After posting the link to the NRO podcast with Rodney Stark, author of God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades, I received a couple of e-mails that make a case against the case for the Crusades. Here’s one:
You need to be more careful when posting an interview like that on the NR website. As the book notes, the Crusaders slaughtered thousands of innocent Jews on the way to the Holy Land, in communities of tremendous Jewish scholarship such as Worms and Mainz. Those mass murders of Rhineland Jews set a tone in Europe that legitimized Jew killing for centurites to come. So while it’s one thing to say Muslims weren’t exactly saints, I’m not sure espousing a view that says “maybe the Crusades weren’t such a bad thing after all” is a very sophisticated approach here. NR is better than that, you might want to reconsider your approach to making the broader (valid) point about the history of Islam.
So I asked Stark for a response. He sends this:
Of course there were attacks on several Jewish communities along the Rhine associated with the First Crusade. However, these were not committed by one of the main groups, but by several bands of German stragglers. It is significant that local bishops risked their lives to defend the Jews. These incidents are covered fully in God’s Battalions.
Also, for those who want to geek out on the Crusades, I’ve always enjoyed Derb’s assessment. See especially his final graf.