Failure of Second Crusade

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Assess the reasons for the failure of the Second Crusade (1147-1149)

The Second Crusade featured two of the most important European rulers of the time, at the head of an army that numbered in the region of 70,000, and supported by the Pope and the great orator St. Bernard of Clairvaux, with the relatively modest aim of taking back Edessa. The reasons for the failure of the Second Crusade are manifold. The annihilation of the Christian population at Edessa undermined its suitability as a target, leading to the crusade being subordinated to the rival interests of the crusader states. Furthermore, the Byzantines withheld assistance, while the crusaders faced a stronger and more united Muslim force. However, while all these factors played a part in the failure of the crusade, it was ultimately the poor leadership demonstrated by Louis and Conrad that led to a succession of mistakes, which emphasised the importance of these other factors, to bring about the complete failure of the crusade.

Poor leadership was the key reason for the failure of the Second Crusade. Both Conrad III and Louis VII demonstrated an inability to manage their troops and weak leadership. Conrad was perhaps more to blame, abandoning the plan to wait for Louis at Constantinople, declaring he would not rest until Edessa was taken. This led him to enter Asia Minor without the support of Louis making the whole contingent more vulnerable to Muslim attack. This exacerbated a succession of further errors. At Nicaea he only took eight days worth of supplies for the army, meaning it quickly ran out of food. This forced him to split his forces in two, making his army even more vulnerable to a more prepared Muslim force. The contingent under of Otto of Freising took the coastal route, but were ambushed and wiped out. Conrad did not fare much better, being attacked at Dorylaeum. While the initial retreat…...

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