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Thread: Were the Crusades the first World War?

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    Were the Crusades the first World War?



    This is just an idea I had, I'm not saying I believe it, I just thought it made an interesting thought experiment. When you look at the number of countries that were involved in the crusades, could we consider them a 'world war'?

    I'm no expert, but I think the following areas were all involved in some way: Anatolia, Asia Minor, Austria, Baghdad, Bulgaria, Byzantine Empire, Cyprus, Dalmatia, England, France, Germany, Greece, Holy Land, Hungary, Italy, Low Countries, Mongolia, Norway, Persia, Portugal, Prussia, Russia, Sicily, Spain, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey. I know some of these area may overlap, and there is a mix of medieval and modern names, but I'm not great at Geography!

    Probably the main objection is that the crusades were not 'a' war, but a series of wars.

    Any thoughts?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tsuyoiko
    Probably the main objection is that the crusades were not 'a' war, but a series of wars.
    That's what I would say. Therefore I wouldn't qualify the Crusades as the first WW1. Everyone who had to defend themselves against the Catholic church were united in ideology, yes, however they were not united politically. Therefore as you said, it was more of a series of wars with one side always being the same.

    A similar question was posted here, but regarding a WW3. My response there pretty much applies here.

    http://www.eupedia.com/forum/showthread.php?t=18259
    Last edited by Maciamo; 29-12-11 at 10:13.
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    Yes, it was the WW3 post that reminded me of the idea about the crusades.

    Your comment about the crusaders not being 'united politically' intrigued me. Couldn't they be considered 'allies' if they are united ideologically?

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    No, not world war, just Europe & Middle East/North Africa. The 1st and 2nd world wars were called "world" wars because at that time the biggest part of the globe was controlled by countries that participated in the war. Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, the US and Japan all had colonies during the First World War. In the 2nd Germany and Italy didn't really have colonies but occupied a big part of Europe and North Africa, while all Africa and most of Asia were still European (or Japanese), and people from those colonies send troops to defend their "home country" during the war. Latin America was almost the only part of the world that didn't really participate in the war, although many countries (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela...) accepted German, Italian and Japanese immigrants (and probably some war criminals too) after WWII.

    As you can see, the crusades were quite local in comparison.

    I'm no expert, but I think the following areas were all involved in some way: Anatolia, Asia Minor, Austria, Baghdad, Bulgaria, Byzantine Empire, Cyprus, Dalmatia, England, France, Germany, Greece, Holy Land, Hungary, Italy, Low Countries, Mongolia, Norway, Persia, Portugal, Prussia, Russia, Sicily, Spain, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey. I know some of these area may overlap, and there is a mix of medieval and modern names, but I'm not great at Geography!
    Basically the Byzantine Empire encompasses all these areas you cited : Anatolia, Asia Minor, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Dalmatia, Greece, Turkey.

    Mongolia participated in the crusades ? You mean coincided with the later part of the crusades. However, they didn't fight for the Holy Land and had nothing to do with the Christian vs Muslim squirmishes.
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    I take your point about Mongolia, but I included it because the Mongol invasions had a knock-on effect on those directly involved in the crusades: "After conquering Russia, the Mongols under Jenghiz Khan appeared in 1241 on the frontiers of Poland, routed the army of the Duke of Silesia at Liegnitz, annihilated that of Bela, King of Hungary, and reached the Adriatic. Palestine felt the consequences of this invasion. The Mongols had destroyed the Mussulman Empire of Kharizm in Central Asia. Fleeing before their conquerors, 10,000 Kharizmians offered their services to the Sultan of Egypt, meanwhile seizing Jerusalem as they passed by, in September, 1244." (From here

    I have never really accepted the argument that the crusades were relatively local, because I think you have to take into account that the ability to travel in those days was much less than in the 20th century. So you can't make a direct comparison between the countries involved.

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    I'd say the greeks were the first world war.

    they were the first people to think that politics and war could affect their destiny. before them, nobody really controlled that big of chunks of land.

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    I would think the expansion of the Mongol Empire, which conquered most of the Eurasian landmass from the middle east to China to eastern Europe would count much more as a "world war" than the crusades.

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    We must remember that "world" is definied completely differently at different points in history. Was N. America officially recognized until Columbus happened upon it in faithful 1492? No. It was theoretically there, but no one was able to prove it. The crusades and mongol invasions took place before the discovery of America (and the events that did take place afterwards did not involve America - any of them). Therefore, "world" pre-American discovery consisted of Eurasia and Africa. To take "world war" back to the Crusades and earlier battles I think would be anachronistic. World-war was coined in the 20th century with the knowledge that it truly involved some nation on every inhabited continent. In my opinion, it's not possible to have a world-war pre 1650 (about) when the first efforts to engage in trade and colonization in America really started to take off.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lonesoullost3
    It was theoretically there, but no one was able to prove it.
    I think, in all practicality, the continent was also practically there.


    "world" pre-American discovery consisted of Eurasia and Africa.
    This is a pretty Euro-centric view of the "world" (wonder what Amerindians have to say about this, being only theoretically there). But for the rest of your post I agree.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bossel
    wonder what Amerindians have to say about this, being only theoretically there
    meh, they were savages, they don't deserve a say.. they didn't have history until we brought it over!

    Anyway, I don't really think it matters one way or the other.. that was the Crusade, this was the world war... It's not that some guy sat down and calculated how many percent of the world was currently involved in this war and made an estimate to see if it could be called the "World" war... it's just that "people" were saying "oh hell, the whole world is in on THIS war! it's a WORLD war!"

    Just a name. Hell, the first one was also called the Great War, but not alot of people say that anymore... wonder what was so great about it anyway...

    So in conclusion, your honour, it's just a name for the war. The cold war might not have been very cold either. I wouldn't know, I wasn't there to feel the chill.
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    Quote Originally Posted by lonesoullost3
    In my opinion, it's not possible to have a world-war pre 1650 (about) when the first efforts to engage in trade and colonization in America really started to take off.
    I think this is the definitive answer, although I would put it later, after the colonisation of Australia in the 1780s.

    Quote Originally Posted by TwistedMac
    So in conclusion, your honour, it's just a name for the war.
    I agree - it doesn't matter. But then neither do a lot of things that are interesting to talk about!

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    I didn't mean to imply that Native American history did not exist before discovery (or America for that matter) - it's just that for the context of the post (as you pointed out Bossel) it was simpler not to deal with semantics - the point got across anyways ^_^.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lonesoullost3
    I didn't mean to imply that Native American history did not exist before discovery (or America for that matter) - it's just that for the context of the post (as you pointed out Bossel) it was simpler not to deal with semantics - the point got across anyways ^_^.
    I don't think you implied it - you just stated it by saying that the world was defined differently at the time. But defined by whom ? The Chinese (for whom the world was almost only China than barabarian land), the Japanese (who just knew of Korea and China), the Indians, the Ameridians, the Africans, the Aborigenes of Australia ?

    Personally I think it is nonsensical to talk about a world war if the war does not include at least citiznes from the 5 continents, like in WWI and WWII. We could say that the present war in Iraq is also a world war, as nation such as the USA, UK, Japan, Australia and Morocco (and many more of course) have troops in Iraq.

    The crusades did not include the entire American and Oceanian continents, most of Asia (Japan, China, SE Asia, India, Siberia...) and sub-saharan Africa.

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    How about the Napoleonic wars then? Napoleon fought his way across Europe as far as Moscow, he invaded Egypt, and North America also became involved(with the War of 1812). Spanish colonies in South America also played a part as did British colonies in Southern Asia.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lonesoullost3
    We must remember that "world" is definied completely differently at different points in history. Was N. America officially recognized until Columbus happened upon it in faithful 1492? No. It was theoretically there, but no one was able to prove it. The crusades and mongol invasions took place before the discovery of America (and the events that did take place afterwards did not involve America - any of them). Therefore, "world" pre-American discovery consisted of Eurasia and Africa. To take "world war" back to the Crusades and earlier battles I think would be anachronistic. World-war was coined in the 20th century with the knowledge that it truly involved some nation on every inhabited continent. In my opinion, it's not possible to have a world-war pre 1650 (about) when the first efforts to engage in trade and colonization in America really started to take off.
    what do you mean ? there was greek tradeing posts all over the nile.

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    i recently saw a programme on TV about Venice. It seem that the 4th crusade ended up as a revenge attack against Constantinople by the Venetian Doge. Apparently he was held hostage there before he managed to get back to Venice. When the 4th crusade was formed they turned to Venice to supply them with ships. The Doge did. they were meant to supply at Constantinople before continuing to the Holy Land and Jerusalem. Instead they sacked the city, killed virtually everyone, looted the city and went back home. After reading more about the Crusades, it strikes me most of them were acts of revenge, personal glory and power struggles than what they were really meant for.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas F. Madden
    From the safe distance of many centuries, it is easy enough to scowl in disgust at the Crusades. Religion, after all, is nothing to fight wars over. But we should be mindful that our medieval ancestors would have been equally disgusted by our infinitely more destructive wars fought in the name of political ideologies. And yet, both the medieval and the modern soldier fight ultimately for their own world and all that makes it up. Both are willing to suffer enormous sacrifice, provided that it is in the service of something they hold dear, something greater than themselves. Whether we admire the Crusaders or not, it is a fact that the world we know today would not exist without their efforts. The ancient faith of Christianity, with its respect for women and antipathy toward slavery, not only survived but flourished. Without the Crusades, it might well have followed Zoroastrianism, another of Islam's rivals, into extinction.

    EDIT by Maciamo : If you are quoting from an article, please using quotation tags !
    Last edited by Maciamo; 15-09-05 at 11:46. Reason: this comment was just a quote from the article in link above !

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    jarvis, yet, how many (and what) books have you read about Crusades?
    ... and i always will...

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    at least 15 hundred

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    Just chanced on this topic. This site may interest some of you:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_w...as_a_world_war

    Its easy to refer to the two most famous conflicts as world wars, but if you consider the (debatable) criteria - and the criteria some of you have put forward, then they don't actually qualify as 'world wars' for a good part of their duration.
    Just a thought.

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    wasen't the anceint world in a constant state of war?

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    Very interesting article ! Please all read it (at least from The threat of Islam). It explains well that the crusades were not free acts of aggression and imperialism, nor the epitome of self-righteousness and intolerance as so many think. The prime culprit was Islam. Islam was born out of war and expanded from a tiny part of Saudi Arabia to conquer by the sword 2/3 of the Christian world at the time. Islam had taken most of Spain and Turkey and was thus ready to take over Europe. Something had to be done, and the response of the Europeans were the crusades. In other words, the crusaders prevented Islam from destroying Christianity and sacking Europe. And the Muslims only got what they asked for.

    The crusaders had to sacrifice most of their possessions (land, wealth, families... and even their lives) to save Europe. They were not the selfish war-mongers often depicted; they were heroes.
    Last edited by Maciamo; 17-12-09 at 14:21. Reason: spelling

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    When I study the crusades I am amazed to be reminded in some ways by present day multi-national operations. Of cause nothing is the same, but this intermeddling of various war trained groups with different national backgrounds going "for something" abroad can represent a similarity. But this is not a world war. I understand some of the crusades as a big adventoure journey for thousands of europeans having time and desire to look for new borders abroad of their small getting worlds back home. To have the feeling to do a good thing and have fun and maybe return with a bit more money or at least prestige was sure also a component of the motivation. Clean your soul, kill some infidels, and not get bored like back home in the castle or village.. enough to bring volunteers together and make them forget that they are now living in camps not far from the other crusaders who recently were still looting their properties back home... Worldwar? Not realy but the old world raising towards a gaol which is located in Palestine and not too much more. I wouldn't consider the opponents than of the christian crusader armies to be "a world" involved. It seems the actions are much more located to the far east than a "world".

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post

    The crusaders had to sacrifice most of their possessions (land, wealth, families... and even their lives) to save Europe. They were not the selfish war-mongers often depicted; they were heroes.

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