On the Third Crusade, Europeans failed to retake Jerusalem. After negotiations, though, Saladin did reopen the holy city to Christian pilgrims.

Europeans also mounted crusades against other Muslim lands, especially in North Africa. All ended in defeat. During the Fourth Crusade, the crusaders were diverted from fighting Muslims to fighting other Christians. After helping merchants from the northern Italian city of Venice defeat their Byzantine trade rivals in 1204, crusaders captured and looted Constantinople, the Byzantine capital.

Meanwhile, Muslim armies overran the crusader states. By 1291, they had captured the last Christian outpost, the port city of Acre, and killed its Christian residents.

The Effects of the Crusades

The Crusades failed in their chief goal—the conquest of the Holy Land. They also left a bitter legacy of religious hatred. In the Middle East, both Christians and Muslims committed atrocities in the name of religion. In Europe, crusaders sometimes turned their religious fury against Jews, killing entire communities.

Illustration of men in oared boats with standard bearers and workers unloading trunks.

Crusaders returned to Europe with spices, perfumes, and other trade goods from the Middle East, and trade began to grow.

The Crusades did have positive effects on Europe, however. They began just as Europe was undergoing major economic and political changes, and the Crusades helped quicken the pace of those changes, contributing to the end of medieval Europe.

A Growing Demand for Goods

Even before the Crusades, Europeans had developed a taste for luxuries that merchants brought from the Byzantine empire. The Crusades increased the level of trade. Returning crusaders brought even more fabrics, spices, and perfumes from the Middle East to a larger market. Trade increased and expanded.

Merchants in Venice and other northern Italian cities built large fleets to carry crusaders to the Holy Land. They later used those fleets to open new markets in the crusader states. Even after the Muslims recaptured Acre, Italian merchants kept these trade routes open. Our words sugar, cotton, and rice, which were borrowed from Arabic, show the range of trade goods brought back to Europe.

The Crusades further encouraged the growth of a money economy. To finance a journey to the Holy Land, nobles needed money. They therefore allowed peasants to pay rents in money rather than in grain or labor. Peasants began to sell their goods in towns to earn money, a practice that helped to undermine serfdom.

Changes for Monarchs and the Church

The Crusades helped to increase the power of monarchs. They managed to gain the power to levy, or collect, taxes in order to support the Crusades.

Some rulers, such as the French king Louis IX and the English king Richard I, called the Lionheart, led crusades, which added greatly to their prestige.

Enthusiasm for the Crusades brought papal power to its greatest height. The growing power of the Church, however, soon brought popes into a bitter struggle with feudal rulers in Europe. Also, the Crusades did not end the split between the Roman and Byzantine churches as Pope Urban had hoped. In fact, Byzantine resentment against the West hardened as a result of the Fourth Crusade, which ended in the sack of Constantinople.

Europe Gains a Wider View of the World

Contacts with the Muslim world led Christians to realize that millions of people lived in regions they had never even known existed. Soon, a few curious Europeans left to explore far-off places such as India and China.

In 1271, a young Venetian, Marco Polo, set out for China with his merchant father and uncle. After many years in China, he returned to Venice and wrote a book about the wonders of Chinese civilization.

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments