Middle Eastern History and Culture: From Muhammad to 1800

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Introduction

The culture of the people of the Middle East is one of the most interesting cultures in the world. To contrary what many people could think, the culture has a lot of influence from the European communities, especially those that border the Middle East countries. The interactions of these two communities during the era of early civilization could be termed as bitter and sweet. This is because there were hostile encounters between these communities and at the same time both the communities benefited from one another which led to political and socio-economical developments. The interaction between Westerners (Europeans) and Middle Easterners was triggered by a series of wars between the two communities. These wars were referred to as the Crusades, which were instigated by the Europeans against the Easterners (Truxillo 25). This study establishes that the major crusades advanced by Westerners had a significant impact on the Middle Easterners’ political, social and economic life.

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The Interactions between the Easterners and the Westerners

There was a healthy relationship between the people of the Middle East and the Europeans. This relationship was mutual since both parties were benefiting from it in terms of development. There was growth in terms of the economy, and good political relations and there was also cultural integration between the two communities. However, there was tension between these two communities due to their difference in religion. The Westerners were Christians while the Easterners were Muslims. The Christians feared that Muslims would capture and control the holy city of Jerusalem due to the increase of the Islamic influence which was spreading to the west.

The Roman Catholic Church, therefore, initiated a series of wars that aimed at capturing and restoring Christian rule in the holy land of Jerusalem. These wars were referred to as the crusaders and were fought for over 200 years between the 11th and 13th centuries. The wars were fought against Muslims who at that time had control of Jerusalem. In the process of the war, Jews were also killed while they were trying to defend their city of Jerusalem from attacks by the crusader army. They, therefore, fought side by side with Muslims to resist to Roman Catholic Church army.

The main factor which initiated the crusader’s attacks traced back to the second half of the 11th century when the city of Jerusalem was under attack by Seljuk Turks who were Muslims (Spielvogel 212). These attacks resulted in the massacre of many Christians and pilgrims who visited the holy city. As a result, the Westerners who were mainly Christians were raged by these actions and retaliated by forming the crusading army to avenge the death of their fellow Christians and at the same time ensure that the holy city of Jerusalem is under their control. They felt that the best method which they could use to achieve their objectives was only war. These ideas had a lot of support even from respected people in Western societies. Pope Gregory the VII for example was a huge supporter of the war. He even provided arms that were to be used in the course of the war.

Major Crusades

During the year 1095 to 1291, there were a series of crusaders attacks which mainly were against the Muslims. The first crusade took place between 1095 and 1099 in Constantinople (currently known as Turkey). The emperor of Constantinople called for help from the Christians to defend his territory from attacks by the Seljuk Turks. In his response pope Urban, the second urged all Christians to join the war. He stated that those who will die in the course of the war will have their sins forgiven hence they will go to heaven. Being strong the Christian army managed to capture many towns and cities which were under the control of Muslims. When a town was captured, there were mass killings of Muslims and the destruction of mosques. The main goal of the army was to capture Jerusalem. However, before capturing Jerusalem the army had to take control of Antioch which was on the way to Jerusalem. Antioch was under the control of Seljuk Turks who were well trained in warfare. After several attempts to capture the town, the crusaders were finally successful. They were also successful in capturing Jerusalem.

However, this victory did not last for long since Jerusalem was taken back by Muslims in what was referred to as The Fall of Jerusalem. This was an impetus to the third crusade, where most of the towns formerly captured by Muslims, were taken back by the Europeans who were led by Richard I. the army received help from the leaders of the German and French armies. The expedition was not as easy as it was thought to be due to a lot of resistance which was posed by both the Muslims and Christians. To stop the war and end the killings both parties came to a consensus that gave Christians during their religious courses the liberty to pass through cities that were under the rule of the Muslims.

With time many countries stopped supporting the actions of the crusaders. This is because it led to the brutal killing of many people in the name of religion, an action that was contrary to what religion was preaching. The worst of them all was the children’s crusade which aimed at executing young children who were innocent. The wars came to an end close to the end of the thirteenth century. However, its effects could still be felt over the years which followed thereafter.

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Impacts of the Crusades

Economic effects

The series of wars led to the destruction of a lot of properties. Houses, churches, mosques and roads were destroyed. Trade within the region was also impacted negatively since it was difficult to conduct and business transaction. People were worried about their security and well-being. Despite the negative impacts of the wars, positive effects were also felt. There was the enhancement of trade between neighboring states as a result of the depletion of a commodity in one state and its availability in the other.

In Europe, there was a lot of development, especially in the construction of roads which were not only used by the army but also by the merchants who wanted to expand their territories in the Middle East. The merchants also acquired products from the captured states which they brought back home. This improved the profitability of these merchants. A lot of money was also raised to support the army while at war. The army required food, water, clothing, war gear and many other things. This increased to production and sales of related industries and in turn boosted trade.

Social Effects

The wars brought about hostility between Christians and Muslims of Europe and the Middle East respectively. This hostility is being felt up to the present time and has led to the loss of lives of many people both of European and the Middle East descent. In the course of the war, there was also forming of alliances by communities to fight against their enemies. Christians from France, Italy, Germany and Rome came together to fight against Muslims. In the Middle East, Muslims and Jews fought side by side against the crusaders. These alliances improved the relationships of the parties involved bringing about togetherness between them. Cultural integration can also be noticed and is attributed to the interaction between people originating from different Middle Eastern lands (MacEvitt 15).

Political Effects

The political impact of the crusades was that they had a major contribution to the demographic organization of the Middle Eastern nations. The ever-rising rebellions brought about by the need for expanding territories led to the establishment of countries such as Turkey. The negative effect of such an instance would be that the nations would have a different political scenario to deal with such as political unrest.

Conclusion

The interaction between the Easterners and Westerners in the Middle East has brought about a lot of impacts on the culture and lives of the communities living in the Middle East and its environs. However, the war had a lot of negative impacts than compared to positive impacts. This was mainly through the impacts which were occurred as a result of the crusade wars. However, from the above findings, we can establish that the Crusades brought with them significant effects on the lives of Middle Easterners, regarding economic, social and political aspects.

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It was clearly observed that there were both positive and negative economic impacts on the Middle Eastern nations. The negative effect included damage to property and already established infrastructure. The positive impacts on the other hand included the establishment of more trade channels and the acquisition of new products from the west. Various Country boundaries were also opened up for transaction purposes as well as an exploration into new lands.

The people also unionized and became one and worked together to achieve common goals such as achieving common goals as defeating their enemies. Also, as the states joined as one, there was cultural integration, with people from different states socializing and accepting their different cultures. These integrations have fostered positive interactions between the communities which have come together and live in harmony.

The war also had a lot of influence on the political stability of the region. The war led to the capturing of cities and states by foreign powers and overturned governments that were in authority. Jerusalem is a good example since it was under the control of the Jews, Muslims and Christians at different times. There was also the establishment of boundaries so as to clearly mark territories. These boundaries are still applicable up to the present day. With clearly defined boundaries, dependent states were at liberty to act as sovereign states and hence the existence of a good economic climate among Middle Eastern Countries.

Works Cited

MacEvitt, Christopher. The Crusades and the Christian World of the East: Rough Tolerance. Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008.

Spielvogel, Jackson. Western Civilization: A Brief History. London: Cengage Learning, 2010.

Truxillo, Charles. By the Sword and the Cross: The Historical Evolution of the Catholic World Monarchy in Spain and the New World. New York: Greenwood Publishing Group, 200.

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