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History of the Middle East, 6001453 - Essay Example

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History of the Middle East, 6001453

When the aforementioned is compounded with the fact that neither really knew the other and that, ultimately, the Christian Crusaders were entering into a territory alien to them and which, historically speaking, they had no territorial claim over, prejudices only deepen. These prejudices color historical accounts, as is amply evidenced in the contrasts which exist between the European and the Muslim accounts of the First Crusade. While there is consensus over historical events, these accounts are markedly different in terms of portrayals/depictions of the other.
Consensus prevails with regard to the history of the first crusades. As Gibb (1950) explains in his article, "The Arabic Sources for the Life of Saladdin," the two most prominent of the recorded eye-witness accounts, those by William of Tyre and Ibn Al Athir, similarly report Christian military victory over the Muslims. Indeed, Ibn Al Athir, as does William of Tyre, writes that when the Crusaders first came to the Arab lands in 1095-1096, they achieved tremendous victories over the Muslims. The Europeans, according to both, overtook several Muslim provinces, such as Toledo, Andalusia and Sicily, extending their armies to invade Antioch and most importantly, Jerusalem (cited in Gibb, 1950). The implication here is that there is agreement over the basic historical facts.
Consensus also prevails over the reasons for the Muslim defeat and European victory. As is evident from Amin Maalouf's (2001) account of the Crusades as recorded and reported by Muslim historians, Arab defeat was an outcome, not just of petty rivalry among various Arab leaders and factions, but of the Crusaders' utter and unshakable conviction that they were doing the work of God. This belief propelled the Crusaders towards victory, while lack of cohesion among the Muslims quite effectively determined their defeat (Maalouf, 2001). The Arab and European accounts of the Fall of Jerusalem do not differ much in this respect.
The above identified similarities should not obscure the fact that there are marked differences between the two accounts, especially with regard to depictions of the other. A reading of Ibn Al Athir's account of the encounter evidences the extent to which the other' was perceived of in terms of prejudiced stereotypes (cited in Gabrielli, 1984). For example, Usama's account of "Frankish Medicine," expresses the idea that, irrespective of Christian victories, the Crusaders had neither civilization nor knowledge. Indeed, Usama claims that European doctors killed, rather than cured, their patients practicing a form of medicine that had little to do with scientific knowledge (cited in Gabrielli, 1984). Other eyewitness accounts advance Usama's perceptions of the Crusaders as an ignorant and uncivilized people through unflattering descriptions of their lifestyles, style of eating and personal hygiene (Gabrielli, 1984). Indeed, it would hardly be an exaggeration were one to assert that Muslim eyewitness accounts of the encounter tend towards the portrayal of others as uncivilized savages.
Interestingly, Christian accounts of the encounter tend towards a similarly unflattering description. This is amply evidenced in Mansses II's congratulatory letter to the Crusaders. Within the context of this letter, the victory is applauded in terms that speak of religious conflict and an ...Show more


In 1099, the First Crusades ended with the Fall of Jerusalem, from the Arab perspective, and with the Return of Jerusalem to Christendom from the Christian perspective. An understanding of the sensitivity of the Crusades and the reason why historical accounts differ so vastly is predicated on an appreciation of the implications of the event…
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History of the Middle East, 6001453 essay example
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