The Amazing Roger Crowley

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Four Feudal Estates
(4 out of 4 rating)

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Four Feudal Estates
(4 out of 4 rating)

I was working on a top 10 list of my favorite history books, and I noticed that two of the books I chose were written by the same author: Roger Crowley. I read these books a while ago, so I can’t remember enough details to write full reviews, but here are a few interesting points that stuck in my mind:

Empires of the Sea is the story of Christian Europe’s defense against Ottoman attacks in the Mediterranean. I could understand Europeans’ fears after reading accounts of Barbary pirates descending on coastal villages and sailing off with the inhabitants as slaves. The siege of Malta was my favorite part of the book. I was impressed by the bravery of the Maltese militia (which the knights initially doubted) and the audacity of the defenders who launched counterattacks from smaller fortresses – they moved their cavalry around at night for surprise attacks, and launched an attack in the rain (when gunpowder weapons wouldn’t work) using crossbows. I was also impressed by the vast resources that went into each side’s preparations for the battle of Lepanto; I wonder what an equivalent economic expenditure would look like today.

City of Fortune is the history of Venice’s interactions with other Mediterranean powers. I really enjoyed the accounts of the city’s founding by Roman refugees during the Barbarian invasions, and of the struggles against Genoa. I was surprised to learn of how long the Venetians still considered themselves Roman and remained loyal supporters of the Byzantine Empire. The conflict between the two powers during the Fourth Crusade was a fascinating story, as was the account of the Venetians’ attempt at a land-based empire in Italy. The book also covers the time period in Empires of the Sea, but with surprisingly little overlap in material; I’d definitely recommend reading both.

Roger Crowley has a third book, 1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West, which I have not yet read (I have been putting it off, hoping the book would be released in audiobook form). Crowley is also working on a new book about Vasco da Gama. I have wanted to read about da Gama for a while; the combination of an interesting topic and one of my favorite authors guarantees that I’ll be picking up a copy as soon as it’s available. I also recommend Crowley’s blog at http://rogercrowley.blogspot.co.uk/ for occasional history-related articles.

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2 comments

  1. I loved City of Fortune. Crowley has a book coming out in December of this year about Portugal’s maritime empire. I have an advance copy but haven’t started on it yet. http://amzn.to/1FThVjZ

    1. Yes, I’m really looking forward to that. I’m hoping it will be available as an audiobook, but if not, I’ll buy the kindle version.

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