1453, by Robert Crowley

August 6, 2010 at 16:14 (Book Reviews, Byzantium, Highly Rated Books, Historical) (, , , , )


A very beautifully told history, Crowley’s weakness is in occasionally forgetting that he is writing a religious and military account of a battle, and not an historical novel. One might readily salute his ability to bring the principal figures to startlingly lifelike dimensions, and  his runaway narratives are immensely enjoyavle, though not always appropriate to a serious history. Admittedly, they are inspired to some degree by the equally excitable accounts of Kritovoulos and other contemporary historians. It is a weakness, but a tolerable weakness, and Crowley is a skilled enough writer to carry it off admirably.

His sources are at first glance a right royal mess, and he does not really footnote at all, but it seems like he has been quite meticulous at arranging his material and plotting a middle-of-the-road course that nonetheless reflects rather badly on the Turks. His ample explanations of the modern attitudes of the western democracies and even the Muslim powers are deeply interesting if a little journalistic, and he is enough of an historian to give plenty of background to the fall of Constantinople (though the title is no misnomer, and he spends most of his time purely on the siege). Altogether a brief but brave and well-written account of an historical tragedy, and one of the most significant events of the last millennium.


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