Crowley’s popular histories—this is his fourth—pivot around power politics of the Mediterranean Sea, circa 1453 (2005). Venice is the player this lively narrative focuses on, specifically during the three centuries, from 1200 to 1500, in which it was at the apex of its sway over maritime trade. Accenting the city-state’s mercantile spirit, Crowley supports his narrative of the period’s numerous naval wars with explanations of the commerce they were fought to command. Acquiring an imperial archipelago in the process of serving as spice broker between Europe and Asia, Venice reached around Greece to Constantinople and as far as southern Russia. Anchored by fortresses, linked by galleys, Venice’s commercial empire faced challenges from Mongols, Genoa, and Ottoman Turks, and the diplomatic and military means by which Venice addressed those threats provide the most vivid passages and personalities in Crowley’s account. Had Vittorio Pisano not defeated Genoa in 1380, Venice might not be the tourist attraction of today. A deft writer, Crowley renders the Venetian part in late medieval times interesting indeed to history buffs. --Gilbert Taylor
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“The rise and fall of Venice’s empire is an irresistible story and [Roger] Crowley, with his rousing descriptive gifts and scholarly attention to detail, is its perfect chronicler.”—The Financial Times
“[Crowley] writes with a racy briskness that lifts sea battles and sieges off the page.”—The New York Times
“Crowley chronicles the peak of Venice’s past glory with Wordsworthian sympathy, supplemented by impressive learning and infectious enthusiasm.”—The Wall Street Journal
“A pleasure to read . . . a gripping story.”—Washington Independent Review of Books
“Fascinating . . . [Crowley writes] absorbingly and accessibly for all readers of history.”—Library Journal
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