The Albigensian Crusades

The Albigensian CrusadesThe Albigensian Crusades by Joseph R. Strayer

Review by Sarah Newell

“Repression can destroy a faith; it can also produce dangerous decay in the society that uses it.”  These words hold meaningful truths for today’s society, yet they were written about the thirteenth century.

In 1208 there began a crusade against the Cathar and Waldensian heretics of Southern France.  In an area known as Occitania, the Roman Catholic Church sought to eliminate dissent while the Northern French king sought to acquire land. While the resulting Albigensian Crusades were considered successful, it lead to many unintended consequences including the disillusionment that paved the way for the Reformation. 

Author and Professor Joseph R. Strayer weaves many layers of historical insight to paint the picture of political thinking, papal and clerical back dealing and heroism by the Cathars that makes The Albigensian Crusades an intriguing historical read.  This period in history had such significance as to give rise to the Inquisition and unite France in ways that had ripple effects through Napoleon and beyond.  Because Strayer avoids an in-depth understanding of the Cathars and Waldensians, he unfortunately is almost indifferent to the suffering of the hundreds of thousands of peaceful citizens slaughtered and tortured.  Despite this, The Albigensian Crusades is a must read for anyone interested in historical or modern day Southern France.

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About the Reviewer:  Sarah is a modern-day heretic dedicated to the perseverance of common sense and an educated populace.  You can find her at the Reference Desk.