Interpreting the Project

On 15 July 1099, the armies of the First Crusade stormed and captured the city of Jerusalem. This notorious event, which several contemporary chroniclers reported in gruesome terms, was the climax of a three-year military pilgrimage set in motion by Pope Urban II in November 1095. The First Crusade led to the establishment of four new states, foremost among them the kingdom of Jerusalem, and it created a movement that in one way or another would last for very nearly 800 years.

The first century of crusading is perhaps the best known. The expeditions labelled by historians as the First (1096–99), Second (1147–49), and Third (1189–92) Crusades have been scrutinized for generations. They continue to form the focus of a considerable body of scholarship and sit prominently in the public psyche, providing the setting for popular films, books, and computer games. Less well known are the small-scale ventures of crusaders who set out independently for the eastern Mediterranean during the years between the “numbered” crusades. Recent historiography has presented such expeditions as little more than intriguing asides during studies of the larger ventures, but the Independent Crusaders Project is taking the first steps in exploring this understudied phenomenon.

The interpretative essays available on this page are short introductions to topics such as defining the crusades and the sources available to investigate the crusading movement. More will be added as the project develops, and please feel free to suggest topics for future interpretative essays that could be included here.