Results of The Crusades

The results of the crusades on the barons:

Another and still more noticeable result of the Crusades was the weakening of the power of those very barons who embarked in the wars. Their fanaticism recoiled upon themselves, and undermined their own system. Nothing could have happened more effectually to loosen the rigors of the feudal system. It was the baron and the knight that marched to Palestine who suffered most in the curtailment of the privileges which they had abused,--even as it was the Southern planter of Carolina who lost the most heavily in the war which he provoked to defend his slave property. In both cases the fetters of the serfs and slaves were broken by their own masters,--not intentionally, of course, but really and effectually. How blind men are in their injustices! They are made to hang on the gallows which they have erected for others. To gratify his passion of punishing the infidels, whom he so intensely hated, the baron or prince was obliged to grant great concessions to the towns and villages which he ruled with an iron hand, in order to raise money for his equipment and his journey. He was not paid by Government as are modern soldiers and officers. He had to pay his own expenses, and they were heavier than he had expected or provided for. Sometimes he was taken captive, and had his ransom to raise,--to pay for in hard cash, and not in land: as in the case of Richard of England, when, on his return from Palestine, he was imprisoned in Austria,--and it took to ransom him, as some have estimated, one third of all the gold and silver of the realm, chiefly furnished by the clergy. But where was the imprisoned baron to get the money for his ransom? Not from the Jews, for their compound interest of fifty per cent every six months would have ruined him in less than two years. But the village guilds had money laid by. Merchants and mechanics in the towns, whom he despised, had money. Monasteries had money. He therefore gave new privileges to all; he gave charters of freedom to towns; he made concessions to the peasantry.

As the result of this, when the baron came back from the wars, he found himself much poorer than when he went away,--he found his lands encumbered, his castle dilapidated, and his cattle sold. In short, he was, as we say of a proud merchant now and then, "embarrassed in his circumstances." He was obliged to economize. But the feudal family would not hear of retrenchment, and the baron himself had become more extravagant in his habits. As travel and commerce had increased he had new wants, which he could not gratify without parting with either lands or prerogatives. As the result of all this he became not quite so overbearing, though perhaps more sullen; for he saw men rising about him who were as rich as he,--men whom his ancestors had despised. The artisans, who belonged to the leading guilds, which had become enriched by the necessities of barons, or by that strange activity of trade and manufactures which war seems to stimulate as well as to destroy,--these rude and ignorant people were not so servile as formerly, but began to feel a sort of importance, especially in towns and cities, which multiplied wonderfully during the Crusades. In other words, they were no longer brutes, to be trodden down without murmur or resistance. They began to form what we call a "middle class." Feudalism, in its proud ages, did not recognize a middle class. The impoverishment of nobles by the Crusades laid the foundation of this middle class, at least in large towns.

The growth of cities:

The growth of cities and the decay of feudalism went on simultaneously; and both were equally the result of the Crusades. If the noble became impoverished, the merchant became enriched; and the merchant lived, not in the country, but in some mercantile mart. The crusaders had need of ships. These were furnished by those cities which had obtained from feudal sovereigns charters of freedom. Florence, Pisa, Venice, Genoa, Marseilles, became centres of wealth and political importance. The growth of cities and the extension of commerce went hand in hand. Whatever the Crusades did for cities they did equally for commerce; and with the needs of commerce came improvement in naval architecture. As commerce grew, the ships increased in size and convenience; and the products which the ships brought from Asia to Europe were not only introduced, but they were cultivated. New fruits and vegetables were raised by European husbandmen. Plum-trees were brought from Damascus and sugar-cane from Tripoli. Silk fabrics, formerly confined to Constantinople and the East, were woven in Italian and French villages. The Venetians obtained from Tyrians the art of making glass. The Greek fire suggested gunpowder. Architecture received an immense impulse: the churches became less sombre and heavy, and more graceful and beautiful. Even the idea of the arch, some think, came from the East. The domes and minarets of Venice were borrowed from Constantinople. The ornaments of Byzantine churches and palaces were brought to Europe. The horses of Lysippus, carried from Greece to Rome, and from Rome to Constantinople, at last surmounted the palace of the Doges. Houses became more comfortable, churches more beautiful, and palaces more splendid. Even manners improved, and intercourse became more polished. Chivalry borrowed many of its courtesies from the East. There were new refinements in the arts of cookery as well as of society. Literature itself received a new impulse, as well as science. It was from Constantinople that Europe received the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, in the language in which it was written, instead of translations through the Arabic. Greek scholars came to Italy to introduce their unrivalled literature; and after Grecian literature came Grecian art. The study of Greek philosophy gave a new stimulus to human inquiry, and students flocked to the universities. They went to Bologna to study Roman law, as well as to Paris to study the Scholastic philosophy.

New civilization scattered over Europe:

Thus the germs of a new civilization were scattered over Europe. It so happened that at the close of the Crusades civilization had increased in every country of Europe, in spite of the losses they had sustained. Delusions were dispelled, and greater liberality of mind was manifest. The world opened up towards the East, and was larger than was before supposed. "Europe and Asia had been brought together and recognized each other." Inventions and discoveries succeeded the new scope for energies which the Crusades opened. The ships which had carried the crusaders to Asia were now used to explore new coasts and harbors. Navigators learned to be bolder. A navigator of Genoa, a city made by the commerce which the Crusades necessitated, crosses the Atlantic Ocean. As the magnetic needle, which a Venetian traveler brought from Asia, gave a new direction to commerce, so the new stimulus to learning which the Grecian philosophy effected led to the necessity of an easier form of writing; and printing appeared. With the shock which feudalism received from the Crusades, central power was once more wielded by kings, and standing armies supplanted the feudal. The crusaders must have learned something from their mistakes; and military science was revived. There is scarcely an element of civilization which we value, that was not, directly or indirectly, developed by the Crusades, yet which was not sought for, or anticipated even,--the centralization of thrones, the weakening of the power of feudal barons, the rise of free cities, the growth of commerce, the impulse given to art, improvements in agriculture, the rise of a middle class, the wonderful spread of literature, greater refinements in manners and dress, increased toleration of opinions, a more cheerful view of life, the simultaneous development of energies in every field of human labor, new hopes and aspirations among the people, new glories around courts, new attractions in the churches, new comforts in the villages, new luxuries in the cities. Even spiritual power became less grim and sepulchral, since there was less fear to work upon.

The Crusades produced marvelous change in the western society:

I do not say that the Crusades alone produced the marvelous change in the condition of society which took place in the thirteenth century, but they gave an impulse to this change. The strong sapling which the barbarians brought from their German forests and planted in the heart of Europe,--and which had silently grown in the darkest ages of barbarism, guarded by the hand of Providence,--became a sturdy tree in the feudal ages, and bore fruit when the barons had wasted their strength in Asia. The Crusades improved this fruit, and found new uses for it, and scattered it far and wide, and made it for the healing of the nations. Enterprise of all sorts succeeded the apathy of convents and castles. The village of mud huts became a town, in which manufactures began. As new wants became apparent, new means of supplying them appeared. The Crusades stimulated these wants, and commerce and manufactures supplied them. The modern merchant was born in Lombard cities, which supplied the necessities of the crusaders. Feudalism ignored trade, but the baron found his rival in the merchant-prince. Feudalism disdained art, but increased wealth turned peasants into carpenters and masons; carpenters and masons combined and defied their old masters, and these masters left their estates for the higher civilization of cities, and built palaces instead of castles. Palaces had to be adorned, as well as churches; and the painters and handicraftsmen found employment. So one force stimulated another force, neither of which would have appeared if feudal life had remained in (statu quo).

The only question to settle is, how far the marked progress of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries may be traced to the natural development of the Germanic races under the influence of religion, or how far this development was hastened by those vast martial expeditions, indirectly indeed, but really. Historians generally give most weight to the latter. If so, then it is clear that the most disastrous wars recorded in history were made the means--blindly, to all appearance, without concert or calculation--of ultimately elevating the European races, and of giving a check to the conquering fanaticism of the enemies with whom they contended with such bitter tears and sullen disappointments.