Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ Free Shipping
Crusader Castles in the Holy Land 1192–1302 (Fortress) Paperback – July 13, 2005
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
About the Author
David Nicolle was born in 1944 and worked for the BBC, including the overseas broadcasting service, before he returned to university and obtained his PhD in Edinburgh. He subsequently taught at Yarmouk University in Jordan. He now devotes himself to writing and is a specialist in medieval arms and armour. He is also a frequent contributor to numerous specialist journals and international conferences. He lives in Leicestershire, UK.
Browse award-winning titles. See more
Top customer reviews
The introduction, where I listed up to a dozen issues, imprecisions, or inaccuracies, is one of the latter. These start in the very first sentence where you learn that castles during this second period served not only for "defensive purposes" and "statements of power" but also as "offensive bases". This last item is rather curious, given the increased manpower shortages (even worse than during the previous period) and their inability of Crusaders to conduct anything more than raids.
A second example is the author's emphasis on the Second Crusade (1147-1149) "fiasco" and the loss of the byzantine alliance to explain why "the Crusader States developed a more cautious strategy." This is partly incorrect on two different counts. The real reason that explains the change and which is mentioned on the next page is the disastrous and catastrophic defeat at Hattin where the whole Crusader army was destroyed. As a result, the shift towards a "more cautious strategy" (an understatement, or even a misleading statement if ever there was one) was not exactly a choice that the Crusader Sates made: they simply had no other option and, as the author states himself on the next page, they "never recovered from Saladin's campaigns. There are a number of other contradictory statements, especially in the introduction.
Another example is stating that the fortresses built in the 13th century were "effective defensive systems". However, the following pages insist on the increasing lack of manpower on the Crusaders' side while also mentioning that "their eventual failure resulted from the unification of Egypt and Syria under the aggressive leadership of the Mamluk sultans."
Accordingly, on their own, these fortresses, however formidable individually, were not sufficient to keep the vastly more numerous enemy at bay once this enemy had united. As the author also notes, this is something that Saladin had already managed to do. However, the "balance of power" had already started to shift under Nour Ed Din and perhaps even under his father Zengi (the conqueror of Edessa in 1144). It is precisely because of this that the Second Crusade, which could have restored the balance of power and do some much but delivered so little was the "fiasco" that David Nicolle mentions. There are a number of other confusions and contradictions. At times, there are also omissions such as in the chronology which records the fall of the main fortresses and cities during the 13th century but seems to omit the fall of Tyre.
The section on the development of Crusader fortification is mostly better, including the first pages which paraphrase text found in the first volume. Here again, the book suffers from compression and lack of space so that the author often mentions "design influences" between Armenian, Islamic, Byzantine and Frankish styles without provided illustrative examples in most cases. The statement about "powerful siege weaponry" (counterweight trebuchet) introducing "the most dramatic and expensive change" is also a bit of a simplification. First, as mentioned in my review of the first volume, it seems that counterweight trebuchet started to appear well before the date mentioned by Nicolle (late 12th). Second, and while these more powerful engines did have an impact on fortress building, other elements, such as improved mining techniques, also did and are not even mentioned.
The author does also make a number of excellent points. One of these is that as the financial and military resources of the lay lords and of the rulers of the three remaining States dwindled, the Military Orders played an increasing role in the defence of all three states. Another point is that the cost of building fortifications or even simply keeping them up, updating and improving them were such that the Kingdom of Jerusalem increasingly depended upon the generosity of overseas monarchs, with Louis IX being a prime example.
Other remarkable features of this book are the high number of schematics laying out castles and towns. Unfortunately, and once again given space constraints, some of these schematics are not backed up by comprehensive descriptions of the fortifications, which tends to spoil part of the effect. The section on the principles of defence is also good to the extent that it does show the evolution of siege warfare in the Holy Land and its specificities much better than the first volume did for the 12th century.
The selection of five fortifications include three of the largest castles (Marquab, Krac des Chevaliers and Château Pelerin that the author persist in calling by its Arabic name Atlib) and two heavily fortified maritime cities (Cesaree and Arsuf). One problem with this section, however, is that some of the selected pictures - in particular those showing piles of rubble - are not very helpful, although the plates are great. I had a similar issue with a number of the pictures in the next section (Life in the Holy Land castles).
I was somewhat disappointed with the section on the Crusader States at war because this section contains an apparent contradiction. While most of the text shows the slow loss as fortifications were picked of one after another and either fell or surrendered because they had no hope of being rescued, the author persists in trying to make the case for thee "soundness" of the Crusaders' defence system. He states, in particular, that some of the strongest fortifications were left until last and that it took the Mamluks 40 years to subdue the coastal enclaves. Both statements are controversial and somewhat misleading. Some of the strongest fortifications (Safed, Antioch, Krac des Chevaliers and Monfort) were taken at least 20 years before the fall of Acre. It took in fact much less than 40 years for the Mamluks to wipe out the remains of Outremer. Although the Mamluks came to power in 1250, it is only from Baybars' reign (1260-1277) that they really started conquering the last fortresses. This took place in two phases, as the chronology shows rather well. Baybar lead the first phase between 1263 and 1271 (8 years), after having repulsed the Mongols. During a second phase from 1287 to 1291 (4 years), his successors conquered what was left, also despite having to fight the Mongols.
Three stars. For those wanting to read a somewhat longer (190 pages) but more complete book, I can recommend Hugh Kennedy's Crusader Castles which is really excellent and which also includes a comparison with Moslem castles of the 12th and 13th century. For those looking for something even more detailed and scholarly, the numerous publications of D. Pringle should do the trick.