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The purpose of the Crusades was to recapture the Holy Land, particularly Jerusalem, from the Muslem Arabs and Turks. Battles were bloody and little mercy was shown to combatants or noncombatants on either side. The Crusaders captured Jerusalem, but lost it in 1244 and were never able to regain it. The Fourth Crusade also sacked Constantinople in 1204. Although the Crusades were ultimately unsuccessful in achieving their religious objectives and hastened the fall of the Byzantine Empire, they opened up a whole new world for Europe. Travel and trade increased. Europeans began to travel to the East. Marco Polo even went as far as China. The Europeans also developed a taste for eastern spices, fabrics, and jewels. They gained scientific and mathematical knowledge from the Moslems, as well as the secrets of making paper and possibly gun powder. The Italian states of Venice and Genoa became major trading powers and dominated the Mediterranean Sea. Historian Will Durant said, “…the chief effect of the Crusades was to stimulate the secular life of Europe by acquaintance with Moslem commerce and industry. War does one good- it teaches people geography”. In many ways, this new knowledge and trade led to the end of the Medieval Era.
The Medieval Era was a time of change for Europe and is the bridge between the classical and modern worlds. It was also a period when the important nations of Europe, France, Germany, Italy, and England began to take shape and coalesce. The Church in this era was very powerful and influential, but engaged in many political battles with secular leaders. The Crusades were initiated by the Church and ultimately provided the impetus in trade, travel, exchange of knowledge, and curiosity that led to the creation of the modern world.