Crusades as Forced Conversions?


One of my students claimed that the Crusades were an attempt to forcibly convert people in the Holy Land to Christianity. I know this is not true, and I know a number of recent scholars have refuted this. I have limited time to respond to him.


These articles might be of help (some moreso than others):


Your student is misinformed. While there may have been renegades and the over-zealous within the Crusader ranks, it is now a well documented fact of history that conversions – forced or otherwise – were NOT the expressed purpose of the official Crusades (those called by particular Popes). Their purpose was solely to come to the defense of Constantinople (in the First Crusade) and to reopen the routes to the Holy Land for pilgrims that had been closed by the Moslems (who had also destroyed many of the sites sacred to Christianity, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which was, in effect, bulldozed over). It was the policy of most of the Crusaders to allow those they came in contact with to practice their own religion (later on, in the 15th century, Franciscan missionaries led by St. Francis, did attempt some evangelization but were largely unsucessful. Something about Moslems being killed by other Moslems if they converted.) This is in contrast to Moslem practice in those lands where you had three choices: convert to Islam; keep your own religion but pay heavy taxes, or die.

Your student should be told he is misinformed and basing his opinion on old scholarship and “Black Legend” propaganda.You can also recommend to him some of the results of more modern and complete scholarship, a result of scholars finally being able to examine the original records themselves. In addition to the resources recommended by FECGM above, offer him the articles found at this site:

Also, I’d highly recommend these books to him:


Here’s another good article by a foremost Crusades historian:



the expressed purpose of the official Crusades (those called by particular Popes). Your student should be told he is misinformed and basing his opinion on old scholarship and “Black Legend” propaganda.

The express purpose of the Crusades was pilgrim protection not conversion.

Thank you. I accidently left out the word NOT in my original post, which I have corrected.:slight_smile:


Robert Spencer’s A Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) is a good, short read that is very informative.


I am pretty sure that Muslims did in fact have to pay a tax (not paid by Christians), so your contrast is inaccurate. The Crusaders appear to have treated Muslims and Jews much the same way the Muslims treated Christians and Jews. If you have evidence showing that the tax “infidels” paid under Christian rule was less than the tax they paid under Muslim rule, I’d be interested in seeing it.

The OP is, of course, correct–forced conversion was not the goal of the Crusades, and apart from the initial massacre (which is a big exception since it was indeed horrible, as sacks of fortified cities generally were in ancient and medieval times) Jews and Muslims seem to have been largely left alone as far as I know.



I wanted to read that book when I first heard about it. But it is so expensive where I find it listed here in NZ and I didn’t want to pay so much when I wasn’t sure if it was any good.


The point is not whether the Muslims paid taxes under the very brief Crusader rule (all subject people are subject to taxation or tribute). The difference was that there is no evidence that, as a matter of course, Muslims under Christian rule had to do so as a condition of being able to practice their religion, or else submit to conversion or death. The Muslim practice of this, provided for in the Koran, is referred to as dhimmitude, of which there is no formal Christian equivalent. If you have evidence or records to the contrary, I’d be interested in seeing it.


Thanks to all that replied!

I had read Madden’s and Riley Smith’s work previously, but I had forgotten where. I ordered Madden’s book a while ago, but it has yet to be recieved.

Again thanks.


I am now anticipating some “Black Legend” about the Inquisition…I don’t remember reading much about this one.


The Crusades were for the protection of Catholics and their faith against error, but not to force their own, it was a defense, just as the posters here helped you in matters of faith.

If anyone wants to join the new Crusade and defend the holy Faith then join the online Catholic Crusade of Jesus Christ.
If you have a basic knowledge of the faith and have a willingness to share it and correct error from those against the Church then we would like you to join us.
Please pray about it and pray for us.

The Catholic Crusade of Jesus Christ

God bless you,
in Christ.


Back in the mid 60"s I had some non-Catholic Confirmation students in my Scout Troop. I was the Scoutmaster. They had all kinds of fantastic stories about the “Black Monks”, the inquisition, and the crusades. I never felt it was my job to “fix” them and the particular denomination will remain my secret. There is enough twisted history out there to write books about. I guess its a little like political candidates describe their opponents background. :thumbsup:


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