Throughout most of the last century, historians contended that
crusading armies were composed primarily of younger sons, fortune-seekers and
ne’re-do-wells. The theory, which resonated well with a cynical, anti-clerical
public, was that crusaders were people with few prospects at home who flocked
to the Holy Land for material gain.
|Hollywood's version of a crusader: greedy, ruthless, cynical and mad.|
Raised to view themselves as privileged and trained in no profession except that of arms, they were the restless and violent men who needed wars to survive. Logically, they were the men Pope Urban addressed when he criticized Christian knights for fighting each other. They were the “natural” recruits for a crusade. The crusade, so the theory goes, offered them an opportunity to win not only fame and a remission of their many sins, but a chance to gain loot and most important land. In short, younger sons were drawn to the crusade because it offered them an opportunity to regain what they had lost through the introduction of primogeniture: riches, land and titles.
Furthermore and decisively, “the documentary record [demonstrates] that the great majority of these knightly crusaders were not spare sons but instead the lords of their estates.”[iii] Indeed, all the leading crusaders were great landlords, the most obvious being Robert, Duke of Normandy, but also the Duke of Lorraine and the Count of Toulouse (an extremely wealthy lord).
Unfortunately for proponents of this theory there is, again, evidence to the contrary. A large number of medieval charters documenting the transfer of land from one owner to another have survived from the Middle Ages. In recent decades these charters have come under increased scrutiny. As Professor Jotischky summarizes it: “…the financial details evidenced by [charters] confirms the crushing expenses incurred by crusaders — and thereby provides ammunition against the argument that crusaders took the cross for economic enrichment…”[iv]
Well, so a capitalist would argue: nothing ventured nothing gained. If it was very expensive to go on crusade, then obviously it was the wealthy who did it — which only goes to prove that (just like nowadays), the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, because it always takes money to make money.