This article appeared in the "Editor's File"
in The Textbook Letter, Volume 12, Number 2.

Refuting Propaganda About the Crusades

William J. Bennetta

Instructional materials sold by American publishers often paint the crusades as vicious enterprises and the crusaders as imperialists and thugs. These images of the crusades and the crusaders reflect the work of Muslim propagandists. Muslim pressure groups have induced the writers of various schoolbooks and curriculum manuals to teach American students that the crusades were unforgivable undertakings in which Christians attacked peaceful Muslims and tried to establish colonies in territory that properly belonged to such Muslim sweethearts as the Seljuk Turks.

In some schoolbooks and teachers' manuals, the passages of Muslim propaganda about the crusades are so heavy-handed and inept that they seem comical. As examples:

A Valuable Essay

History teachers who need to refute Muslim claptrap about the crusades should read the essay "Crusade Propaganda," written by the historian Thomas F. Madden. Madden is a professor of history at Saint Louis University (in St. Louis, Missouri), a specialist in the history of the crusades, a coauthor of The Fourth Crusade: The Conquest of Constantinople (issued in 1997 by the University of Pennsylvania Press) and the author of A Concise History of the Crusades (published in 1999 by Rowman & Littlefield). Here is an excerpt from his essay:

Now put this down in your notebook, because it will be on the test: The crusades were in every way a defensive war. They were the West's belated response to the Muslim conquest of fully two-thirds of the Christian world. While the Arabs were busy in the seventh through the tenth centuries winning an opulent and sophisticated empire, Europe was defending itself against outside invaders and then digging out from the mess they left behind. Only in the eleventh century were Europeans able to take much notice of the East. The event that led to the crusades was the Turkish conquest of most of Christian Asia Minor (modern Turkey). The Christian emperor in Constantinople, faced with the loss of half of his empire, appealed for help to the rude but energetic Europeans. He got it. More than he wanted, in fact.

Pope Urban II called the First Crusade in 1095. Despite modern laments about medieval colonialism, the crusade's real purpose was to turn back Muslim conquests and restore formerly Christian lands to Christian control. The entire history of the crusades is one of Western reaction to Muslim advances. The crusades were no more offensive than was the American invasion of Normandy. As it happened, the First Crusade was amazingly, almost miraculously, successful. The crusaders marched hundreds of miles deep into enemy territory and recaptured not only the lost cities of Nicaea and Antioch, but in 1099 Jerusalem itself.

Teachers can read the entire text of "Crusade Propaganda" at www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-maddenprint110201.html on the Web site of the National Review.


  1. See "Joy Hakim Should Not Write About the History of Europe" in The Textbook Letter, Vol. 12, No. 1. [return to text]

  2. See "Page for Page, This Is the Most Malignant Product That I've Seen During All My Years as a Reviewer" in TTL, Vol. 11, No. 4. [return to text]

William J. Bennetta is a professional editor, a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, the president of The Textbook League, and the editor of The Textbook Letter. He writes often about the propagation of quackery, false "science" and false "history" in schoolbooks.


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