If we're going to talk about the crusades, let's get the facts right.
In President Obama’s Prayer Breakfast speech this morning, he invoked the crusades as if they were the moral equivalent of modern Islamist extremism. They weren’t.
As historian Thomas Madden explains, “The Crusades are generally portrayed as a series of holy wars against Islam led by power-mad popes and fought by religious fanatics.” In reality, “the Crusades to the East were in every way defensive wars. They were a direct response to Muslim aggression — an attempt to turn back or defend against Muslim conquests of Christian lands.”
Since most of us don’t have time to write a graduate school thesis on the subject, here are three articles that correct many of the modern myths about the crusades. The authors are two of the world’s most respected historians of the crusades.
The Real History of the Crusades by Thomas Madden
Rethinking the Crusades by Jonathan Riley Smith
Inventing the Crusades also by Thomas Madden