Monday, November 07, 2005

Crusading against The Crusades?

This is how the New York Times' Anita Gates describes the History Channel's two-part series The Crusades: Crescent and the Cross:
Sometimes, when history repeats itself, the tables turn. This has never been clearer or more disturbing than now, especially when considering the HISTORY CHANNEL's two-part documentary "THE CRUSADES: CRESCENT AND THE CROSS" (Sunday and Monday at 9 p.m.). Roughly 900 years ago, some Christians, inspired by POPE URBAN II, got the idea that their religion was superior to everyone else's and set out to conquer the Muslim world. These re-creation-style documentaries have a tendency to concentrate on the details, battle by battle and general by general. Some meaning would be good, too.
Granted, this was part of a general "WEEK AHEAD" entertainment column and not an extended review, but could the sweeping and misinformed generalization be any worse? As Andrew Stuttaford stated:
Wouldn’t it have been better, Anita, to have begun your little analysis with the Muslim conquest centuries of the ‘Holy Land’ before, or is that just too, too difficult to fit into contemporary orthodoxies?

Starting the story with Urban II, even in a brief summary, is like describing World War II without mentioning, say, the invasion of Poland.
Obviously, Gates didn't catch much of the series--maybe she didn't have access--but it was made clear that the First Crusade was launched as an attempt to RE-capture the Holy Land. Now, the Crusades did sort of devolve in each iteration, but Gates' mischaracterization of the series was irresponsible. There are plenty of books on the Crusades, but here is a responsible summary and some primary sources. Perhaps Ms. Gates should avail herself of them.

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