Frequently Asked Questions on the Crusades

Helen Nicholson


Welcome to the FAQ page. I set up this page in 1999 in response to an obvious public need. As a professional historian working full time at one of the leading research universities in the U.K., I receive many general questions on the crusades from school children and adults with an interest in the crusades and no immediate access to an academic library. However, as I do not actually have the spare time to answer these questions individually with the care and attention that they deserve, I hoped that this page would go some way towards meeting this genuine need while keeping my employer happy.

The answers are aimed at people with no in-depth knowledge of the crusades. Colleagues who wish to differ are free to set up their own FAQ pages.

These answers are intended to reflect modern scholarship on the crusades. They are not intended to promote any political, national or religious viewpoint. The intention is to be as objective as possible and not to cause offence to anyone - although in a subject as controversial as the crusades it is impossible to avoid upsetting someone sometimes. As I have received complaints from both Muslims and Christians, I assume that I have got the balance about right. Readers should note that these answers reflect my views as a historian, not my personal views. They are intended to be OBJECTIVE. Therefore it is quite likely that you will not like some of the answers. However, as they reflect history and not my own views, there is no point in writing to tell me that you don't like my answers. I am not responsible for history. If you are offended when I state, for instance, that some medieval European Christians believed that the Muslims were great warriors and very sexy (see, e.g., Palamedes in Tristan), please DON'T write and tell me about it. Set up your own webpage, and if I think it's appropriate I'll put in a link to it from this one.

For links to other webpages, please see the answer to: 'Please direct me to some websites about the Crusades', below.

Responses to this page sadly indicate that there is little indication that religious peace will break out on this planet in the near future. Some readers have complained about spelling errors on these pages. These pages are written in U.K. English, not U.S. English.

For my Knights Templar FAQ page, please click here.

Please note: All answers are copyright © Dr Helen Nicholson, and any items from this web site that are copied or quoted in any form should be acknowledged.

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Question: Please direct me to some websites about the Crusades.
Where can I find on-line bibliographies about the Crusades, the crusader states and the Military Orders?
Question: Can you recommend any books on medieval warfare?
Question: Where can I find a good literature review about the Crusader castles in the Holy Land?
Question: Tell me about the fictional literature written about the crusades during the Middle Ages.
Question: What were the crusades?
Question: Were the crusades necessary?
Question: How can you justify the Crusades, as Christianity is a pacifist religion?
How could the crusaders justify attacking the peaceful Muslim states which weren't doing them any harm?
Question: What was the origin of the red cross as a symbol during the crusades?
Question: I want to prove that the crusades were not a religious movement. It would be helpful if you could send me any information on the crusades that would assist me.
Question: Weren’t the crusades activated by the Roman Catholic Church...NOT Christians?
Question: Weren’t the crusades as much political as religious?
Question: When did the Crusades begin? How long did the Crusades last?
Question: How many people went on crusade?
Question: How many people were killed during the Crusades?
Question: Why did people go on crusade? Is there any material in existence written by some of the individual crusaders themselves as to WHY they went on crusade instead of us trying to interpret the reasons ourselves?
Question: Who went on crusade?
Question: Did women fight in the Crusades?
Question: Do you know if there is documentation of Muslim women fighting in the crusades?
Question: Did the emperor Charlemagne go on crusade?
Question: Please tell me what I should read to find out about the First Crusade and the beginnings of crusading.
Question: Surely without the backing of the government, the peasants who organized the first crusades never would have had the funds to go into the Holy Lands?
Question: Didn't the king offer his troops for the crusade only because he wanted control of the Holy Land?
Question: I have been told that while campaigning the crusaders would eat local babies roasted on a spit in lieu of more readily available fodder. This sounds beyond barbaric. Care to answer??
Who were the Tafurs?
Question: I have read that more than 30,000 people were killed by the Crusaders when they entered Jerusalem. Can you verify this?
Question: Tell me about everyday life in Jerusalem at the time of the Crusades.
Question: In your books you mention that the hospital of Jerusalem cared for Muslim patients. Would you be able to direct me to any primary resources that outline these activities please?
Question: Have you ever come across evidence about the colours of the shields of the Knights Hospitaller from before 1259? Is there anything to compare with the Templar frescoes at S. Bevignate in Perugia?
Question: What route would a Christian from Acre have taken in the late 1280s if he wanted to travel to Cairo? Which cities would he have passed through, what roads would he have travelled, as well as how long it would have taken? I know it would have probably been unorthodox, but please go by the assumption that he "blends in". Also, could the described person simply enter Cairo and other cities?
Question: Is it possible that some or someone on the Christian side made any deals with Saladin re Hattin?
Question: Was the sack of Constantinople the result of a planned conspiracy? If so, who were the conspirators?
Question: Where can I find information online about the Fourth Crusade?
Question: Where can I find information online about the Children's Crusade?
Question: Has the West ever supported Muslims rather than fighting them?
Question: Are you not aware that many Christian historians have condemned the Crusades?
Question: I understand that the pope recently apologised for the Crusades and for all acts of violence by Christians against non-Christians. Would you care to comment?
Question: How did the Crusades impact Europe economically, and what were the results of these changes?
Question: How far did the crusades change the world? What was the direct impact of the crusades? What were the results of the crusades?

If you have questions about the Knights Templar, please click here to go to my 'Templar FAQ' page.

It is not possible to answer individual questions. However, if you find any bad links on these pages, wish to suggest further links or updates, or think that you have a general question that should be added to this list, please send an e-mail giving the subject as 'bad link', 'new link' or 'Crusades question'. Regrettably, it may be several months before I will have the opportunity to update the list of questions on this page. I am also always glad to know if you have found these pages useful!