History isn’t easy. At its best, it depends on how you read the tea leaves. At its worst, you don’t give a flip about the tea leaves. Today, we tend to begin with what we know – that is, we’re right – and work backwards. And that’s easy to do.
That’s because history is based on accounts from the past, with little to no corroborating evidence except other accounts that either agree or disagree. That leaves us with plenty of wiggle-room too interpret the info. And often, choose sides.
When thinking of that fragile thread upon which a real search for historical truth hangs, no event is more abused than the Crusades. In pop culture thought, that’s when a bunch of Tony Sopranoes went to the Middle East to rape them some Muslims and rack up the big bucks. Urban II wanted them out of Europe because they were causing trouble at home. On their way they butchered, raped, pillaged and ended up getting their comeuppance at Hattin and Acre.When I teach history to adults, I often find that most never heard about centuries of Muslims launching assaults and invasions against Europe. Some have barely heard of the Byzantine Empire. So when we walk through the history, eyes open and jaws drop. Sometimes it’s the same reaction I get when I point out that America’s Founding Fathers didn’t invent racism, slavery or imperialism.
Over at The American Catholic, there is a box full of resources and links that help shed light on this little event. The first clip is more partisan, but backs up the spiel with facts. The second is an ad for a video series on the Crusades, followed by a list of links. It’s worth the look, if you dare challenge our pop narrative.