Here the great Catholic historian Hilaire Belloc states that in this titanic struggle, to which nearly a million men arose, "our fathers all but re-established the spiritual mastery of Europe over the East: all but recovered the full patrimony of Rome."
But they did not recover it. They failed. That is, they failed after the success of the First or Great Crusade, which took Jerusalem in 1099 A.D., and then held out in the Holy Land for 50 years. But the disaster came at Hattin (1187 A.D.), and subsequent "Crusades" were but "the rear-guard action of a defeat."
In The Crusades, Belloc tells us why our Christian forefathers failed in this momentous enterprise. He explains the men, the leadership, the arms, the land, the finances, the motives, the character of the enemy, the heat, the thirst -- to put us in a mind to understand why the Crusaders initially succeeded, why they ultimately failed, and why they went off on the Crusade in the first place. From the military standpoint, Belloc answers that the great Crusading effort failed because the Crusaders failed to secure Damascus -- and they failed to secure Damascus because of an ongoing lack of reinforcement from Europe.
But of what importance is all this for today? Does it matter that the great 11th and 12th century effort to re-establish European Christian order and tradition in its cradle in the Holy Land ultimately failed: that the Moslem strength was not destroyed?
Hilaire Belloc predicts here (written in 1937) that we have by no means seen the last of the results of the 12th-century Christian military failure against Islam. He states that "Islam has in the main preserved its soul," and that therefore its material strength may return. On the other hand, Europe is disintegrating, for the Christian cement which held it together has crumbled. And in that great spiritual contrast, states Belloc, lies our great peril from Islam yet today. In "The Crusades," Belloc gives the rationale for the Crusades. He shows why they initially succeeded and yet ultimately failed, and what the dire consequences have been for history as a result. This fascinating and very readable book presents how the Crusades were an intelligent response to an age-old problem that is basically still with us. Terrific historical insights!