Book Review: God’s Battalions – Chapter 8: The Crusader Kingdoms

March 20, 2011

This is part of a multi-part review of God’s Battalions by Rodney Stark. The summary is here. You can use the table of contents found there.

The Christian forces had retaken Jerusalem, Antioch and several other cities. When they had set out on the mission, the plan was for these lands to become part of Byzantium again. However, the behavior of Emperor Alexius had shown them that he was a traitor who could not but trusted with the lands and who would turn the lands back over to the Muslims if the ransom was right. And so the crusaders decided to stay behind and maintain control of the lands.

Stark makes the point that this period cannot be described as colonialism by any modern definition. The crusaders did not force the eastern society into unfair economic arrangements.  Neither did they enrich themselves at the expense of the existing society. Stark says that the term settler is more appropriate. The rule was not marked by oppression of Muslims. There was no organized effort to force conversions. In fact, there was remarkable tolerance for Muslims and the taxes on Muslims were lower than what would be found in neighboring Muslim states. Justice was administered fairly.

In short, the Crusader Kingdoms were not what they have been characterized to be in much of popular thought. They certainly were not perfect but they do not stand out as unfair or unjust societies given the context of the day.

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