The Crusades are among the top five questions I get from my students in university. Here's are two quick resources to refresh your memory from class or for anyone interested:
1. The article "A Crash Course on the Crusades," by my former professor Steve Weidenkopf. He's also written a book on the topic.
Here are the five myths about the Crusades he addresses:
Myth #1: The Crusades were wars of unprovoked aggression
Myth #2: The Crusades were about European greed for booty, plunder and the establishment of colonies.
Myth #3: When Jerusalem was captured in 1099 the crusaders killed all the inhabitants – so many were killed that the blood flowed ankle deep through the city.
Myth #4: The Crusades were also wars against the Jews and should be considered the first Holocaust.
Myth #5: The Crusades are the source of the modern tension between Islam and the West.
2. The Crusades in Five Minutes video.
Some things to remember when you're arguing:
~The Crusades were a defensive, not offensive, war.
~Perhaps the person you're arguing with is overlooking the fact that in a little under a century the Arab Muslim invaders conquered through offensive, aggressive violence the Holy Land, the Middle East, North Africa, and parts of Spain. This fact doesn't justify any evils done under the name of a "crusade," but in my experience it is a crucial fact overlooked and unacknowledged.
~Historians, Catholic or not, agree that it's a very complicated moment of history and that there is still much work and research to be done in the subject area.
While we're at it, if you need it, here's a good article on the Spanish Inquisition.
Interested in going deeper?
*Here's a book on the Crusades by a non-Catholic:
God's Battalions: The Case for the Crusades by Rodney Stark.
(I love anything by this guy.)
*Epic: A Journey Through Church History by Steve Weidenkopf (Propose this to your parish!)
*Yours is the Church: How Catholicism Shapes the World by Mike Aquilina
(Just added this to our high school Church History curriculum)