TimONeill wrote:U-96 wrote:Yes and that's what I'm refering to, the crusades as a purely defensive war, the defense of Christendom.
It was a defence of the holy places in the east, not of "Christendom". They went to retake and hold the sacred sites of Christianity - Jerusalem, Nazareth, Bethlehem etc, not to defend Europe against Muslim encroachment, as Stark tries to claim.
From current studies on the subject there is no doubt that it was regarded as no more than the defense of Christendom...
(In talking about the first period of the crusades 1095 to the end of the sixteenth century)
"There is some overlap between the periods, but broadly speaking, during the first, the Muslims were a continuing threat to Western Europe and the defense of Christendom was seen as a pressing concern."
The Historiography of the Crusades - Giles Constable
I don't know if Prof Stark's arguments as to why are actually valid as it differs from other scholars, but I know for sure that the thesis you call 'They started it', is now the predominant theory among scholars in this academic field. The world's most renowned crusade historians (like Jonathan Riley-Smith, William Urban, Thomas F. Madden, Constable) put forward the defense theory, it's just the popular view that hasn't caught up with academia.
To quote Madden at length:
"It was in the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century that the current view of the Crusades was born. Most of the philosophes, like Voltaire, believed that medieval Christianity was a vile superstition. For them the Crusades were a migration of barbarians led by fanaticism, greed, and lust. Since then, the Enlightenment take on the Crusades has gone in and out of fashion. The Crusades received good press as wars of nobility (although not religion) during the Romantic period and the early twentieth century. After the Second World War, however, opinion again turned decisively against the Crusades. In the wake of Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin, historians found war of ideology–any ideology –distasteful. This sentiment was summed up by Sir Steven Runciman in his three-volume work, A History of the Crusades (1951-54). For Runciman, the Crusades were morally repugnant acts of intolerance in the name of God. The medieval men who took the cross and marched to the Middle East were either cynically evil, rapaciously greedy, or naively gullible. This beautifully written history soon became the standard. Almost single-handedly Runciman managed to define the modern popular view of the Crusades.
Since the 1970s the Crusades have attracted many hundreds of scholars who have meticulously poked, prodded, and examined them. As a result, much more is known about Christianity’s holy wars than ever before. Yet the fruits of decades of scholarship have been slow to enter the popular mind. In part this is the fault of professional historians, who tend to publish studies that, by necessity, are technical and therefore not easily accessible outside of the academy. But it is also due to a clear reluctance among modern elites to let go of Runciman’s vision of the Crusades. And so modern popular books on the Crusades–desiring, after all, to be popular–tend to parrot Runciman. The same is true for other media, like the multi-part television documentary, The Crusades (1995), produced by BBC/A&E and starring Terry Jones of Monty Python fame. To give the latter an air of authority the producers spliced in a number of distinguished Crusade historians who gave their views on events. The problem was that the historians would not go along with Runciman’s ideas. No matter. The producers simply edited the taped interviews cleverly enough that the historians seemed to be agreeing with Runciman. As Professor Jonathan Riley-Smith quite vehemently told me, 'They made me appear to say things that I do not believe!'"