I've just finished reading Christopher's Tyerman's mammoth tome, "God's War: A New History of the Crusades." Weighing in at 2.9 pounds (that's a lot!) and covering 1000+ plus pages, after reading it you feel as if you've made the long journey to Jerusalem and back. But I'm not trying to extol my own academic acumen; instead, I want to draw attention to Tyerman's fabulous conclusion.
Throughout the book, Tyerman constantly reminds the reader that the crusades were not wholly religious, nor were they strictly secular. The wars of the cross, rather, were tied into a matrix of territorial expansion, Passion theology, and raw commercial venture. So where do these strands intersect in the crusades?
In the humanity of it all, responds Tyerman. He remarks that "sentimentality will not do" in explaining why so many, men and women, lay and clergy, noble and common, embarked on long, self-sacrificial, financially and bodily risky ventures that always presented the possibility of the individual being ground into the dustbin of history. The bodies that were crushed, the lives that were lost, the relationships and human beings that were significantly or trivially altered by the wars of the cross perfectly describe the experience of the crusades: its humanity.