Houghton Mifflin Social Studies
Across the Centuries

Understanding Primary Sources: Two Sides in a Crusade

Objective: Students compare an excerpt from Pope Urban II calling for a Crusade to take control of Jerusalem with the words of Saladin calling for Muslims to win control of the city.

What You Need:

Suggested Time:
2 hours over 2 days

Building Background:
The city of Jerusalem is holy city for many people, including Christians, Jews, and Muslims. The country around it is sometimes called "The Holy Land" because it is so important to so many different religions. Jerusalem has been controlled by different groups at different points throughout history, and at times wars have been fought over the city. In the late 11th century, the Seljuk Turks ruled Jerusalem and much of the surrounding area. The Byzantine Emperor, fearing the complete collapse of this empire, sent a letter to Pope Urban II for military assistance. In 1095, the pope called for war to drive the Muslims out of the region. The result was a series of wars called the Crusades. These wars ended with limited success for the western Europeans. For a brief period of time, the Crusaders held Jerusalem and the surrounding region. However, by the end of the 13th century, Muslim forces had recaptured all of the area the Crusaders had taken. Tell students that they will read part of Pope Urban's speech calling for Christians to take control of Jerusalem in 1095 and then the words of Saladin, the Muslim leader who took Jerusalem back from the Crusaders in 1187. They will compare the arguments the two leaders used.

What To Do:

1. Distribute the Two Sides in a Crusade worksheet. Ask students to read Pope Urban II's call for a crusade and Saladin's call for the reconquest of Jerusalem and then answer the questions. Have students compare Urban's and Saladin's arguments for war. Discuss the impressions these speeches give them about the Crusades and the people who fought in them.

2. Have students visit your school or local library or use the Internet to research the crusades to learn the effects of these conflicts upon the medieval world. Offer this Internet site as a starting point for students' online research:

Life in the Middle Ages

Fourth and fifth grade students present their research on life in the Middle Ages, including the Crusades.

3. Discuss the results of students' research. Ask students to prepare newspaper articles describing a scene from the Crusades. Their articles should include the year the event took place and list the sources that students used. Remind students to write as objective reporters, not as participants.

Have students discuss the outcome of the Crusades. Did either Urban or Saladin see their goals achieved? What were some of the results of the Crusades?


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