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The Crusades were first undertaken in 1096 and ended in the late 13th century The term Crusade was originally applied solely to European efforts to retake from the Muslims the city of Jerusalem which was sacred to Christians as the site of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ It was later used to designate any military effort by Europeans against non-Christians The Crusaders carved out feudal states in the Near East Thus the Crusades are an important early part of the story of European expansion and colonialism They mark the first time Western Christendom undertook a military initiative far from home the first time significant numbers left to carry their culture and religion abroad In addition to the campaigns in the East the Crusading movement includes other wars against Muslims pagans and dissident Christians and the general expansion of Christian Europe In a broad sense the Crusades were an expression of militant Christianity and European expansion They combined religious interests with secular and military enterprises Christians learned to live in different cultures which they learned and absorbed they also imposed something of their own characteristics on these cultures The Crusades strongly affected the imagination and aspirations of people at the time and to this day they are among the most famous portions of medieval history After the death of Charlemagne king of the Franks in 814 and the collapse of his empire Christian Europe was under attack and on the defensive Magyars nomadic people from Asia pillaged eastern and central Europe until the 10th century Beginning about 800 several centuries of Viking raids disrupted life in northern Europe and even threatened Mediterranean cities But the greatest threat came from the forces of Islam militant and victorious in the centuries following the death of Muhammad
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