Hilaire Belloc was one of the twentieth century’s greatest historians and literary geniuses. One of his greatest works is The Crusades: The World’s Debate. The Crusades are a time most people now are ignorant of. Either side in these conflicts will deny what truly happened all those years ago, and why it impacts our lives today. Belloc digs deep into the past to show with vivid imagery and detail what the Crusades were and why they really are important, today even more than they were over 700 years ago.
By the late eleventh century, that religion known as Islam had forcefully overtaken and destroyed over half of the known world. Civilization was in danger of falling apart. Jerusalem, the foundation and center of Christianity, had been overrun by the forces of the Islamic Turks. Innocent people were being tortured and murdered by these Turks, and help was sorely needed. The conflict that ensued was the real crusade.
In modern times, many people doubt the legitimacy of the Crusades, telling them off as barbaric and wanton violence on the part of Christianity. This is, however, untrue. While many wrongs were done on the part of the Crusaders, the ideals the Crusades were founded on, the ideal of freedom and justice for the Christian people, were true and valiant causes. Contrary to what those people say, the Crusades were less of an offensive against the promise of Islam, and more of a defensive against the problem of Islam. The Crusaders strove not to take the Holy Land, but to retake it.
The First Crusade failed however, and we would certainly be better off had it succeeded. For the Crusade failed to take the key point of Damascus. Had Damascus been taken, Islam would have been cut in two geographically, and, as Belloc so masterfully phrases it, “would bleed to death of the wound.” But Damascus was not taken.
Belloc holds that while the Third Crusade is the best known and most drawn upon, it being the Crusade of Saladin and Richard the Lion-Hearted, the Third Crusade was ultimately doomed to fail because it was founded upon the failure of the First, Great Crusade, the only Crusade that really matters.
“That story must not be neglected by any modern,” Belloc wrote, “who may think, in error, that the east has finally fallen before the west.” Islam survives, and threatens civilization today. Think how any catastrophes and tragedies, like 9/11, may have been averted had the Islamic dominance, a dominance of enslavement and murder, been broken, as surely it would have been had the Great Crusade succeeded. That is what so great an author as Hilaire Bell0c tells of in The Crusades: The World’s Debate, a book worthy of everyone’s attention, everyone who wants to know the truth, and how that truth shapes us today.