Review Of The Book The First Crusaders

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This paper will discuss how Jonathan Riley-Smith’s book The First Crusaders 1095-1131 evidences a different reasoning for the time and cause of the First Crusade. In high school, the brief mention our instructor gave of The Crusades we were taught that it was either for financial gain or for the expanding of a Noble’s lands. The book The First Crusaders gives a more logical reasoning for those of West-European Christians to pick up a weapon and reclaim the holy lands that were invaded by Muslim conquerors.

The First Crusade was in 1095 in answer to the Turkish subjugation of Christian Asia Minor, on top of the previous Arab takeover of the Christian-held Holy Land. Over the last few years older simple explanations, such as: religious (Christian) millennial hysteria, the want for land, basic material greed, or the want of lands and/or prestige for noble non-first born sons were given as the reasoning for this act. However Riley-Smith shows us that Christians, from serf to royalty, answered Pope Urban II’s exclamation of Deus vult. Pope Urban II just merged war and pilgrimage into what we now call a Crusade.

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The First Crusade wasn’t just a war, it was a holy war being made holy not by the objective but by the Crusaders’ obedience in going to war. This is what makes it different from what came before. The Crusade was a pilgrimage and thus an act of penance. Crusaders who assumed the challenge with true purpose after confessing their sins received a plenary indulgence. This indulgence was acknowledgment that the Crusader accepted these sacrifices for Christ. Riley-Smith writes how these sacrifices were extraordinary, and the costs of crusading were outrageous. Only a few closely related families achieved the dominance and power in the Crusades. Lacking financial help,

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