The Children’s Crusade

The Children’s Crusade
Gary Dickson

Was there a Children’s Crusade? It seems that something happened in 1212 that looked like one, but the evidence for what that something was is scattered, meagre, and conflicting. Nevertheless, the idea of a mass movement of young people marching to Jerusalem on a doomed quest to redeem the Holy Land was irresistible for writers looking to point a moral. This led to the story of the crusade entering the realm of “mythistory”: a useful concept saddled with a horrible label that I would happily sign a petition against. In mythistory what actually happened in 1212 isn’t as important as how it was interpreted, or what it meant. In the most popular version, the Children’s Crusade has simply become a byword for immature idealism leading to disaster. “Mythistory” notwithstanding, Gary Dickson makes the crusade into an interesting test case of historiography, showing what an ongoing project the construction of history always is.