For much of human history, societies were relatively isolated. Today it's easy for information to travel across the globe with the click of a button, but before modern technology, it could take centuries for new ideas or inventions to make it from one place to another. However, even before the invention of modern travel, goods and ideas were often passed along trade routes. During times of war, when more people than normal were traveling, the speed with which goods and ideas were traded increased. This was true during the religious wars known as the Crusades.
What Were the Crusades?
The Crusades were a series of holy wars beginning in the 11th century that were fought between European Christians and Muslims from the Middle East. At the time, the Muslim empire extended from Spain to India. During the same time, the Christine Byzantine Empire was a stronghold for Christianity in the Middle East.
In 1070, Muslim Turkish settlers were increasingly moving into the Byzantine Empire. Eventually these settlers began to stop Christians from entering Jerusalem, which is a holy city for Jews, Christians and Muslims. In response, in 1095, Pope Urban II called on European Christians to reclaim Jerusalem, beginning the holy wars, which would continue intermittently over the next 200 years.
Although they were at war during those two centuries, the Muslim and Christian worlds were in closer contact than they had been previously. Because of this, Christian-Muslim trade flourished during the Crusades.
What Was Christian Muslim Trade Like During The Crusades?
At the time that the Crusades started, the Muslim Empire was considered more technologically and culturally advanced than Western European societies. Because of this, Europeans who participated in the holy wars were exposed to many new ideas. The Crusaders traded goods and ideas with the Muslim societies that they came into contact with.
Some of these trades were of physical goods that came from the Muslim's vast empire. Crusaders brought goods like lemons, apricots, sugar, silk, cotton and spices back to Western Europe. Eventually taste for these items, which were considered luxuries at the time, would fuel European colonization.
The Muslim influence during the Crusades also extended into intellectual ideas. Some of these would help redefine European society in the centuries after the Crusades. The number system that most of the world uses today is called Arabic numerals (which are 0 through 9). That's because the number system, including the concept of 0, was developed in the Muslim empire and brought back to Europe during the Crusades. In addition to Arabic numerals, Crusaders also brought back innovations in warfare, including better castle design and gunpowder.