More history from The TOF Spot:
Among the usual cris de coeur about Western Civilization are the Crusades, a series ofunprovoked and dastardly aggressions against the Religion of Peace.™ These were, in this view, holy wars led by power-mad popes and fought by uncouth religious fanatics from an overpopulated and resource-poor backward Europe against the peaceful and enlightened Muslim culture, leaving it in ruins to this day.
Depending upon which generation of occidentophobes we cite, these attacks are said to be due to evil Western capitalistic imperialism-colonialism or to evil Western Islamophobia. In either case, it is a projection of High Modern or Late Modern concerns onto a High Medieval milieu for which they are not exactly good fits. The eleventh and twelfth centuries were not exactly hot times for capitalism — as Marx in fact knew. And is it really a phobia if someone has been attacking and raiding your lands for four hundred years and you at long last strike back?
Our modern view of the Crusades has been informed by Steven Runciman’s influential text, A History of the Crusades. Most people today owe their view of oafish Frankish barbarians disrupting a suave and sophisticated Islamic culture to his work. Runciman greatly admired the Byzantine Empire, and regarded its destruction by the wayward “Fourth” Crusade as “the greatest crime committed against humanity.” He delivered himself of this opinion only a decade or so after World War II, too; so it may be true what they say about academics.
Read the rest at his blog. I especially like finding out why various stories became popular, like the whole “The middle east is screwed up because of the eeeeevil Christians” thing.