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Word Count: 937
After the death of Charlemagne king of the Franks in 814 and the following collapse of his empire Christian Europe was under attack and on the defensive The Magyars nomadic people from Asia ravaged eastern and central Europe until the 10th century Around 800 several centuries of Viking raids disrupted life in northern Europe and even threatened Mediterranean cities Nevertheless the greatest threat came from the forces of Islam very militant and victorious in the centuries following the death of their leader Muhammad in 632 By the eighth century Islamic forces had conquered North Africa the eastern shores of the Mediterranean and most of Spain Islamic armies established bases in Italy greatly reduced the size of the Byzantine Empire and besieged the capital Constantinople In the 11th century the balance of power began to swing toward the West For the first time in many years the popes were able to effectively unite European popular support behind them a factor that contributed greatly to the popular appeal to the first CrusadesMoreover Europes population was growing its urban life was beginning to revive and both long distance and local trade were gradually increasing European human and economic resources could now support new ventures on the scale of the CrusadesIt was against this background that Pope Urban II called for a great Christian expedition to free Jerusalem from the Seljuk Turks through a speech he delivered at Clermont in France The pope was spurred by his position as the spiritual head of Western Europe the temporary absence of strong rulers in Germany or France who could either oppose or take over the effort and by a call for help from the Byzantine Empire These factors were unquestionable causes and at the same time useful justifications for the popes call for a Crusade In any case Urbans speech appealed to thousands of people of all classes It happened to be the right message at the right time The First
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