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Ancient and Medieval (Pre 1453) Book Review Archive
The Realm of St Stephen - A History of Medieval Hungary
Pal Engel Tauris ISBN 1 85043 977 X
This history of Hungary starts from the conquest by Magyar tribes in 895 until defeat by the Ottomans at Mohacs in 1526. The author's text has been translated into English and is now available in paperback for the general reader. It is well written and makes a great narrative history together with a detailed insight into the military, political and social history of a state that had a major influence on the medieval Balkans.
Dubrovnik - A History
Robin Harris Saqi ISBN 0 86356 959 5
The history of the fortified coastal city of Ragusa/Dubrovnik is well described by the journalist Robin Harris from its early origins until its shelling in the recent Balkan wars. Well illustrated it tells the story of a city caught between east and west using its commercial and diplomatic skills to survive in a changing world order.
Constantinople – The Last Great Siege 1453
Roger Crowley Faber ISBN 0 571 22185 8
This is a gripping narrative history of the siege. The author brings alive the contributions of all the main players and many others to this epic conflict that consolidated the Ottoman expansion and ended the Byzantine Empire. The dispassionate observer might reasonably believe that the small band of defenders stood little chance of success, being outnumbered ten to one, and with a divided Christendom unlikely to intervene. However, the author demonstrates that the siege came close to failure despite the huge organisational effort of Mehmet the Conqueror. Recommended.
Suleiman the Magnificent
Andre Clot Saqi ISBN0 86356 510 7
Sulieman’s reign was probably the high point of the Ottoman Empire, in both military and economic terms. This study is split into two parts. The first is a narrative history of his reign looking at it from the perspective of the different world players of the period. The second part looks at the Empire during his reign. Well written and informative, an excellent introduction to the period.
Austrian Frontier Troops 1740-98
David Hollins Osprey ISBN 1 84176 701 8
Usual Osprey MAA format with an introduction to the frontier and the creation of the Grenze. It then looks at how the regiments were formed and reformed as the Ottoman threat changed ending with their incorporation into the line. Excellent colour plates from Darko Pavlovic. Whilst Rothenburg remains the best study this volume has all that wargamers and modellers will need.
The Walls of Constantinople
Stephen Turnbull Osprey ISBN 1 84176 759
Latest in the Osprey ‘Fortress’ series looks at the fortifications of Constantinople from Constantine’s early walls to the capture by the Ottoman Turks. This study tours the extensive fortifications with plenty of illustrations and describes how it was defended and besieged by a variety of enemies. It ends with a look at the walls today and what remains to be visited.
Alexander the Great
Jeff Jonas Warhammer Historical ISBN 1 84154 435 3
This is the latest supplement to the Warhammer Ancient Battles rules. These ‘fun’ rules are leading something of a renaissance in 25mm wargame figures. This supplement follows a standard format of historical background, army lists and advice on organising and painting the army.
Byzantium at War
John Haldon Osprey ISBN 1 84176 360 8
The latest Balkan title in the Essential Histories series. In essence this is a cut down version of the author's excellent book The Byzantine Wars (see below). As one expects from Osprey a better illustrated version, but if you own the main volume this does not constitute value for money.
Cavalry Operations in the Greek World
Robert Gaebel Oklahoma Press ISBN 0 8061 3365 1
This is a history of the use of cavalry in the ancient world up to the Second Punic War. The author brings his historical and equestrian skills to the task arguing that the lack of stirrups was not an impediment to ancient horsemen. He illustrates his central thesis through the study of a number of battles showing the evolution of cavalry from a scouting arm to an effective arm of assault.
Harry Hodgkinson Centre for Albanian Studies ISBN 9 781903 616154
This is the first biography of the Albanian national hero Scanderbeg in modern times. It covers his early life and how he brought together the disparate Albanian groupings into an army which resisted the Ottoman empire when it was arguably at its strongest. This is a wonderfully written history of a fascinating, charismatic leader. Highly recommended.
First Crusader: Byzantium's Holy Wars
Geoffrey Regan Sutton ISBN 0 7509 9202 6
This book looks at the Byzantine campaigns from the adoption of Christianity and argues that these were as much holy wars or crusades as the later western crusades. A strong case is built on the imagery used by Heraclius in his successful 7th century campaigns against the Sassanid Persians. Interesting comparisons are made with the rise of Islam in the same period. A weaker case is made for the later 10th century campaigns which recovered much territory from Islam, but not Palestine and symbolically not Jerusalem. The study concludes with the disaster at Manzikert and the first 'western' crusade. This is an interesting perspective on Byzantine campaigns of the period in a well written narrative style.
Christopher Webber Osprey ISBN 1 84176 329 2
This latest Osprey benefits not only from the author's extensive study (members.nbci.com/thrace), but also the latest archaeological research in present day Bulgaria. Set out in the usual Osprey format the book concentrates on the distinctive Thracian dress amour and weapons. He then looks at the armies and tactics all supported by the excellent artwork of Angus McBride.
The Byzantine Wars
John Haldon Tempus ISBN 0 7524 1777 0
Much has been written about the Byzantine armies and the wars they participated in, but few have been written so well as this. The author has split the period between the sixth and twelfth centuries into five chapters. Each one looks at the strategic position of the empire during that period together with the armies tactics and organisation and concludes with a description of the key battles. Highly recommended.
Simon MacDowall Osprey ISBN 1 84176 147 8
Set out in the usual "Campaign Series" format this volume places the campaign in context before describing the Roman and Gothic armies concluding with the campaign and battle. Excellent colour maps and 3D drawings of the battlefield give a visual perspective of this famous triumph over the Roman legions.
An Ungodly War: The Sack of Constantinople and the Fourth Crusade
W. Bartlett Sutton ISBN 0 7509 2378 4
A well written general history of the Fourth crusade which was diverted by the Venetian's to attack Constantinople. The book begins with the religious split between the eastern and western churches in 1054 and recounts the the events leading up to the Crusade. The siege itself is described together with the following coup and the looting of the city in 1204. Whilst the latin Empire was eventually overcome Byzantium never fully recovered.
Piracy in the Graeco-Roman World
Philip de Souza Cambridge ISBN 0 521 48137 6
This book concentrates on piracy as a political issue rather than on pirates and their campaigns. A long exposition on who was or wasn't a pirate in the ancient world will probably not appeal to many readers of military history.
Nicholas Sekunda Osprey ISBN 1 85532 867 4
No. 27 in the Osprey Warrior series covers the Greek Hoplite 480-323BC. Describes the training and organisation of the citizen soldier during the 'Classical Period' although as always with Osprey the strength of the book is the description of equipment and dress with excellent colour plates. The hoplite battle is outlined together with the strategy adopted by the city states during this period. A good general introduction.
David Nicolle Osprey ISBN 1 84176 091 9
The latest in the Osprey Campaign series covers the siege of Constantinople 1453. It follows the usual format of describing the opposing commanders and armies before tackling the siege in some detail. Well illustrated with excellent 3D maps of the siege.
Byzantium's Balkan Frontier
Paul Stephenson Cambridge
This is a political study of the Northern Balkans 900-1204 from a Byzantine perspective rather than a history of the Balkan nations. It looks at Byzantine relations with slavic and non-slavic peoples in and outwith the Balkans. In particular the author considers imperial responses to the migrations of nomadic peoples. Helpful context but otherwise of limited interest to military historians.
The Byzantine Commonwealth
Dimitri Obolensky Phoenix Press ISBN 1 84212 019 0
This is a newly published paperback edition of Professor Obolensky's classic study of the Byzantine Empire and its relations with the peoples of the Balkans. Chapters narrate the barbarian invasions and the frequent Byzantine recoveries from 500 to 1453. The final chapters cover Byzantine culture, religion, law and art.
David Nicolle Osprey ISBN 1-85532-918-2
The latest offering from David Nicolle in the Osprey Campaign series covers the 'crusade' of the Duke of Burgundy and Sigismund, King of Hungary which ended in disaster on the banks of the Danube at Nicoplis in 1396. The usual Osprey campaign format is followed with the background to the campaign, a description of the opposing forces and an account of the battle itself. A brief guide to the battlefield today and wargaming notes . As always with Osprey the strength of the volume is the 90 odd illustrations including three dimensional maps and colour plates. Excellent and highly recommended.
Warfare State and Society in the Byzantine World 565-1204
John Haldon UCL Press 1999 ISBN 1-85728-495-X
An important new book on the Byzantine military system in the excellent Warfare & History series. The author puts the military system into the context of Byzantine society with their attitudes to warfare. He sets out the geographic and strategic factors which influenced the Empire and a brief history of how they were applied. The main chapters cover the military administration and the army at war, both in terms of the organisation of campaigns and combat on the battlefield. The book is well illustrated with diagrams and detailed appendices on logistics. Essential reading for a proper understanding of the Byzantine army in the early and middle periods of the Empire.
The Spartan Army
Nick Sekunda Osprey Elite 66
The usual quality Osprey format. The text gives a brief historical outline followed by chapters on the organisation, dress and weaponry of the Spartans. The book is lavishly illustrated with photographs of the archeological remains and twelve pages of excellent colour plates by Richard Hook.
Warriors of the Steppe
Eric Hildinger Spellmount (ISBN 1-873376-73-1) 260p
This new book covers the military history of the nomadic warriors from Asia who had such an impact on warfare in the period up to the early modern period. The introductory chapters deal in general terms with the way of life, weapons and equipment before covering each group in more detail. Specific groups include the Scythians, Sarmatians, Huns, Avars, Bulgars, Magyars, Seljuks, Mongols, Tatars and Manchus. Given Hildinger's previous work on the Mongols it is perhaps not surprising that they take up a disproportionate amount of space in the book. This minor criticism should not detract from a well written book on warriors who dominated the early history of the Balkans. Recommended.