. With the proviso, however, the author is none other than my humble self, your host, Jonathan Jarrett. I hadn’t until now realised that my name doesn’t appear at the top as with regular posts. I probably ought to do something about that, thankyou for mentioning it…
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Your argument seems to be that since it was costly to crusade and almost nobody turned a profit it must follow that most did NOT crusade with turning a profit in mind. I would point to the California gold rush as an example of PURELY financial motives that also existed in an environment of very little chance for actual financial gain. Almost no 49er returned with a profit. So by your logic a historian could conclude in 600 years that the 49ers had other than monetary motives.
Your line of argument is in fact more or less my own, though I, following John France, use the example of the National Lottery instead. The point of view you attack here is not mine, but Jonathan Riley-Smith’s, attributed pretty clearly in the fifth paragraph and then contested. May I invite you to take a second look?
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The article seems to suggest that both spiritual and material motivations were at play in the crusades. While the majority were simply obeying the papal’s call to cleanse Jerusalem of pagans, some aimed at gaining personal wealth
No, that’s not quite what I’m arguing there. My point is that people’s motives are not unmixed; while a few people may only have thought of the need to protect their fellow Christians, or alternatively of plunder and self-advancement, most people will have hoped that one might permit them also to achieve the other. I don’t think we can possibly assess the relative strengths of those different parts of the continuum, however.