Were the Crusades about expanding or defending the boundaries of Christendom?
The eminent historian Jonathan Riley-Smith defines ‘crusade’ as “holy war fought against those perceived to be the external or internal foes of Christendom for the recovery of Christian property”. This would suggest that the Crusades were primarily an endeavour intended to promote Christian expansionism through the acquisition of both territory and religious converts. However the Crusades can also be interpreted as a means for independent Christian rulers to demonstrate their piety, amass wealth through loot and enhance their prestige; all of which would be beneficial to the rule of their own territories. In addition to this, the Crusades were intended as a defensive measure in…show more content… The First Crusade, for instance, was justified as being a response to the plea for help from Emperor Alexius Comnenus in repelling the Seljuk Turks who had invaded Byzantine territories in Anatolia. Equally, the Third Crusade was called to reconquer the lands captured by Saladin in an effort to preserve Christian rule in the region. In this essay I will argue that the Crusades were a complex series of campaigns which cannot be arbitrarily defined as solely defensive or expansionist exercises. Rather, their interpretation should be more nuanced; with each Crusade intended for both the expansion and defence of Christian territories to varying degrees. I shall be primarily investigating the expansion or defence of the boundaries of Christendom from a Traditionalist perspective within the First and Third Crusades, before taking a Pluralist view in studying the Iberian campaigns to determine whether Holy