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Book Review: 1453 by Roger Crowley 
3rd-Nov-2013 12:19 pm
1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West by Roger Crowley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very vividly written account of the siege of Constantinople in 1453. Crowley has a knack for vivid writing, and can really make you feel as though you were there.

Crowley is particularly good at explaining military tactics and the technology of warfare. And the technology of warfare was particularly remarkable at the time. For example, the Byzantines protected the entrance to the harbor of the Golden Horn by stringing a giant chain across the mouth of the harbor, preventing ships from entering. So, what did Mehmet II, sultan of the Ottomans, do when he couldn't break the chain? Well, he had his men carry a bunch of war galleys overland and rolled them into the water on the other side of the chain. I also hadn't known that the Ottomans were early adopters of field artillery. Crowley's description of how they forged immense cannon in an attempt to bring down Constantinople's land walls is fascinating. As is his description of how the defenders of the city made a virtue of necessity - when the Ottoman cannon smashed their stone walls, they rebuilt them as wooden palisades with dirt piled between them - which did a much better job of absorbing the impact of the cannon balls.

Overall, the book is a great read, both informative and suspenseful. Though, be warned, it is a book that will make you want to read lots of other books, starting with Crowley's Empires of the Sea, which appears to be something of a sequel to this one.

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8th-Nov-2013 10:24 pm (UTC)
Wow. That title and cover design are REALLY trying to ride on the coattails of 1493.
9th-Nov-2013 12:43 am (UTC)
Yeah, it really is. Which possibly makes sense if you assume that people who enjoyed one well-written popular history might enjoy a completely different sort of well-written popular history. Which, given that they didn't repeat the same cover design for Crowley's subsequent books, might not have been the right assumption.
9th-Nov-2013 12:44 am (UTC)
Either that, or they were hoping for accidental sales where buyers didn't notice the different date . . . :-P
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