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Abstract

Conventional wisdom maintains that the Islamic world and western Christendom held two very different views of the crusades. The image of warfare between Islam and Christendom has promoted the idea that the combative instincts aroused by this conflict somehow produced discordant views of the crusades. Yet the direct evidence from Islamic and Christian sources indicates otherwise. The self-view of the crusades presented by contemporary Muslim authors and the self-view of the crusades presented by crusading popes are not in opposition to each other but are in agreement with each other. Both interpretations place the onset of the crusades ahead of their accepted historical debut in 1095. Both interpretations point to the Norman conquest of Islamic Sicily (1060–91) as the start of the crusades. And both interpretations contend that by the end of the eleventh century the crusading enterprise was Mediterranean-wide in its scope. The Islamic view of the crusades is in fact the enantiomorph (mirror-image) of the Christian view of the crusades. This article makes a radical departure from contemporary scholarship on the early crusading enterprise because it is based on the direct evidence from Islamic and Christian sources. The direct evidence offers a way out of the impasse into which crusade history has fallen, and any attempt at determining the origin and nature of crusading without the support of the direct evidence is doomed to failure.