What’s the Children’s Crusade?

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The Children’s Crusade, led by a young boy, is a myth created by a mistranslation of the Latin word “pueri” which referred to landless poor, not children. Evidence suggests that a group of landless individuals claimed to be on a crusade in 1212 but never made it out of Europe. This story is a reminder to always check sources for accurate information.

The Children’s Crusade was a crusade led by a young boy who wanted to join the adults in defending Christianity during the turmoil of the Middle Ages. Whether the boy was French or German is disputed, but in 1212 he motivated a large mob that followed him to Italy, and then to the Middle East, where the young Crusaders were eventually captured and sold into slavery. It certainly sounds like a fascinating story, especially for modern readers interested in medieval history; unfortunately, all the evidence suggests that the children’s crusade didn’t actually happen.

As is often the case in history, the precise origin of the legends about the Children’s Crusade is not known, as the alleged event took place so long ago. However, once enough sources picked up on the story and claimed it was true, people bought the bait and generally agreed that there was, in fact, a crusade led by a motivated shepherd boy who claimed to having received visions from God. The supposed miracles that would ease the passage to the Middle East should have been a hint, but apparently people were eager to believe the idea of ​​the Children’s Crusade, and only in the late 20th century did historians they decided to get to the bottom of the story.

What they found was that the idea of ​​the “Children’s Crusade” was probably largely accidental. The myth was created due to a confusion in the translation. The Latin word for “boys,” pueri, was also used in the Middle Ages as a slang term to refer to the landless poor. Translators who did not understand its implications read contemporary accounts of groups of pueri roaming the countryside under the pretense of crusade, and translated these texts with children in mind, not impoverished adults.

Indeed, the evidence seems to suggest that the so-called ce was in fact a motley crew of landless individuals who roamed Europe after being displaced. The driving forces of the Crusades were once the question of land and inheritance, because as Europe’s population grew, so did the pressures on family lands. Landless individuals often joined forces in a search for charity or a new place to settle, and at least one group of landless people in 1212 actually claimed to be on a crusade, although evidence suggests they never made it out of Europe .

The story of the Children’s Crusade is a fascinating example of the ways history can be misunderstood, and it is a sobering lesson. You should always check sources for your information about a historic event, whether the event happened 2,000 years ago or last week, because a single misprint or mistranslation can quickly spread and can last for centuries.

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