[-empyre-] Economic Decay, Economic Crusade: part two forward from Loretta

Economic Decay, Economic Crusade

(part two of Modern Jihad: the Islamicist Crusade)

by Loretta Napoleoni

The fall of the Roman Empire had disastrous consequences for the
economies of Western Europe. The disintegration of the Pax Romana
opened the gates to relentless looting by barbarian tribes; without
the protection of Rome, entire regions were ransacked and their
economies returned to pre-Roman conditions. Trade and commerce came to
a halt and, almost overnight, what had once been a prosperous, buoyant
economic system vanished. Money as a means of exchange disappeared,
and economic transactions regressed to primitive barter exchanges.
The feudal system, that emerged from the disintegration of the Roman
Empire, rested upon the shoulders of peasants, who comprised 90
percent of the population of Europe.  Until the tenth century, closed,
subsistence economies, built around agrarian settlements, barely
produced enough to feed the inhabitants, let alone enrich the nobility
and the knights.  From the eleventh century onwards, improved
agricultural tools (such as the introduction of the light plough) and
an increase in farmland boosted production,  but spectacular
demographic growth more than absorbed the surplus and gave rise to
serious food shortages.
Islamic economic domination during the Middle Ages contributeding to
the economic decay of Western Europe by hindering development and
growth.  During the ninth and tenth centuries, Byzantine Empire  Islam
enjoyed its commercial golden age, enriching merchants and states;,
and in turn trade in turn spread Islamic culture all over the world.
TheWith Islamic economic domination of the Mediterranean turned ,
Europe into became a colonial and underdeveloped region, suffering
from structural trade imbalances with the Muslim world.  Europe's only
exports were Frankish swords, Slavonic slaves, and English wool.  In
sharp contrast, Europe imports from the ed East ern goods rangeding
from luxury items, such as silk and spices, to raw-materials inputs
required for domestic industriesproduction, such as alum for fixing
colors and dyes in the textile industry. A constant drain of gold from
West to East, to cover this trade imbalance, depleted the European
economy and consolidated its economic dependence upon the Islamic
Economic decay fostered conflict, which in turn destroyed productive
resources. For centuries, Western Europe endured a constant state of
war, attacked by Scandinavian, eastern European, and Germanic tribes
as well as by Muslim armiess. The Barbarian invasions had rendered the
land useless.  Irrigation systems and dams had been destroyed,
flooding large tracts of land. Any village unprotected by a lord and
his castle fell prey to constant raids by soldiers and armed gangs.
The Church attempted to protect the poor by encouraging the
construction of towns, but many lords opposed this strategy because
they feared the new settlements would impinge upon their power. At the
same time, extraordinary demographic growth exercised a mounting
pressure upon villages, whose holdings became insufficient to sustain
the growing population. "In this land you can scarcely feed the
inhabitants," said Pope Urban II on the eve of the First Crusade.
"That is why you use up its goods and excite endless wars amongst
yourself."  Floods and pestilence swept through northwest Europe in
1094, followed by drought and famine in 1095, making the situation
even worse.
Then came Pope Urban II's call to arms to liberate the Holy Land at
Clermont at the end of 1096. For the starving population of Europe,
the First Crusade offered a way of feeding itself and an escape from a
life of misery and suffering .[[Were Crusaders paid?]] For the knights
and nobility, it offered an opportunity for economic expansion. Count
Bohemund of Taranto is a case in point. Following the Pope's call,
Bohemund declared himself and his Norman troops "Franks," thus
assuming the required ethnic identity to fight under the banner of
Christianity, and sailed to the Holy Land. In reality the Normans were
neither Franks nor Christians, but descendant of the Vikings, the
northern tribes who had ransacked and terrorized the Franks and other
Western European tribes for centuries.  The decision to embrace
Christianity had been taken forty years earlier by Bohemund's
forebears, brigands and mercenaries who had joined the Byzantine army
to fight the Muslims. Taking advantage of the hostilities, the Normans
had carved out a kingdom for themselves in Southern Italy. From
Sicily, a major crossroads for Muslim and Christian commerce, they saw
in the First Crusade an opportunity for the eastward expansion of
their domain.  Christianity for the Normans was not a spiritual
religion, but a vehicle for territorial conquest. Bohemund saw the
Crusades as the driving force behind economic development, at the time
synonymous with conquest, and the Crusaders as the vanguard of this
expansionary wave.  Most of his fellow Crusadersæthe Franj's leaders,
the knights, the militant clergy, even the peasants turned foot
soldiersæshared this vision. The Crusaders aimed to free Europe of the
economic hegemony of Islam,  not to destroy Islamic civilization.

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