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Ultimately, Did the Crusades Serve to Integrate or Isolate the Latin West from the East?

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Introduction

Julia Slay Intro Med: Essay 3. Ultimately, Did the Crusades Serve to Integrate or Isolate the Latin West from the East? The historical epoch in question is one marked by change and transition across all spheres, from political conflict to economic improvements, social reorganisation to demographic transitions; as a specific event, or rather events, the crusades reflect the general backdrop of Medieval European society, typified by violence, conflict, and the increasing religious fervor which had spread across Christendom by the end of the 11th Century, a result of many internal reforms and an increasing level of control employed by the papal authorities. It is during our period that we see prominent Western institutions, such as the Church consciously focus their attentions to the situation in the East. The crusading aims of rescuing fellow Christians, expanding frontiers, and increasing Latin influence suggest that it is inevitable some kind of fusion, or merging of cultures would occur, especially if we place the question of integration in its time frame of over two hundred years, during which one would normally expect a basic level of change regardless of the exceptional events which characterize this period. Analysis of the ultimate effects of the crusades involves distinguishing between forms of ideological integration, such as religious beliefs and political relations, and physical fusions of Eastern and Western economies, peoples and adoption of traditions and customs. ...read more.

Middle

However, although the unanimity of politics between East and West is debatable, we do see a Christian adoption of certain cultures and traditions belonging to the Arabs, such as materials and architectural features, for example mosaics and glass. The spread of Christians, and Jews, into the East facilitated 'important cultural exchanges'5 particularly in border areas such as Spain and Sicily which received a mixture of peoples and religions and resulted in the beginnings of a multi-ethnic society marked by a curious mixture of Muslims, Jews and Christians; indeed the 'cross fertilization of the two cultures took place in Sicily, and above all, in Spain'6. It was these two areas which became infused with West and East as a result of the crusades and Arab culture seemed to have an intense impact in these regions, suggesting that perhaps the level of integration is dependent upon geographical location between East and West, moreover, based upon the fusion of peoples living there. The stories and myths, for example Joinville's, about Arabs filtered back to the West and served to encourage a spread of Eastern culture and traditions, peaked with intellectual interest and a fascination with the other, and as Kedar notes 'the interest in and knowledge about the Arabs was undoubtedly larger in the 12th Century than in any preceding Century'7. Evidently, despite the isolationary nature of the polarised political spheres, cultural exchanges, as Smail suggests, resulted in 'the marriage of East and West'.8 Hence, ...read more.

Conclusion

This is an idea common among historians, for example Ben Ami who suggests that 'No amount of cultural diffusion could abolish the religio-political gulf between Christian's and Muslims'11, insinuating that these two arena's are the dominant ones strengthening the ideological isolation of East and West. There also remain distinct divisions with the use of language, which we see no lapsing of boundaries or fusion occur at all. Recent studies have propounded theories such as the idea of Western Crusades as a form of early colonialisation, or, an institution's reaction to the demographic changes and internal problems within the West, and so we see that the intention as well as the result of the crusades is integral to our understanding of the subject. In order to reach an answer to the question in hand we must examine the physical, as well as the ideological. On one level, that of the political and religious spheres, the crusades highlighted the schism's between two vastly different cultures and fostered a hostility which would carve out contemporary and future relations. However, although this may be a dominant result, the crusades did still have an impact in shaping cultural and social aspects of society, as well as the changing European geographical perceptions which led to further expeditions, for example to China, the result being profound long term effects on Western civilisation. Word Count: 1940 Julia Slay. ...read more.

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