The Dark Beneath Part II

March 30, 2020

The Dark Beneath: Lindbergh and Ford

Note from me:  I had intended to finish this up quickly but I made the mistake of doing more research.  This, as always, muddied the waters of my conclusions.  Actually, I have more questions than conclusions.  Input would be helpful.


In this post, I’m concentrating on two American icons, Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh.  Both were looked up to as examples of Yankee initiative and success.  Both held deep beliefs concerning ‘racial purity’.  I’ve been reading a lot about the conflict many people feel when they discover that their heroes did things or had attitudes that are personally repugnant to them.  Thomas Jefferson is a classic example of this.  But Jefferson didn’t encourage others to buy slaves.

                Henry Ford was among the richest industrialists in the United States.  He made cars that most people could afford.  When he was losing employees due to the mind-numbing boredom of the assembly line, he raised the pay to five dollars a day.  He hired immigrant workers, paying for them to learn English and take citizenship classes. He rewarded those who became citizens, honouring them at ceremonies.  He’s held up as an example of a capitalist who cared for his people.

                Unlike most other employers, “Henry Ford’s promise of a Five Dollar Day was not tainted with discrimination; blacks were paid a wage equal to that of whites. During the late teens, “the name Ford became synonymous with northern opportunity,” recalled LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), inspiring hundreds of black southerners to travel North with their sights set on a job at the Ford Motor Company (fmc).¹

In many ways, he helped more Americans move into the middle class than any other industrialist while becoming incredibly wealthy. 

He was also a virulent anti-Semite.   It’s not clear where he developed this belief.  He was a farm boy who had likely never met a Jew until he was an adult.  But, by the time he was in his twenties, he had formed the firm idea that Jews were an inferior ‘race’ who happened to have a talent for making money.  From this he concluded that all negative events were somehow caused by a cabal of Jews.  He suspected Jews of causing World War I, a belief heartily endorsed in Germany by Adolph Hitler.  Ford also thought Jews were responsible for Jazz and short skirts, not really well explained in his work.

Hitler found out about Ford’s belief through the ­Dearborn Independent,  a newspaper that he bought in 1919.  From 1920, the paper ran a column on the front page called ‘The International Jew’. Ford’s major complaint was that the Jews had “no interest in manufacturing” but only in finance.  And Jews have become so adept at finance that they control the economics of the world. “There is apparently in the world today a central financial force which is playing a vast and closely organized game, with the world for its table and universal control for its stakes.*  Ford was certain that Jews also controlled the press, something that has been repeated by modern demagogues.   Hitler must have rejoiced when reading, “The Jew in Germany is regarded as only a guest of the people; he has offended by trying to turn himself into the host. There are no stronger contrasts in the world than the pure Germanic and pure Semitic races;…”   This may have encouraged the Fuehrer to believe that America would never fight to save Europe from fascism.

Ford’s influence extended far beyond Dearborn MI.  He insisted that all his dealers take out subscriptions and give them free to anyone who bought a model T.  There was an uproar in many circles and some dealers refused.  Eventually, he was convinced to issue an apology, but the paper continued.

What to make of Ford?  He did great things for the middle class.  He was apparently open to having immigrants and people of colour work for him.   He revolutionized manufacturing.  If he had just been anti-Semitic, making comments at parties or preferring not to hire Jews, I might have believed that this was a reflection of the times.  But he not only published his beliefs (along with a lot of incorrect history, a cardinal sin in my eyes) he printed an English translation of the infamous forgery “The Protocols of Zion”.  This early conspiracy theory has long legs.  I found a copy at along with the comment that it was suppressed history.  One can also find all 722 pages of The International Jew.  Perhaps there are readers who agree with Ford, but I can’t look at him as a benefactor of humanity any more.

If this is too long to hold your attention, there is a 2013 American Experience from PBS on Ford that covers some of this and there are several books on it, including Henry Ford and the Jews:The Mass Production of Hate, by Neal Baldwin.

Charles Lindbergh

charles-lindbergh---opposition-to-world-war-ii.jpg1.BATES, BETH TOMPKINS. “Henry Ford Ushers in a New Era for Black Workers.” In The Making of Black Detroit in the Age of Henry Ford, 39-68. University of North Carolina Press, 2012. Accessed March 20, 2020.

In May of 1927, at the age of 25, Charles Lindbergh became the darling of America when he became the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic.  He was an ideal of the all-American boy, good-looking, diffident, from a solid Midwestern background.  He was idolized by all.   Two years later, he married Anne Morrow.  He might have faded into semi-obscurity, especially with the shock of the Great Depression, except for the horror of the kidnapping and murder of his first child, Charles Jr. in 1932.  The media circus around the event drove the Lindberghs to move to Germany where they lived until 1939.   “While living abroad, Lindbergh, acting at the U.S. military’s request, made multiple trips to Germany to assess the country’s aviation capabilities. He was impressed by what he encountered: As historian Thomas Doherty says, Nazi Germany shared Lindbergh’s admiration of “Spartan physicality” and aviation-centric militarism.”  (Meilan Solly, “The True History behind the Plot Against America”  Smithsonian , Mar 1, 2020)

He seems to have also been impressed with German ideas on racial purity. In this, Lindbergh is much less a cipher than Ford.  He hated Jews; he believed they were secretly running the world, but he also hated Negroes, Slavs, Chinese, Arabs—anyone who wasn’t ‘Aryan’. 

When he came back to the US, Lindbergh became a spokesperson of the “America First” movement.  This was a strong isolationist group that did not want to be involved in another European war.  Lindbergh’s father had been opposed to American’s entering World War I, feeling that it was only intended to make Wall Street financiers richer.  Along with his German experience, this made the aviator a perfect representative. He gave speeches all across the country.  Lindbergh’s main argument for staying out of the war was military. “But we in this country have a right to think of the welfare of America first, just as the people in England thought first of their own country when they encouraged the smaller nations of Europe to fight against hopeless odds.”  Hitler was winning and the war was already lost.  Why fight a losing war?  Many agreed with him. Then, in a speech in Des Moines Iowa, in September of 1941, he stated, “I am saying that the leaders of both the British and the Jewish races, for reasons which are as understandable from their viewpoint as they are inadvisable from ours, for reasons which are not American, wish to involve us in the war.”   Other comments made it clear to most of America that he preferred the Nazis to Communists and that he felt Hitler was the only one keeping the “Asiatic hordes” at bay.  For more information, including the texts of his speeches, see:

When the war began, Lindbergh went on his own to the Pacific.  Eventually, he flew several combat missions.   Many people forgave or ignored his pre-war folly.

Charles Lindbergh died in 1974.  It wasn’t until 2001 that three of his seven German children revealed their existence, later proved with DN tests.  Starting about 1957, Lindbergh had simultaneous affairs with three women in Germany and Switzerland.  He may well have been fond of all of them, but there is also a suspicion that he was acting on the belief that the world needed more Aryan children. 

charles-lindbergh—opposition-to-world-war-ii.jpg1.BATES, BETH TOMPKINS. “Henry Ford Ushers in a New Era for Black Workers.” In The Making of Black Detroit in the Age of Henry Ford, 39-68. University of North Carolina Press, 2012. Accessed March 20, 2020.

charles-lindbergh—opposition-to-world-war-ii.jpg1.BATES, BETH TOMPKINS. “Henry Ford Ushers in a New Era for Black Workers.” In The Making of Black Detroit in the Age of Henry Ford, 39-68. University of North Carolina Press, 2012. Accessed March 20, 2020.

henry_ford_grand_cross_1938.jpgApart from believing in America first, Ford and Lindbergh also shared  the ‘honour’ of the highest civilian award Nazi Germany gave, The Order of the German Eagle.  Ford’s was given in 1938 in Michigan, Lindbergh’s was presented by Herman Goering in 1939. 

Lindburgh and Goering.jpg

Now, when I began working on this, it was because I was wondering if the positive things people did were negated when they also did evil things.  I still don’t know.

But I do know that the feelings expressed by Ford and Lindbergh are becoming more prevalent today.  America First is a catchphrase again.  Bigotry of all sorts is becoming more open.  And, while most of the world is coming together through a shared fear, there are those who somehow still have decided to blame the Jews.  I have read a number of comments to the effect that George Soros is somehow behind the virus.  The NY Post just had an article on Neo-Nazis encouraging those who have tested positive to give the disease to Jews, who invented it so they could sell vaccines.  Tricky, since there isn’t one.

Since I started writing this, the world has changed.  It’s not just hatred of the Jew; as I said in my last post, that’s just a warning sign.  In Bangladesh, the internet has been cut off in Rohinga refugee camps.  Why?  I have no idea.   I do know that the misinformation and blaming of others is coming from the very top.  We can follow that into chaos or we can decide that this is a chance to make the earth one unified entity, remembering, as so may have said, we’re all in this together.

The Dark Beneath

March 16, 2020

If any one of these groups–the British, the Jewish, or the administration–stops agitating for war, I believe there will be little danger of our involvement.
           Charles Lindbergh- September 11, 1941

“The Jew is the world’s enigma. Poor in his masses, he yet controls the world’s finances. Scattered abroad without country or government, he yet presents a unity of race continuity which no other people has achieved. Living under legal disabilities in almost every land, he has become the power behind many a throne. There are ancient prophecies to the effect that the Jew will return to his own land and from that center rule the world, though not until he has undergone an assault by the united nations of mankind.”

Henry Ford, The International Jew 1922

Help desk

In 1939, Sen. Robert Reynolds of North Carolina (who ran his own anti-Semitic newspaper, the American Vindicator), proposed bills to end all immigration for five years, declaring in a June 1939 speech that the time had come to “save America for Americans.”

“America First” has been a rallying cry throughout the history of the US.  Of course, what was always was meant was “My America First”.  The Puritans didn’t want Quakers, even hanging some who proselytised.  William Penn had to acquire a new colony for them to settle.  Catholics were only welcome in Maryland, and so forth.   Native Americans and Africans were rarely considered as human.   As the nineteenth century progressed with immigrants needed as a work force, Catholic Irish were vilified, as were Italians, Greeks, and then those from Eastern Europe.  There were a number of Chinese exclusion acts up until the 1930s.  But, throughout Western history, the canary in the coal mine of intolerance has been the Jews. 

This seems to be a feeling always lurking beneath the surface of society.  Years ago, when I was in grad school, I was called for jury duty.  I took a copy of “The History of Christianity” to study. A sweet woman in her fifties came up to me and said, “I think it’s just a miracle that Christianity has survived all those persecutions, don’t you?”  I considered.  “Well,  I answered. “It’s more amazing that Judaism has survived.”

Her whole face changed. Her eyes narrowed; her mouth twisted; her skin  grew red.  It was like watching the Slythereen pull off their masks to revert to alien form.

“You’re Jewish, aren’t you?” she accused.

I answered without thinking because my conclusion had been based on scholarship, not religion.

“No,” I said. “I am an historian.”

She vanished.  But I was shaken by her transformation and wondered how many other kindly people in the room harboured such a clear hatred of those not like them.

I started thinking about the icons of American culture who also were strong anti-Semites.   We have already seen a rise in the desecration of Synagogues and Jewish cemeteries, with discrimination becoming more blatant.

My greatest worry is that it never stops with the Jews.  That’s just the beginning.  All the racial, religious and social bigotry that lies beneath the surface starts oozing to the top.  Fear may resurrect feelings that always lay beneath or even create them as people search for a scapegoat. 

Since I’m also staying home, which I enjoy, I’ll post tomorrow on Lindbergh, Ford and other American role models who also had dark sides.  Their beliefs had a disproportionate effect on the rest of the country.

The Saint, the Goddess and the Hope of Spring

February 1, 2020

St. Brigid, Imbolc and the Hope of Spring

Today, February first, is St. Brigid’s Day.  In Ireland it’s been celebrated for thousands of years. I know, someone will point out that Christianity has only been in Ireland for fifteen hundred years.  But, thanks to Pope Gregory the Great (540-604) missionaries were encouraged to adapt local holy places to Christian saints.  So Brigid, the Celtic Goddess, became Saint Brigid, a miracle-working abbess.

There may have been a real woman named Brigid, born sometime in the sixth century, who was first married to the lord of a feuding family to bring peace.  It didn’t work and, in on battle, her son was killed.  Converted by St. Patrick, she asked the local king for land to build her monastery.  He refused and so she asked only for the land that could be covered by her cloak.  The king agreed.  She lay out her cloak and it grew and grew until it covered acres and acres.  This became her abbey of Kildare.

Bridgid.jpgHowever, the goddess and the abbess never really separated in the minds of the Irish and still live comfortably together in rituals and art. In the picture to the left, Brigid holds her symbolic cross, which is made of reeds on January thirty-first.  The cross is placed over a door or window to protect the house from evil.

February first is Imbolc, one of the four Irish fire festivals to mark the seasons.  The name means ‘in the womb’ or ‘in milk’, apparently referring to the hope of a successful lambing season.  The next festival is Beltane, ‘bright’, at the beginning of summer.  Harvest season is marked by the feast of the sun god, Lugh, called Lughnasagh.  Finally comes Samhain ‘summers end’ now celebrated universally as Halloween.

In her other hand Brigid holds eternal fire.  That was another aspect of the goddess.  Both women watch over new mothers and protect cows. The goddess also protected poets and sailors.

“St. Brigid is the patron saint of babies, blacksmiths, boatmen, cattle farmers, children whose parents are not married, children whose mothers are mistreated by the children’s fathers, Clan Douglas, dairymaids, dairy workers, fugitives, Ireland, Leinster, mariners, midwives, milkmaids, nuns, poets, the poor, poultry farmers, poultry raisers, printing presses, sailors, scholars, travellers, and watermen.”

          There are many shrines to Brigid, many of them at holy wells.  We visited one the other day, near the Cliffs of Moher. It’s a grotto where a stream runs through a small hallwaySt. Bridget's Well 2.jpg. On the ways are hundreds of photos of people who have died.  There are also religious statues festooned with rosaries.  Sometimes toys or other mementos are also left.  Looking at these was very poignant.  People come here to grieve and find comfort.  It’s a place of shared sorrow.  They know that, since St. Brigid lost a child of her own, she would be kind to those who had also lost someone.  The day we were there, late January of 2020, we were the only pilgrims.  Having had three friends die in the proceeding weeks and feeling weighed down with the state of the world, I found solace in the thought that for so many centuries, both Brigids have been comforting people and reminding us that there will be another spring.

St Bridget's Well 4.jpg
St. Bridget;s Well 1.jpg

Warnings from History

January 22, 2020

Part II Philip the Fair, Pope Boniface VIII and the separation of Church and State.

Nogaret’s men arrest the pope

When the constitution of the United States was written, the founders established a principle that was unheard of in Western (or perhaps any) society.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Since many of the original colonists had come fleeing religious persecution by their governments, this made sense. But it was a radical solution to a problem that had existed for millennia.

Philip IV of France is a classic example of the struggle for power between Church and State.

Just a bit of background first.  Contrary to what is taught almost everywhere, the popes in Rome did not control the minds of every Christian in Europe.  Nor did the rulers of the various countries always feel obliged to obey them.  Yes, by and large, most people in Western Europe considered themselves Christian.  However, there were wild variations in how they understood the faith.

Philip IV of France was not the first ruler to take on the popes.  In the eleventh century the Holy Roman emperors had huge fights with Rome over the right to appoint bishops. It was called the Investiture Conflict. Barrels of ink have been used to describe the fun and games that ensued, so I’ll spare you the details. Suffice to say that there was a lot of shouting, some fighting and several anti-popes.  However, all the participants were of the same faith even if they each thought the others to be heretics and power-grabbers.

Philip wanted something more.  He had a lot of issues concerning his family and religion. First of all, since the time of his umpteenth great-grandfather Louis VII, the kings had been anointed at their coronations with holy oil, found in the tomb of St. Remi. Popular belief stretched this much further back, to the time of the first Capetian, Hugh Capet, in 987.  To this they added that the oil had been delivered from heaven by the Holy Spirit, in its form of a dove.

Added to that, his immediate ancestors had all been pious crusaders.  Philip had a lot to live up to and those pesky popes kept getting in his way.

So, Philip set about slowly easing power from Rome.  He believed, and there is some truth in this, that the papacy was nothing more than a prize in a power struggle among the noble Roman families and not a divine calling.

The pope he faced was Boniface VIII,  the current winner, who was concerned to keep the rights of the church out of the hands of monarchs.

In Philip’s war with Edward I of England,* both sides had taxed the clerics, especially wealthy monasteries.  This was a no-no. said the pope.  The  tithes from churches and abbeys helped keep the papacy afloat. Boniface forbade the kings to take more money from the Church.  Did I mention that Philip and Edward both had active armies?  After some fuss, Boniface backed down and proclaimed that kings could tax the church without approval from the pope if there were a clear and present danger. 

Round one to Philip.

In 1297, after some pressure, Boniface declared Philip’s grandfather Louis IX, who had died on crusade, to be a saint.

Round two to Philip.

Next Philip heard that a bishop from the south of France had, while in his cups, said some nasty things about him.  Bernard Saisset was Bishop of Pamiers and a good friend of Pope Boniface.  He and Philip had already been on opposite sides of a land dispute.  According to many witnesses, Bernard had said of Philip, “Our king resembles an owl, the fairest of birds, but worthless. He is the handsomest man in the world, but he only knows how to look at people unblinkingly, without speaking.”  He also accused Philip of being a bastard and opined that St. Louis was in hell.  This insulted Philip and, even more, the counsellors who wrote most of his pronouncements.

Naturally, Philip went ballistic.  He ordered the bishop arrested and charged with heresy and treason, among other things.  Now, all clerics accused of a crime were supposed to be tried in religious courts.  If they were convicted, they might be turned over to secular courts for punishment.  Boniface couldn’t ignore the treatment of a bishop and a friend.  Perhaps unwisely, he sent a pronouncement to the king, titled Ausculta fili. Loosely translated, it means “Listen up, kid”. 

Philip’s minions quickly went to work and published a “slanted summary of its main points which gave the impression that the pope was claiming the feudal lordship of France.”@   This gave Philip the opening to attack the pope directly.  As I mentioned in the first part of this essay, he accused Boniface of heresy, sodomy, murder, idolatry and simony.  The actual author of this charge was Philip’s chief advisor, Nogaret.  He arranged for assemblies to be held across France to condemn Boniface.  Then, with the help of a rival Roman family, Nogaret went to Italy and captured the pope in his home town of Anagni.  Reports differ as to what was done to him, but he was certainly abused.  The citizens of Anagni rose up and freed Boniface but the pontiff, in his eighties, died a month later.

This round was sort of a tie.

Finally, Philip got a French pope, Clement V, who would compromise enough to dissolve the Templars. 

Are you still with me?  Because I’m finally getting to the point.

Philip IV wanted money, but he also wanted to be free of papal meddling.  He was divinely consecrated, the grandson of a saint.  “ In accusing Bernard Saisset of heresy, Nogaret  created the chance to affirm the right of the Capetian king to replace the pope, if necessary, in his Christlike function Henceforth, “what [was] committed against God, against the faith or against the Roman Church, the king consider[ed] committed against himself.” #

Philip was establishing himself as the direct link to God, above the popes.  His broadsides confirmed this.  During the trial of the Templars, another advisor, Guillaume de Plaisians, told the assembly that “The king of France has come to announce to you great joy!” This was the dissolution of the Templars.  Plaisians was stating that, like the angels, Philip had received word from Heaven without going through the pope.#   God had sent Philip to the French, and he agreed, styling himself  “the most Christian king”, in the world.

Louis XIV

So Philip, and the kings who followed him, up to Louis XVI, did not want to separate church and state; they wanted control of both.  And, with power over both, people had no one to appeal to against the excesses of the monarch.  It was as if the American president also controlled the Congress and the Supreme Court,

The framers of the Constitution got it right, in my opinion.  They learned from history that legislating private belief is tyranny.  Let’s don’t let it happen again.


*The war continued, off and on, for over a hundred years.  You may have heard of it.

@ Malcolm Barber, The Trial of the Templars. P. 30

#Julien Théry-Astruc, “Guillaume de Nogaret and the Conflicts Between Philip the Fair and the Papacy”  The Capetian Century ed. William Chester Jordan and Jenna Rebecca Phillips.(Brepols, Turnhout, Belgium, 2017) p219

Saudi Arabia-the beginning

December 6, 2018

Know your terrorist: the Wahabi sect of Saudi Arabia and the Family Saud.[1]

Yes, I know it’s been ages since I posted anything.  The Saud family and  Wahhabi Islam shouldn’t have taken so long.  I did keep busy with other things, of course, but the research for this report kept expanding.  I began to feel that I was writing a dissertation.  And, just a few days ago, I read an article by Carlotta Gall about Saudi influence in Kosovo.[2]  But more about that later.

Saudi Arabia, as far as I know, is the only country in the world named for its ruling family.  It was founded, in 1932 by Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman Al Saud (Ibn Saud).  However, Ibn Saud was preceded by nearly two hundred years of determined ancestors whose beliefs made the Puritans seem easy going.

It all began in the early 1700s.  At that time, Arabia was ruled, in principle, by the Ottoman Empire.  It was actually a land of many tribes who spent most of their time fighting each other.  One aspect of the society was the blood feud.  This was not unique to Arabs.  As in other cultures, the tribe of the murderer could pay a blood price to the aggrieved family.  If this failed, there existed an elaborate system of rules. Revenge could reach to the fifth generation and if the perpetrator died before the family of the  victim could take revenge, his nearest relative would be targeted.[3]  Loyalty to the tribe was essential for self-protection.

The Ottoman rulers were not terribly interested in Arabia.  Most of its interaction with the outside world was trade. From the time of Herodotus, North Arabia  produced many luxury goods, not available  elsewhere: frankincense, myrrh, cassia, cinnamon, and laudanum.  They also transferred spices, silks and other luxury goods from India and Yemen.  [4]

Both the Saud family and their religion came from the central region of the peninsula. known as the Najd. (plateau)  Surrounded by coastline and mountains, it was little explored and thought to be inhabited only by nomadic Bedouin traders.  However, hidden among the arid dunes were a number of oasis towns.  Under the Najd is an enormous glacial aquafer.  Grain, dates and other fruit were grown and the culture allowed time for poetry and study. [5]  Gertrude Bell in 1927 was still surprised by the oases, “ It was curious riding through hilly ways and cultivated country to-day after three weeks of desert.”[6]

Now the stage is set.  Imagine this remote, independent cluster of towns at the beginning of the eighteenth century.  Apart from trade and Muslim pilgrims, most inhabitants neither know nor care about the world outside.

Part Two, The Purifier of Islam

Mohammad ibn Ahd al-Wahhib was born in the town of Uyaina, in 1704.  He came from a family of scholars.  His father was a qadi, or judge according to the Hanbali school of shari’a law.  Ahd was Mohammad’s first teacher.  By the time he was ten Mohammad had memorized the Quran.  He  then went to Mecca on the hajd, or pilgrimage.  There he studied for a time, then continued to Medina for further education.  Over the years, he traveled as far as Bagdad and Damascus.[7]

In his studies and his travels, ibn Abd al-Wahhib was shocked at how far the Muslim population had strayed from the teaching of the Prophet.  He began preaching a return to the roots of Islam. Only the Qur’an, and the Hadith were authoritative.  Every innovation since then was shirk, idolatry.

In Islam at the time, many people believed in the power of saints to give aid to the living.  Pilgrims brought offerings to their graves.  They also believed in holy stones, trees and caves, soothsayers and the power of djinn, all of which horrified ibn al-Wahhib.  Even more, he was shocked by the mysticism of the Sufis, who tried to achieve oneness with Allah. This was blasphemy.

His book of Islam is still studied by all Wahhabi followers,  It has influenced radical fundamentalist groups such as Al-Quaeda, ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood. It begins with a commandment that may sound familiar:

“And verily, We have sent among every Ummah (community, nation) a Messenger (proclaiming): ‘Worship Allah (Alone), and avoid (or keep away from) Taghut (all false deities etc. i.e. do not worship Taghut besides Allah).’ 

In some places where he preached, local authorities were tolerant of his ideas.  However, many towns made a good income from the pilgrims. Others saw no problem with popular belief and considered ibn al-Wahhib a trouble maker.[8]  He was expelled from one place to another until he had the good fortune to land in Dariyah, the home of emir Mohammed ibn Saud, who “presented himself before the Sheikh as one of his students of Islam, along with his family.”[9]  This was the beginning of the partnership that would result in the formation of the theocracy of Saudi Arabia,

[1] Nawaf E. Obaid. “In Al-Saud We Trust”,   Foreign Policy, No. 128 (Jan. – Feb., 2002), p. 74

[2] Carlotta Gall. “How Kosovo Was Turned to Fertile Ground for ISIS” New York Times, (May 21, 2016)

[3] Alexi Vassiliev, History of Saudi Arabia, Saki Books, (2013) Kindle edition. Chapter One, p. 25 As a side note, there was a gang-related murder in Ireland recently where the victim was a relative of a target who could not be found,

[4] Sharifah M. Al-Boudi, “Najd, the Heart of Arabia”. Arab Studies Quarterly  (Summer, 2015)

[5] Al-Boudi p 10

[6] Gertrude Bell, Letters Jan. 10, 1927.

[7] Vassilev, Chapter 2 p. 3

[8]Joseph Nevo, “Religion and National Identity in Saudi Arabia”,  Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 34, No. 3 (Jul., 1998), pp 37-38

[9] ‘Alamah’ Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di. Explanation ‘ Of an by Mohammad Ibn Wahhadi ‘s Kitab the At-Tauhid ,   nd

______________________________________________________________________________IIf there is interest in my thumbnail sketch of how we got so entangled with Saudi Arabia and why I, along with many others, find it unsettling, let me know and I’ll post another piece on how we wound up in this situation.  There are many good books on the topic.  I’m writing for those who just want the basic information.  Thanks, Sharan.

My Women’s Shuffle inWashington

January 29, 2017


Here I am, totally ignorant of what will happen, trying on my pussy hat for the Women’s March on Washington. ( “SPES” by the way, is Latin for “hope”, something in short supply lately.)

People asked me why I felt I had to take my walker and go all the way across the country to do this when there were protests in town.  There are either too many answers to that, or none.  One reason is that more than half my ancestors have been in the country since before 1700.  They settled the land, served in the armies and government.  Some were kind, compassionate people, some weren’t.  Some clear cut trees for their fields, fought Natives in King Joseph’s War, owned slaves and persecuted Quakers.  One can be proud of Colonial ancestors but also see the results of their actions.

I stand with Standing Rock, because they were among those who pushed Natives onto reservations.  water-is-life


I stand for women’s rights because my  male ancestors refused to vote for them.susan-c-davis-young

I believe Black Lives Matter remembering how those of my family believed their lives were property.  black-women

In short, I believe in not repeating history but in working hard to make the world better and more equal for all.

So, I went to Washington and it was a euphoric experience.  Whatever you hear, I was surrounded by people of all ages, ethnic backgrounds, ages, genders and professions.  They say that there were so many causes that it was chaos.  I didn’t see one sign I didn’t agree with.  Heidi Stemple put it better than I can:

I’m seeing lots of criticism of the Women’s Marches. Let us all remember, that whatever it meant to each of us– every one of those reasons are important and significant. Did we save access to health care for women? Did we stop the pipeline or make undocumented people more safe? No. But, we needed each other and we showed up to prove that we are here and not to be taken lightly, forgotten, or discounted. We are women who, when pushed, will push back. Will letters or phone calls help these causes? Perhaps not. But, we, the daughters, mothers, lovers, and sisters, we will raise our voices and shout down those who wish to keep us down–every damn time– until the time when we find or make or learn other ways to make a difference. We ARE the wall. We will take care of the children you will leave behind and we will boil the water you make unsafe to drink. We will nurse the ill who have no access to health care. We will teach the science you refuse to believe. We will remember the souls you shoot and kill on the streets. We will form the secret networks to help all the people you care nothing about. We are not snowflakes. We are the people who birthed you, fed you, nurtured you. Do NOT mistake our femininity as weakness. Because, even when we are down, WE ARE NOT WITHOUT POWER.

What she said.  Here are some examples of the wonderful people who came out to support us all:



United Health Workers.  There were at least a hundred of them, with shirts, purple hats and stickers.  (They gave me one)  They marched for health care for all and better working conditions for those who do the real caring; home health workers, CNAs and nurses.


There were many people supporting gay and trans issues.



Domestic workers came to many of the marches all over the country.  They wanted respect, immigration reform, health care and decent pay.  Or, as they said. Human Rights for all.

These speak for themselves.  Personally, I think that a man wearing a pussyhat is very appealing. A man who takes his daughter to a march for human rights is a treasure and an example to fathers everywhere.


When your congress person votes to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, this young man is the one who will have fewer treatment and education options.  Many people were concerned about health care cost and availability.  I rant about this all the time.  We are the only first world country without national health.  Could is possibly be because there is such a powerful health insurance lobby ?


So, this is my new Facebook image, partly because I need to keep reminding myself not to fear and partly because I really would like to look as beautiful as she.


Going to the Sources

November 26, 2016

I apologize for not getting this to you before.  I almost had the whole list finished when I was called away for a family emergency.  I’m still playing catch-up.  Those of you who were in my class won’t be surprised that most of these books are translations of primary sources.  There are others in Arabic, French, German and Latin but these are a good place to begin. I have included authors from several sides of the Crusades.  Not just Western European and Muslim, but Greek, Armenian, Syrian and Jewish points of view, as well.

At this time, when contradictory information is flying about everywhere, I believe it’s useful to examine what we think we know about history and then apply it to a critical look at the report of an horrendous atrocity that one’s brother-in-law just posted.


Crusade Bibliography

Primary Sources: Muslim

Ibn al-Athir, The Chronicle of Ibn al-Athir for the Crusading Period 2. Volumes. tr. D. S. Richards (Ashgate, 2007) [He wrote in the 13th century and was an advocate for Saladin, but he had access to a lot of older material]

Baha’ al-Din Ibn Shaddad, The Rare and Excellent History of Saladin. tr. D. S. Richards (Ashgate, 2002) [a contemporary and friend of Saladin who witnessed many of the events]

Francesco Gabrieli, ed. and tr. Arab Historians of the Crusades, (Dorset Press, 1969) [For a long time this was one of the few English translations. It covers the time between the First Crusade and the fall of Acre and is a good introduction]

Ibn Al-Qalansi. The Damascus Chronicles of the Crusades. Tr. H.A.R. Gibb (Luzac & Co. London, 1932) [An account by an important member of the government of Damascus who was an adult at the time of the First Crusade.  He died in 1160.]

Usama ibn-Munqidh. An Arab-Syrian Gentleman and Warrior in the Time of the Crusades. Tr. Phillip K. Hitti (Columbia University Press, 1929) [Usama (1095-1188) wrote this memoir late in his eventful life. An Arab aristocrat who refused to learn Turkish, although he fought with the Turkish armies, he was born at Shaizar and died in Damascus.  Arrogant but entertaining, his account shows the ways in which the Christian settlers and upper-class Arabs interacted. The Templars kept a place for him to pray; he hunted with the king of Jerusalem, but that didn’t stop him from killing them in battle. Some stories are hearsay and other embellished.  Great fun.]


Primary Sources: Western:

Edward Peters, ed. The First Crusade: the Chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres and Other Source Materials. (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1978)

Malcolm Barber and Keith Bate, ed. & tr. Letters from the East: Crusaders Pilgrims and Settlers in the 12th and 13th Centuries, (Ashgate, 2013) [While not all these are letters as we would term them, the collection gives first-hand slices of information on events that are often only given a sentence or two in histories.]

Fulcher of Chartres. A History of the Expedition to Jerusalem, 1095-1127, tr. Frances Rita Ryan (Norton 1969) [Fulcher went on the First Crusade and stayed in Jerusalem.  He was a cheerleader for settlement and sometimes his description is a bit too rosy, but his account is invaluable.]

Anon. Gesta Francorum: The Deads of the Franks and the other Pilgrims to Jerusalem ed. Rasalind Hill. (Oxford University Press, 1962) [ An eyewitness account of the Frist Crusade from the speech at Clermont in 1095 to the siege of Ascalon in 1099.  The author was an educated soldier, not a cleric.  His descriptions of battle and the siege of Antioch are harrowing]

Guibert de Nogent, The Deeds of God through the Franks, tr. Robert Levine. (Boydell, 1997) [Guibert was a French monk who got his information from returning pilgrims.  He presents various views on the crusades.  He also wrote an autobiography, which I find very amusing]

Albert of Achen.  History of the Journey to Jerusalem  2 vols. Tr. Edgington (Ashgate 2013) [Albert also stayed in Europe and acquired his information from returning travelers, but his account fills in gaps in others]

William of Tyre. A history of Deeds Done Beyond the Sea, ed. Babcock and Krey. (Farrar Straus, Giroux, 19760 [born in Jerusalem, William was sent back to Europe for schooling and returned to become bishop of Tyre and tutor to Baldwin IV, the leper king.  Many of the events he recorded happened while he was gone, but he is excellent, if opinionated, on people he knew and interviewed many who had lived through the time he chronicles.]

The Gesta Tancredi of Ralph of Caen Bachrach, Bernard S. and Bachrach, David S. (eds.), (Ashgate.)  The Norman view of the early Italo-Norman rulers of Antioch.  I haven’t had a chance to read it, yet.

Odo of Deuil, The Journey of Louis VII to the East. Tr, Virginia Berry. (Norton, 1948, many editions) [Odo went with Louis and Eleanor and was miserable most of the way.  His chronicle ends when he reached Antioch and things started to get interesting.  He seems to have been to depressed to say more.]

Peter Edbury, ed. The Conquest of Jerusalem and the Third Crusade (Ashgate 1998)  [This is a translation of the continuation of William of Tyre.  It covers the complicated dynastic struggles in Jerusalem, the rise of Saladin and the resulting crusade.]

The Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi tr. Helen J. Nicholson, (Ashgate 2001)[ A flattering portrait of the Third Crusade and King Richard the Lionheart.]

G. A. Loud, ed. & tr. The Crusade of Frederick Barbarossa: The History of the Expedition of the Emperor Frederick and Other Accounts. (Ashgate, 2010) The best known life of Frederick and his time on the third Crusade was written by his uncle, Otto.  Loud gives translations from a variety of other chroniclers

Robert de Clari. The Conquest of Constantinople, tr. Edgar Holmes McNeal (University of Toronto Press,1996) [Robert was a soldier on the Fourth Crusade.  His report from the ground is illuminating , since he stayed through the capture of Constantinople.]

Janet Shirley tr. Crusader Syria in the Thirteenth Century  (Ashgate 1999) [A translation of two chronicles covering the crusades from 1229 – 1261, led by Theobald of Champagne and then Louis IX of France.  The first, Rothelin, is totally disjointed but wonderful in that he veers from accounts of the expeditions to magic and protest songs from the ranks.  Eracles is not so much fun but contains much information]

Peter Jackson, ed. & tr. The Seventh Crusades, 1244-1254: Sources and Documents (Ashgate, 2007)


Primary Sources: Levantine

Walter the Chancellor. The Antiochene Wars tr. Asbridge and Edginton (Ashgate 1999) [Walter was chancellor in Antioch in the early days of the Latin settlement.  He gives the story of the battles among both the Crusaders and the local Muslims, making it clear that they often allied against a common foe.  He tells of his time as a hostage in Aleppo.  A good counterpoint to the completely Eurocentric accounts]

Anna Comnena. The Alexiad.  tr. E.R.A. Sewter (Penguin Classics, 1969/2003) [Opinionated Anna was in the thick of things in Constantinople during the First Crusade.  The book was written to glorify her father, the usurper, Emperor  Alexis, but everyone else is fair game.  Her comments on the leaders of the Crusade are priceless]

Matthew of Edessa, Armenia and the Crusades. Tr. Ara Doustourian. (Armenian Heritage Press, 2014) [This new, revised edition is fabulous.  Matthew lived in Edessa before and during the early Crusades.  He is highly opinionated and he gives accounts of life there under Muslim and Frankish rulers that are barely mentioned in other sources.  Everyone interested in the crusader period should read this.  We have so few minority views of life then.]


General Histories of the Crusades:

Thomas F. Madden The New Concise History of the Crusades. (MD: Rowman &Amp; Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2006)[I’ve liked much of his earlier work but haven’t had a chance to look at this]

Hans Eberhard Mayer The Crusades (Oxford University Press, 1988) An expert German historian who takes a less French-centered view.

Jonathan Riley-Smith, The First Crusaders, 1095-1131, (Cambridge UP, 1997) [A comprehensive look at the leaders and ranks of the first wave from the west.  He also wrote a three volume history on all the Crusades.]

Carole Hillenbrand. The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives. (Edinburgh University Press, 2010) [This is a fabulous book, full of quotes, analysis and pictures.  She discusses relations among the Arab/Turkish/North African Muslims as well as their interactions with other groups.  Her writing is clear and she makes her biases obvious so that the reader can take them into account.  Whatever general history you read, this should be a companion.]

Christopher Tyerman. God’s War: a New History of the Crusades. (Belnap/Harvard, 2006)  [A vast history, strong on military and political events.  It’s not intended to be a social history and powerful women are given less space than the men.  The strengths of the book are an emphasis on the role of the Italian city-states, his coverage of the crusades in Spain and the Baltic, and a section on the Albigensian Crusade.]

WARNING!!!  Whatever book you choose for a general survey of the period, if the author is listed as a reporter for the New York Times or the Washington Post, put it back on the shelf.  These books are popular but wildly inaccurate.  I have no idea why these people think they can write a history because they’ve been to the Middle East and read a couple of books on the topic.  ARRGH!


Websites and blogs:

Andrew Holt is a medieval historian and local TV pundit who has a blog that often covers the Crusades.

He has also edited a book with Alfred J. Andrea, Seven myths of the Crusades, Hackett Publishing, Indianapolis, 2015 ($19.00)  This is a good corrective for a lot of things that “everyone knows”, including the non-connection between the Templars and the Freemasons.

The Medieval Sourcebook.  This is a wonderful resource for primary sources in translation.  Paul Halsall has maintained it for many years.

No longer Crusaders: the 12th century and beyond

October 26, 2016

For those of you who haven’t been able to make it to all of my Crusades classes and those who are interested but don’t live nearby, I am, belatedly, giving a summary of the last few classes.

The leaders of the First Crusade captured Jerusalem in 1099.  They also had control of Antioch, Edessa, Tripoli and other coastal cities.  Most of those who survived went back to Europe.  The ones who remained were largely from three areas: Flanders, Norman Italy, and Languedoc/Provence.  Most of the time, the rulers of these areas worked at consolidating their holdings and conquering more.  As time went on, they established law codes of a sort, often regulating religious practice and trade.   crusader-state-map

I handed out time lines in class with names of the rulers and dates of battles etc.  But what is difficult to do in any short session is to show how the invading Crusaders were much the same as the Sunni Turks who had invaded only a few decades before, the Byzantine Greeks who were trying to regain their land and the Shi’te Fatimids who had recently conquered Egypt.  The natives of the area were largely made up of Islamic and Christian sects descended from the ancient invaders as well as the Persian, Greek and Roman colonists.  These included, Maronites, Syriac Christians, Nizari, Jacobites, Druze, Armenians (fairly new) Yazidi, Allowites and many other sects. Added to that were at least three Jewish sects: Palestinian, Samaritan and Karaite.  Genetically, they were, and are, a mix of millennia of conquests.

Recently, I endured an exchange on Facebook on the Crusades.  At least some of the participants were historians, although no medievalists.  They repeated the same weary arguments about either the barbarian Europeans destroying a peaceful Muslim kingdom for profit or a valiant effort by the West to take back the cradle of Christianity.  The number of ‘facts’ stated was amazing, although no sources were given.  Neither of these opposing arguments are true, although one must acknowledge that many of those who made the expedition were motivated by strong religious feeling.

Admer leading the soldiers.jpg

Bishop Admer leading the army of the First Crusade


What many people don’t know about the period is that only the first generation of invaders could be called Crusaders.  Their children were natives of the states they were born in.  Some were the product of mixed marriages.  Melisende (whom I wrote a book about) was the daughter of the Flemish King Baldwin and the Armenian, Morfia.  She never went to Europe and certainly spoke French, Armenian and possibly, Arabic. Jerusalem was her home and her kingdom.

The major opponents of the Latin States were the Muslim rulers of Aleppo and Damascus.  However, they were often fighting each other, too.  The Norman rulers of Antioch loathed the Frank/Armenian counts of Edessa.  More than once Aleppo teamed up with Antioch to fight Edessa and Mosul.  By the third generation, many of the descendants of the crusaders spoke Arabic or Syriac.  Visitors from Europe commented that they had created their own dialect, which some called poulain.  Churches and homes were built, along with fortresses.  Monasteries copied and illuminated manuscripts.  There were stone carvers, jewelry makers and other artists.  It’s only in the intervening centuries that most of this has been lost, along with stories and music that might have been a part of this mixed culture.

It wasn’t a peaceful land.  There were always pilgrims and warriors coming from Europe.  There were new Turkic tribes moving east.  Eventually, in the thirteenth century, there were Mongol armies.  They soon realized that India and China were richer by far than the near east and set up kingdoms in those countries.

I believe that the Latin States would have eventually assimilated in the mix, becoming part of the culture of that thin strip linking Europe, Africa and Asia.  But two things happened.  The first was the rise of a strong Sunni leader, Zengi, who united squabbling factions and captured the city of Edessa.  This loss prompted the Second Crusade, led by Louis VII of France, the Holy Roman Emperor, Conrad and the young co-ruler of Jerusalem, Baldwin III.  This new invasion solved nothing, as a council decided to attack Damascus instead of Edessa.  The attack failed but, what was worse, it drove the Damascenes to make a treaty with Zengi and then his son, Nur al-Din.  Thus, a cosmopolitan, fairly tolerant city was taken over by fundamentalist Sunni.  Their successor, Saladin, was determined to drive the Fatimids out of Egypt and, after that, to eradicate the Latin States.  He succeeded in taking both Cairo and Jerusalem.

This led to the new king of England, Richard I and the king of France, Phillip II, joining in another Crusade with the Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa.  This led to a lot of ballads and legends and the strengthening of some of the coastal Latin states, but it also galvanized Muslims who hated each other to fight against the common foe.


Saladin and Richard.  I think Richard is on the left, but I’m not sure.

Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth were brought back into the Latin States by Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor and enemy of Pope Innocent III.  In 1229, he made a treaty with the Egyptian sultan, Al-Kamil  that regained the territory and allowed Muslim control of the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque.  How Frederick became involved is a long dynastic story.  Al-Kamil wanted peace with the Latin Kingdoms in order to engage in his own wars within his own religion.  Jerusalem was lost for good in 1244 when it was taken by the Khwarezmians, a group from Central Asia who were being pushed west by the Mongols, under Genghis Khan.  However, the final battle consisted of the leaders of Jerusalem and Damascus against the sultan of Egypt and Khwarezmian mercenaries.


Frederick and Al-Kamil bargaining.

The last major crusade (in two parts) was that of King Louis IX.  He accomplished nothing except to die at the gates of Tunis and be made a saint. Why Tunis?  Another long story; history is really messy.


The era of the crusades to Palestine ended with the capture of Acre in 1291.  But the idea of crusade took on a life of its own, becoming a term for any single-minded fight.  The Teutonic knights, formed in the Latin States, soon began a crusade to wipe out paganism in Poland and the Baltic, although some remained in Acre until the end.  Innocent III set off a crusade against the Albigensian heretics in what would become the south of France.

I recently stumbled upon a book on the Children’s Crusade, which will be discussed in class on Oct. 27.  I really mean I stumbled on it; it was in a stack on the floor of my office.  The author, Gary Dickson, does a wonderful job of disentangling the myth from what might be the reality of the events.  Even more, he talks about the creation of myths and why we prefer them to the messy, multi-sided truth.  Crusades have taken on a life of their own and that means that the first crusades and the multi-cultural life of the Latin Kingdoms are likely to be lost, smothered by the myths we have created.

Review of First Crusade

October 2, 2016

Last week, I gave a wild ride from Europe to Jerusalem, touching on the sieges of Antioch and Jerusalem.  Here is a summary and a list of participants, many of whom will appear over and over.

Dramatis Personae:


Peter the Hermit. Leader of the Peasant army.  The peasants were mostly killed or sold into slavery but Peter survived and went home to a comfy monastery.

Count Robert of Flanders

Stephen, Count of Blois (married to Adele, daughter of William the Conqueror) Came home and was sent back by his wife to atone for his cowardice.  He died in battle, which seems to have pleased her.

Robert, Duke of Normandy, a son of William the Conqueror.  Robert went home but was captured by his younger brother, Henry I of England, and died in prison.

Hugh of Vermandois, brother of Phillip I, king of France (Phillip was excommunicated at the time since he was living with his mistress, the wife of the count of Anjou)

Bohemond, Count of Taranto (Italy) Son of the Norman, Robert of Guiscard. Bohemond led the siege of Antioch, claimed it for himself, then left for Europe and never returned.

Tancred, Bohemond’s nephew, who administered Antioch for his uncle.

Raymond of St. Gilles, Count of Toulouse, born c. 1041,  with his 3rd wife, Elvira, the illegitimate daughter of King Alphonse of Castille and his son Bertrand.  Raymond died there in 1105.  Bertrand became count of Tripoli.

Eustace, Count of Boulogne, Godfrey, Duke of Lower Lorraine; and Baldwin of Boulogne, brothers and the center of later Crusade legends.

Their cousin, Baldwin of LeBourq, later King Baldwin II

Bishop Adhemar of le Puys, spiritual leader and papal legate, but not adverse to picking up a sword, if necessary.

Bishop Fulcher of Chartres wrote one of the best eye-witness accounts of the crusade.  He remained in Jerusalem, where he died.

In the East

Alexis, emperor at Constantinople, the Eastern Roman Empire.  Alexis had usurped the throne and was fighting a civil war as well as Turkish invaders.  Naively, he believed that the crusading army were there to help him and then go home.

Kirbogha, the atabeg of Mosul, who brought his army to keep the crusaders from taking the city of Antioch.  The army was a coalition of the leaders of several area, including Hims and Damascus. Although the crusaders were few and starving, Kirbogha was defeated.  The Christians were sure it was because the had the newly-discovered Holy Lance.  Muslim chroniclers say it was because there was infighting among Kirbogha’s  coalition.

(for those who want more on what an atabeg was:


The taking of Jerusalem. Note the several images of Jesus and the depiction of the city as a church.

After the establishment of the Crusader States, Bishop Fulcher wrote the following idyllic version of life in the Hold Land:

“Consider, I pray, and reflect how in our time God has transferred the West into the East, For we who were Occidentals now have been made Orientals. He who was a Roman or a Frank is now a Galilaean, or an inhabitant of Palestine. One who was a citizen of Rheims or of Chartres now has been made a citizen of Tyre or of Antioch. We have already forgotten the places of our birth; already they have become unknown to many of us, or, at least, are unmentioned. Some already possess here homes and servants which they have received through inheritance. Some have taken wives not merely of their own people, but Syrians, or Armenians, or even Saracens who have received the grace of baptism. Some have with them father-in-law, or daughter-in-law, or son-in-law, or stepson, or step-father. There are here, too, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. One cultivates vines, another the fields. The one and the other use mutually the speech and the idioms of the different languages. Different languages, now made common, become known to both races, and faith unites those whose forefathers were strangers. As it is written, “The lion and the ox shall eat straw together.” Those who were strangers are now natives; and he who was a sojourner now has become a resident, Our parents and relatives from day to day come to join us, abandoning, even though reluctantly, all that they possess. For those who were poor there, here God makes rich. Those who had few coins, here possess countless besants; and those who had not had a villa, here, by the gift of God, already possess a city. Therefore why should one who has found the East so favorable return to the West? God does not wish those to suffer want who, carrying their crosses, have vowed to follow Him, nay even unto the end. You see, therefore, that this is a great miracle, and one which must greatly astonish the whole world. Who has ever heard anything like it? Therefore, God wishes to enrich us all and to draw us to Himself as His most dear friends. And because He wishes it, we also freely desire the same; and what is pleasing to Him we do with a loving and submissive heart, that with Him we may reign happily throughout eternity.”


Crusades material and class plan

September 23, 2016

First of all, for those of you who have been patiently waiting for my report on the Saudi family, I’m still working on it. Every time I thought I was finished. I found something more.  I will finish it asap.

Now, for those of you taking my class on the Crusades, this is where you will find extra information and synopses of previous classes as well as my general ideas for the whole course.


This map will be on the screen at the next class.  In the last class we….

Set the scene by touching on the complexity of the situation in the three major areas: Western Europe, the Byzantine Empire (which they called the Roman Empire) and the Turkish Caliphs in Baghdad.  We also touched upon the various Christian sects in the east.  I forgot to mention that there were also at least three Jewish sects, Talmudic, Karite and Samaritan.  Yes, those Samaritans.

The idea of a Crusade to liberate Jerusalem from the Muslims had been floating about for some time.  Pope Gregory VII had tried to stir up interest in 1071.  Prof. Andrew Holt has an excellent article on this in his blog:

Why the call to a Crusade failed in 1071 and was wildly popular in 1095 is not easy to say.  There are a number of theories.  Some have been discarded by historians, such as the belief that invading the Holy Land would be an outlet for younger sons or that all of Europe blindly obeyed the pope. (They wished!)  One thing I stressed was that most individuals were very religious, if not respectful of clerical authority.  Whatever their other motivations, the remission of sins was a major reason to take the cross.

In the east the long wars between Byzantium and Baghdad had weakened both sides.  This was compounded by civil war among the Byzantines and loss of authority among other Islamic groups by the Sunnit Caliphs.  The Shi’ite Fatimids of Egypt were also moving into the Near East.  For the Caliphs, they were a greater threat than the  Christians.

We discussed the beginnings of the First Crusade and will go over this in the second class, along with the travel across Europe by both the “Peasant Army”  led by Peter the Hermit, and the “Army of the Barons”, led by an uneasy coalition of upper nobility.clearer-peter

The remaining five classes will cover:

2.  The First Crusade and settlement in the Crusader States.

3. The space between the Crusades and the acculturation of the new settlers as well as the reactions of Muslims, Eastern Christians, Jews and others to their arrival.

4. The Second and Third Crusades, both led by Kings.

5. The Fourth Crusade and the sack of Constantinople leading to an altered attitude toward crusading.

6. Other “crusades”: the Albigensian Crusade in Southern France, the Children’s Crusade and the expeditions of Louis IX aka St. Louis.

Well, that’s the plan, anyway.  I’ll give you a reading list at the end so that you can fill in the gaps.