Summary of: 1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West
The fall of Constantinople in 1453 signaled a shift in history and the end of the Byzantium Empire. Roger Crowley’s readable and comprehensive account of the battle between Mehmet II, sultan of the Ottoman Empire, and Constantine XI, the 57th emperor of Byzantium, illuminates the period in history that was a precursor to the current conflict between the West and the Middle East.
Review of: 1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West
Although military history is one of my favorite subjects, books on military history often fall into one of two traps: either they lay out their subject in dry detail, or they present an entertaining narrative at the expense of the facts. I can happily report that “1453” is a delightful surprise, for rarely do history books of any sort combine scholarship, good writing and a compelling story as well as this one. Roger Crowley weaves together a number of story lines – the Ottoman fixation with Constantinople, the various obstacles to cooperation between Byzantium and the West, and developments in military technology, to name a few – into a seamless narrative that moves forward as propulsively and inexorably as the Turkish advance on the great city itself.
The writing is so good that even though I knew how the “story” would end, I found myself in suspense, as Crowley managed to convey a sense of immediacy and uncertainty about the final outcome until almost the very end. Despite the wealth of information provided, I also never found myself overwhelmed by data or bogged down in details. Crowley unfolds the big picture clearly, yet without sacrificing detail about the various armies and personalities involved. The Emperor Constantine XI also comes across as one of the most sympathetic, if tragic, figures in the book. If you’re at all interested in the fall of Constantinople, military history, or Islamic-Christian relations, you owe it to yourself to read this book. It’s an epic story filled with memorable figures, and is unlikely to be better told than it is here.