Source Exercise 2: The First Crusade

Virtual classroom
Statue of knight in front of church

Credit: Simon Horsh, Pixabay

A movement with nearly a thousand years impact

The First Crusade was proclaimed by Pope Urban II on November 27th 1095 in a field outside the French town of Clermont. His appeal for knights from across Europe to liberate Jerusalem struck a chord in contemporary society, but he could not have known that he was starting a movement which would last many centuries, and involve peoples from all over Europe and the Middle East. The word ‘crusade’ still resonates today, with President George W Bush causing huge controversy by using it in relation to Islamic terrorism post 9/11. A comparison is sometimes made with the Arabic word ‘jihad’, although this is controversial and may confuse rather than clarify the issue for students.

In schools the topic is often only taught at Key Stage 3, if then, and the full extent of the Crusades is not always made clear. Students rarely encounter the most recent scholarship. In an age where transcontinental travel is commonplace it may be difficult to imagine the difficulties of a mass migration across Europe to the Middle East without motorised transport, aeroplanes or satellite communications.

Bear these things in mind when looking at these sources and questions.