enjoy writing as well as reading. I was asked to review some
books at one point by Osprey Publishing and now I receive books
from publishers asking me to review them. I find many of them
hit the mark, while others do not. I would like to share some
of the material that has crossed my desk, and hopefully you find
them as interesting as I do.
Most books are
accurate in the research and information. What differs is the
focus of the content or the audience they are trying to attract.
Also, how the author comes across in his/her attempt to convey the
information. A good books should be interesting to read as well
These reviews will
be published on Amazon.com and you can purchase these books from a
variety of sources. I will put a link to the Amazon reviews
page as soon as I have it up.
I want to thank
the good people over at Osprey
Publishing for suggesting that this might be an excellent
addition to this site.
If you like what you read, be sure to stop
over at Amazon.com
and vote on my reviews. A link is provided to my review for
each book below. Just click on the book graphic. Thanks.
side bar note:
Cover is picture of Eleanor of Habsburg.
Eleanor of Aquitaine: Queen of the Troubadours ~ Jean
Markale; translated by Jon E. Graham
Reading Level: High School, College
Jean Markale presents us with a very in depth look at
Eleanor of Aquitaine, mother of King Richard the Lionhearted and King John and
wife to both the King of France, Louis VII and the King of England, Henry II.
The book is in three parts. The first part of the book is an in depth
biography of the Queen, from her early youth thru her death. For those who would not be familiar with
Eleanor, this section of the book is a must read. Mr. Markale does a wonderful job of making
this a most interesting read, including all the references and all the stories
that make this woman one of the most interesting historical figures of the
The second part of the book takes a look at the instance of
her divorce from Louis VII of France. While there is much
speculated about this, it is the single most important piece of history at the
time. It set the stage for the events
There is much discussion here about what the duties of a
Queen were at the time. The discussion
follows the concept of "courtly love" or "fine amor" and also discusses the
"indiscretions" that were alleged of Eleanor.
There is evidence presented that there may have been many things going
on at the courts at that time, and there is evidence to suggest that Eleanor
was not only aware of it, but that she played it to her advantage. She was a maker of history, not just an
The final part of the book looks at the phenomenon of the
Troubadours of the time, and how they played an important role in not only
creating the literature and developing the culture of that time, but also how
they played a part in communication and how they were responsible for the
myths that were developed. There
is some very interesting discussion of how one story of Tristan and Iseult
becomes the story of Arthur and Guinevere.
And how all these stories are most likely about Eleanor herself, or
inspired by her.
For the history alone this book is worth the read. Jean Markale is a wonderful weaver of story
and history, and his style never bores.
It is a credit to John Graham, the translator, that the material is kept
as Mr. Markale intended; to weave the story, to look at the plots, subplots and
court intrigues and yet still be interesting and involving the reader in the
thoughts, the plot twists and assisting the reader to understand the conclusions that Mr. Markale draws. The
last part, on the Troubadours, is an added bonus to the book looking at yet
another aspect of the history at that time. It plays an important role as to
how we see Eleanor today.
If you are into medieval history at all, you will not want
to pass up this book and it's valuable content.
Eleanor is a singular figure causes history to change
at this point in time
and her impact cannot be ignored. And
the presentation by Mr. Markale is just the vehicle you need to make it
interesting and enjoyable to read. medievalcrusadesbabe
Teutonic Knight: 1190-1561 (Warrior)~ David Nicolle,
illustrated by Graham Turner
Reading Level: 6th through 12th Grade and up
This book by
Osprey Publishing presents us with the Teutonic Knight as warrior. We are presented with a brief overview of the
chronology of the time, and then offered the organization which supported the
Teutonic knight as well as who he was, what his beliefs were, training,
experiences and battles.
This book is
laid out much as the rest of the Osprey offerings, loaded with quick facts,
condensed history, lots of pictures of areas, castles, gear and more. This book is, like all the rest of the books
in this series, a good beginners book for the basics on the Teutonic Knight.
photographs of the places, the castles, the materials of the time as well as
the arms and armament are valuable tools to learning what exactly life was like
at that time. The illustrations by
Graham Turner give us action scenes that place the knights in the battles,
using accurate historical references, costumes and arms and armaments. There are also included illustrations from
the time period that add to the flavor of the book. The book truly takes you to the time, places
you next to the knight and gives you a good idea of what was going on.
Not to be
dismissed is the amount of information that is crammed into the book. David Nicolle does an excellent job of
condensing the history to a good rounded overview yet does not bore or sound
There is a
great bibliography in the back of the book, along with some nice descriptions
of the color plates and there is an index for quick reference.
All in all,
a good presentation and a good resource for school kids or just those who are
curious about Teutonic Knights. This is an overview of the knight and his times.
It should be augmented with further material if you are looking
for an indepth study. medievalcrusadesbabe
The Third Crusade 1191: Richard the Lionheart, Saladin and the battle for Jerusalem (Campaign)
~ David Nicolle, Illustrated by Christa Hook
Reading Level: 6th through 12th Grade and up
These small Osprey books on various historical events pack
in a lot of information and present it in a very easy to understand language
that the casual reader may find a good source for research.
David Nicolle is a good historical writer, speaking in plain
English and keeping the reader interested.
The material in this particular offering is well balanced. There are books that have focused on one side
of the story, or the other. Nicolle very
successfully attempts to keep both sides focused, discussing the pros and cons
of each leader, giving each side to the story and a very well rounded look at
However the book, because of its size, does not go into some
of the finer details or "in depth" examination of events and situations that
some might be looking for. To be honest, these books are not intended for
that purpose. There are volumes out
there that you can spend years going through.
This book is meant as an overview of the topic and should be taken as
The battles do not go into as much detail as some of the
other books put out by Osprey. The usual
focus of these books is to look at a particular historical event or aspect and
go into details. But in choosing a large
historical event like The Third Crusade in such a small presentation, there
will be a lot left out. The book focuses
on a singular year, 1191, in which the whole Crusade came to a crashing
close. While the lead up to this year is
examined, the focus is more on the battles fought that year and how it brought
about the end of that era. And even this
is a lot to cover in such a small format.
Not to be left out are the graphics, photographs, maps and
the artistic renderings of Christa Hook.
These elements are included to keep the interest of the reader. There is a lot of photographs to go over,
giving the reader an overview of the art, architecture landscape and battle
fields of the time. Christa Hooks
paintings give the book a feeling of action, and adds interest to the story.
The maps are valuable and in this book they have included
what they label as "3D views" of the particular battlefields. While interesting, I didn't find it added
anything to the overview of the battles.
However, they are nice topographical additions to the book.
Going over this book, I would have to say this will appeal
to the school aged reader who is looking to write a book report for school, or
augment their studies of the Historical Crusades. It will even appeal to the casual reader who
is curious, but not a serious student of the Crusades.
This is a good look at the cultures of the time, both the
Crusaders as well as the forces of Saladin.
Some of the key battles are examined.
And it favors neither side. We
are presented with a fair view of the events.
A good overview and presentation of the material.
Teutonic Knights: A Military History ~ William Urban
4 Stars Recommended Reading Level: High School and up
Many folks will recognize the Templars and even The Order of
St. John - or Hospitallers, when the discussion of Military Monks comes up. Some may even have heard of the Teutonic
Knights. But how much does the average
reader actually know about the Teutonic Knights?
There are a few books out there that briefly cover the
Teutonic Knights and their campaigns, mostly their shorter history in the Holy Lands. And there is some reference to them in
This book fills in many gaps that the average reader may
have regarding the Teutonic Knights.
The book traces the history of the Teutonic Knights, from their founding
forward by their military campaigns in Eastern and Northern Europe.
The author, William Urban, is well versed in his material,
having previous to this written material on Baltic Studies. He does have much grounding in history, being
a professor of history at Monmouth College in Illinois. And if you take the time to read the
bibliography in the back of the book, you will see he has done large amounts
of research for this book.
And it shows. Seeing the "A Military History"
on the cover made me consider the content of the book and how other "military
history" books have been rough reading. But I was
very pleasantly surprised as I got into the material. There is much more
here than just the medieval Military History.
The author "leads" you through the history of the Teutonic
Knights, keeping to a chronological journey while also taking you across Europe and deep into the North Eastern European areas
that the Teutonic Knights explored. We
cover the times from 1227 to 1563. The
author brings us into the story by laying out the European landscape via maps
and discussion on the religious, sociological and political structures. We are then taken from Europe on a short trip
to the Levant and back to Europe and then deep into Prussia,
and all along the areas on the Baltic Sea.
The author then unfolds the stories, from the background of
the native people to the mindset of the Knights themselves and their
unrelenting urge to change the religious face of the area while building their
own empire. We have their system of establishing
a foothold in the area, building fortresses, involving themselves in the local
politics, following their military strategies and campaigns and
examining their successes and failures.
Believe me when I say there is more here than I had
anticipated in regards to history. This
book is very extensive in the history it provides. It does a very good
job at giving us the big picture of the areas of Prussia, Rus' (Russia)
and the areas of Livonia and Lithuania. The
addition in the appendices of the Major Figures in the History of the Teutonic
Order with some small background gives you a good
reference point to keep it all in order. There is a good bibliography and the book is
indexed. The coverage of the
Teutonic Knights campaigns in Prussia are well known but the book
also goes into
details on the Teutonic Crusades into Livonia, Poland, Lithuania and more.
I rather liked the way the author relates
some insights into the historical figures. Little
personality indicators, either of individuals who played significant roles or
group motivations that created a certain atmosphere that affected the area at
the time. An example would
be Luther von Braunschweig being a poet with a connection to St.
Barbara, or the fact that Hermann Balk seemed to do so well with
Christians but he had some issues when dealing with pagans. While
this may sound trivial, these personality indicators had some great
impact on how these people interacted historically. With so much glossed over
briefly in most books, it was refreshing to see cause and affect played out to
the eventual results.
are an offshoot of the
original orders of military monks who rode across Europe
with a supposedly higher agenda and purpose. While the French
and English pilgrims and military were cared for by the Hospitallers,
this overburdened order was unable to care for the newest Crusader
force, the Germans. Out of desperation and an extreme need
for proper medical care, the Teutonic Knights were founded.
This book is about war and religion. It is not pretty, nor does the author spare any of the details. And while we may agree, or disagree, with the
methods, we see the whole picture as told by the author and nothing is left out. The author is fair
in his depiction of the Teutonic Knights. Again,
frankness in the telling of the history and nothing glossed over or overly
romanticized. But the
author does not bore us with just the cold, hard facts. Rather,
the author leads us through with fine story telling, well thought through so
you get the maximum amount of facts and history while still remaining
interested in the material.
Grammar School aged children might find this
book a bit challenging while the upper grades may find the material approachable.
But I recommend this book for the High School level reading
and up. The
inclusion of maps and some black and white photos is perfect. This is advanced material, which will
appeal more to the College Student overall. However the High School Student with a term
paper or a real interest in the Military Monks will find this book useful and
interesting. The approach is scholarly,
geared towards the more advanced student, and so I recommend as I do.
The book is professionally put together, with much more
information than you would think.
It is well thought through, nicely laid out
with good cross referencing. For research purposes, it's very good. For interest, there is much that will
hold your attention. This is a well done work that deserves to be
on your shelf, in your school or requested as a staple in your library. medievalcrusadesbabe
A Knight and His Horse ~ Ewart Oakeshott
4 Stars Recommended Reading Level: 6th through 8th Grade
Ewart Oakeshott has produced some simple yet elegant books
on the Medieval Knights and their armaments.
This little book (123 pages) is a continuation of Mr. Oakenshott's
work. Previous to this, his books
covered Castles, Weapons and Battles. The
original edition was published in 1962.
Mr. Oakeshott is the founder of the Oakeshott Institute,
which promotes research and education in the field of ancient arms and
armament. You can find them on line at http://www.oakeshott.org/.
This book covers the knights horse, and does it with
illustrations and easy to read formatting.
The illustrations are provided by Mr. Oakeshott, and are nice pen and
ink drawings which illustrate some of the equipment found on the horse or used
with the horse by a knight. There are
also illustrations of knights on their horses from various time periods that
are very nicely executed.
The content is very easy to read, and appears to be geared
to the younger reader in my opinion.
There is discussion of horses used in warfare, types of horses used,
methods of fighting using horses and more.
The material is delivered in a narrative style, as opposed
to textbook style, again making this appealing to the younger reader. Mr. Oakeshott tells the story of the knight's
horse with an almost romantic edge, keeping the readers attention with material
that can get boring if you are not specifically interested in this.
Topics cover horse equipment, various styles of bridals,
saddles, armor and different styles according to various periods. There are also discussions on behavior of the
knights themselves, how armor identified knights and customs. There is discussion on the changes in battle
tactics and how horses changed battle strategies. Discussion on Tournaments is also covered in
depth, with attention to Chivalrous Codes, ladies on horses and more. Again, very well presented, it holds one's
attention, and is easy to read.
There are appendices, covering Monetary Values; the buying
power of money at various times in respect to armor costs, the actual weight of
armor and a short bibliography. There is
a list of periodicals of which, when this revised version came out in 1998,
were around then but I don't know if they still are. There is, however, an exceptional glossary of
terms and places which I thought was well thought out and put together. And there is an index for easy reference.
This book, by itself, will not provide enough material to do
a term paper on either the Crusades or Medieval History. However, to provide additional material for a
report or to add to the content of a paper on medieval culture and life, this
would be a very good choice. Much of the
material in this book comes from the authors own experiences in handling
Medieval armor and armaments. I am also
sure the website will provide a little additional information as well. The site is more concerned with swords, but
there is some information available.
While not overly produced, this book does provide some good
information on the medieval knight and the importance of his horse. The discussions on horses and horse equipment
will make some fine additions to any school report or class discussion. The size of the book and the style of writing
assure the younger reader will not get bored too quickly. However, as a book for reference for the
older student, this book may not hold the same appeal. A nice presentation overall.
Daily Life in Medieval Times: A Vivid, Detailed Account of Birth, Marriage and Death; Food, Clothing and Housing; Love and Labor in the Middle Ages ~ Frances Gies, Joseph Gies
Reading Level: 6th through 12th Grade and up
This book presents the three works of Frances & Joseph Gies in one
volume and has an added bonus of being beautifully illustrated. The
book that I obtained is a reprint of the original work, published by
Barnes & Nobel Books for the mass market and is available at a
fraction of the cost of the original publishing.
This book combines three works on the life and culture of the time
period usually referred to as "medieval". I reference dates in the
volume that cover the time post 1000 CE, the book itself claims 12th
and 13th centuries CE. Of the material provided in this volume, the
references are also only to England for the most part, and those areas
that were under English control. It would be safe to say that this book
does cover the medieval period of life in England and English held
The books included in this volume are "Life in a Medieval Castle", "Life in a Medieval Village" and "Life in a Medieval City".
Before going any further, I wanted to check the bibliography. The
material referenced spans many years, offering some older material for
reference, but also fairly recent material. Reading through the
bibliography, there are some well known historians, some interesting
medieval references and it appears that the material stops shortly
before the publication dates of the original books, which is late 80s
early 90s. However, the references are good, overall, and add to the
material offered in the book. I like the inclusion of material from
public works, such as the coroner's rolls, or land grants, and estate
books from that time period. It does give some interesting references.
The book itself reads as a textbook. Sorry, but that's the way it
comes across. While the jacket of the book touts the authors "keep the
romance", to me it read more like a text book. There are quotes from
well known poetry and works of the time, and that does add interest.
However, much to the detriment of the authors, it can be a bit tedious
on the reader who picked this book up for the enjoyment aspect of
The historical events covered are historical in nature. This can be
pretty dry, name, date, event type of thing. Again, text book in
format. From the cultural aspects covered, there are references to
other material from those times, and archeological references which the
author uses to support his findings, again, reading more of a text book
than weaving a story.
What is nice is the quoted material. Some of this material is not
available to the general public, and it is nice to see some of the
references, which sometimes are personal accounts of an event, be it
historical or personal. Some of it can be boring. But all of it relates
to the cultural aspects of medieval life, which is the constant focus
of the authors.
The illustrations are stunning. Where the text can be dry, the
illustrations wet the appetite for more insight into this time in
history. Actually, the illustrations compliment the material, providing
a good reason to pick up this book, if for nothing else. Illuminated
manuscripts, tapestries, paintings, stained glass and more. All are of
the time period showing everything to do with everyday life or some
major historical event. Whether a figment of the artists' imagination
or an actual depiction of an everyday event, the illustrations are
probably more interesting renderings of the culture of the time.
That is not to say that this book does not have any worth.
Actually, because of it's well researched material and the authors'
approach to this material as text book, it does offer a good source of
information for someone who is researching a topic related to medieval
life and wants to add some background and cultural aspects to their
work. The text is written so that school children in the grades 6 to 12
can understand it, and it is laid out so that it can be referenced
either by the table of contents or the very deep index in the back of
the book. The material is historically accurate and would provide a
good addition to a term paper. There is also a very good glossary in
the back of the book which will help you to understand just what some
words, antiquated or dated in nature, actually mean. Again, not too
long, but it helps.
However, if you were doing a term paper on medieval life alone, I
would suggest that you look through the bibliography for other books to
augment the material in this book. While it does provide a good
overview, none of the topics are gone into in much more than casual
This book is intended as an overview of the material covered. I can
see why the publisher would have bound all three books into one, in
order to present a good overview for the casual reader, or as a
reference. The addition of illustrations was probably a necessity, in
order to keep the readers interest in what is a very dry subject matter
to begin with, treated as text book reference material.
What it is valuable for is a reference for the researcher, a
general overview to augment a students reading, and the illustrations
are worth it for a coffee table book in the home of someone like me who
has an interest in this sort of material. It has its value, however
dry, but it is a beautiful book to leaf through and admire the
pictures. And for the price, the re-release is a good value.
Again, I would recommend it for someone focusing on doing a term
paper about the time period, and looking for pictures to scan into
their report, and some cultural background to beef up the term paper.
Not for the casual reader. medievalcrusadesbabe
The Walls of Constantinople AD 324-1453 (Fortress) ~
Reading Level: 6th through 12th Grade and up
The city of
Constantinople has been an important location in history since the
times when it was called Byzantium. Now called Istanbul, its
history is rich and impressive.
concentrates mostly on the walls around the city during the period
when it was called Constantinople. These fortifications played
an important part in giving this city its long standing importance,
and Stephen Turnbull gives us some very good insight into just how
important the walls are.
The actual history
here involves only the city of Constantinople itself, and does not
venture much beyond it. In the chapter entitled "The walls
of Constantinople under siege" we meet many of the forces that
tried at one time or another to conquer the city and bring it under
their control. Some succeeded, as in the 4th Crusade, others
failed, like the Avars and the Persians. The discussions are
short, and leave room for further research by the reader, depending
on the time period interest.
But the focus is
the City itself, and the walls which gave this city prominence.
Besides the location, which is considered the separation point
between Europe and Asia, it also is a key port on the route between
the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea. It has been sought
after and valued by many who sought to control it over the centuries,
and has been a center for trade, empires and intrigues.
This book, as all
the books in this series, gives very detailed information about the
City itself, the wall in particular. Mr. Trumbull covers the
construction of the walls and gates, the history, the fortifications,
and the various forces that attempted to siege the city and why they
succeeded or failed. This information is accompanied by photos
by the author and Eileen Brayshaw, which give us some very good
visuals of the material discussed.
this material is the expert art work of Peter Dennis, who fills in
some of the historical information in graphic form, allowing us to
"see" the original fortifications, the glorious gates, and
the historical sieges from the vantage point of one looking back in
time at the city and it's walls. Again, accurate details
and expert renderings make these graphics a valuable addition to this book.
Finally, it is
important to note the addition of maps, timelines, and a very good
bibliography make this an excellent resource for students and those
interested in this piece of important history.
It would be good
to note here that while the material in this book would not be
something that would be focused on specifically in a classroom
situation, the research provided would make an excellent addition to
a report on the Middle Ages, or the Crusades. Constantinople is
an interesting side note to the Crusades and it also plays an
important part in the history.
This is an
excellent book to add to a school library or to your own library on
Medieval History and should not be overlooked because of it's size or
content. This is a very in depth look at the importance of a
single city and it's fortifications that held a very important place
in medieval history and continues today to be a city of great
importance in history. medievalcrusadesbabe
~ Terry Jones and Alan Ereira
Reading Level: College and up
This book is the
companion to the very popular A&E TV special that ran back in 1995.
Terry Jones, to
his credit, has several books, including "Chaucer's Knight: The
Portrait of a Medieval Mercenary" and some children's
books. His television work also includes "The Complete and
Utter History of Britain". Alan Ereira is a producer of
many historical documentaries for the BBC.
Terry Jones is
probably best known for his work with "Monty Python" but
this work, while sometimes humorous, is not "Monty Python and
the Holy Grail".
presents us with the book companion to an A&E documentary on the
Crusades (DVD available) that covered the time period from the First
Crusade (1099 CE) to it's final ending at the fall of Acre to the
Mameluk's in 1291 CE.
Terry Jones tongue
in cheek style of presenting the history dominates both the DVD and
the book. No one is left unscathed, Crusaders or Moslems.
Terry Jones points out the obvious wanton waste of lives, the
continued stupidity of historians to paint a gilded picture of the
Crusaders and their cause, and brings to light some very good
historical references. He also, unfortunately, got a few
"tiny bits" wrong. But for the most part, it is
Terry Jones is an
entertainer, and because of this, the DVD tends to be more of a
theatrical production than the book. The book, however, is a
very valuable reference for those interested in the Crusades.
Again, while being entertaining, it takes what has been dealt with in
other works as very cut and dry and makes it a very interesting
read. The book is chock full of pictures from manuscripts and
photos of places that are important to the history. Also
included are some maps to help you track the progress.
The book is well
written, following a chronological history of the Crusaders through
the Holy Land. It is easy to follow, it is interesting in its
content, and does not fail to hold the attention of the reader.
There are many "gee, I didn't know that" moments.
There are also Terry Jones' biting satirical remarks. The
approach is from a historical and not a Christian viewpoint, while
still maintaining the fervor and the cause for event. The
Moslems are treated with respect when they deserve it, and the
Christians are called upon to answer for some of their deeds.
This is what made the DVD and the book different; we see things from
the viewpoint of someone who challenges us not to look at the
Crusades as a respected institution.
The book includes
the battle, the intrigues, all the court dramas and interesting
"side line" notes. It does not wash over the blood
and guts of the Crusades. Yet, Terry Jones manages to approach this
all with intelligence and common sense.
Depending on your
own personal view of the Crusades, this book can be beneficial in
opening up a whole new look at the Crusades. I would recommend
it for college level students and over who will find it a very
interesting read, challenging some of the more accepted renderings of
the Crusade story. And if you can find a copy of the DVD to go
along with it, give that a watch, as it provides you with Terry
himself relating the story which is as entertaining as it is thought provoking.
Knight Templar 1120-1312 (Warrior) ~ Helen Nicholson and illustrated by Wayne Reynolds
Reading Level: 6th through 12th Grade and up
Helen Nicholson is
"Reader in History" at Cardiff University, one of Britain's
major teaching and research universities. She specializes in
the history of Military Orders and this book captures the history of
the Knights Templar in a very easy to read and clearly written manner.
This book covers
the actual history, not any of the myths or legends, of the Order of
the Temple. The time period covered is from the first band of
warriors who asked for approval of their idea from the Council at
Nablus to the end of the order in the early 14th century after
charges of heresy and witchcraft damaged the order's reputation
The book's main
focus is the order itself. Covered topics are "Recruitment
and Admission" covering how one joined the order and how
membership was recruited based on skills, position and the need of
the order. The focus was on protection of Catholic Christians
and membership reflected the need for well trained knights, who held
the higher status. This also covers purpose of the order,
locations of the order, housing and communities, age of members,
other support positions and retirement.
and Belonging" section covers the basic beliefs, the order as
monks and their duty to God, their vows, their purpose and how it
interplayed with various cultures and other religious beliefs,
notations of the order in books, personal writings, and artistic
images. Ms. Nicholson builds up the picture so that we can
better understand what the intended purpose of the order was and what
the order developed into.
"Training" and "Appearance and Equipment"
sections we are given a very detailed look at what the order placed
focus on. While training was not emphasized, it was understood
that knights came trained and everyone else learned along the
way. We are also given insight into what the order required for
each knight and servant to wear and use. From their
undergarments to the way to ride a horse, every element of everyday
life was spelled out for the monks and they were expected to adhere
to these rules and regulations.
Conditions: on campaign" gives us the military dress for the
Templars, garrisons, chapels, castles and fortresses and further
extends our look into the culture of the Templar order. We also
have the "Experience of Battle", outlining the history of
the Templar campaigns, their successes and their defeats from a
variety of sources.
Also discussed in
brief are museums and re-enactment groups of modern day.
While the history
is easy to understand, well explained and details are not overlooked,
the book benefits greatly from the addition of graphic works of art
by Wayne Reynolds. Wonderful color plates of costume, armor and
armament, and battle depictions give us very clear idea of Templar
everyday life. Black and white photos of places, castles,
illuminated manuscripts, order seals and old wood blocks help to
visually fill in and add to our understanding of what life and
culture was like in the Levant at the time the Order of the Templar
Knights. There is also a chronology table that enables us to
fill in at a glance where the Templar Knights are placed in respect
to Crusader history and what important dates and events corresponded
directly to the Crusades.
This book easily
fills in some gaps left by general texts and would be very helpful in
student research on The Crusades. The easy to understand style
and the excellent graphics and choices of illustrations also makes
this a book that can be used by any students from the 6th grade on
up. Those older students who are not familiar with the topic
will find this just as useful as a basic primer for their class term papers.
Again, this is an
excellent book covering the military aspects and culture of the time
and the Knights Templar Order. A must have in any school library.
Crusader Castles in the Holy Land 1097-1192 (Fortress) ~ David Nicolle and
illustrated by Adam Hook
Reading Level: 8th through 12th Grade and up
This book, another
in the collection on Castles and architecture, focuses on the Castles
in the area known as the Levant, or the Holy Land, built during the
period of 1097-1192. The focus is on the castles that were in
use or used by the Crusaders during the time of the Crusades.
This series of
books, the Fortress books by Osprey, are some of the best tools that
can be utilized by anyone who is doing research on the areas or time
periods noted in the titles, and this book is no exception.
The book contains
not only valuable information on the types and structures of Castles
in the Holy Land, but the maps, timeline, drawings and photos, and
basic history incorporated into these books make them a pleasure to
read and excellent sources of information for anyone doing research
or getting into the study of the Crusades.
First, let's look
at the discussion of the castles. The book presents the layout
of the land, the need for defenses, the types and styles of castles,
from the freestanding towers to the hilltop fortifications to the
man-made and enhanced cave-fortresses. While we are more
familiar with the stone edifices, there were also wooden fortresses,
and there is discussion on how and why for the building materials
chosen. There is also discussion on the choices of structures
The outline of the
crusades is presented so that the reader becomes familiar with the
place names, the route of the original crusades and the reason for
placement of these castles. The book very effectively
lays out the battle strategies, key placement of fortifications, and
how they were, or were not, effective against the invasion and
occupation of opposing forces.
What makes this
book outstanding are the references to events, incidents and places
all through the crusade story. Excellent reference maps make
the progress of the crusaders and locations of key fortifications
easy to visualize and follow. What had been lacking in
many books on the crusades, visual aids to follow as well as a time
line progression, is more than made up for in this book. There
is even a chart for the names of the castles referenced in Medieval
French or Latin, Arabic and Turkish or Hebrew. This is a
fantastic reference for reading other histories of the crusades from
various language sources.
There are also
wonderful illustrations of what the castles looked like at the time
they were built, giving some great layouts to better explain how a
castle was put together and it's purposes, what the original plan was
for protection and fortification, and how some of these castles
appear today. Black and white photographs show how they have
withstood the test of time and attack.
There are some
lovely illustrations of constructions and use of these castles as
well as illustrations involving battles at various castles. The
historical detail of period clothing, machines, armor and weapons
give the reader a very realistic visual of what life was like at that time.
There is a
timeline at the beginning of the book that places events, battles and
even natural disasters into perspective as you follow the history of
the crusades. This is a key piece of information that makes
this book very easy to follow.
The material is
well researched, well thought out as far as how to include the most
amount of information in the space provided. While the focus is
not the Crusades itself but rather the military aspect of the
crusades in relation to battles and defenses, it can not help but
include key events, military groups, religious centers and the
general story of the Crusades.
This book can
augment any other reference you will be looking at, whether a school
project or just curious reading. For the maps and time line
alone it is a valuable resource. Include the look at the
military strategies, the culture and the life style of the time, and
it is probably one of the best resources for the price point as well
as ease of reading and understanding. No college degree
The book has a
good outline in the table of contents, a bibliography (Further
Reading), a glossary of terms that you will not encounter elsewhere,
and an index that makes for easy reference.
A great reference
tool, one that will surly find it's way into school libraries as well
as home libraries for it's value as a well done, well researched and
easy to understand book. medievalcrusadesbabe
Crusader Castles of the Teutonic Knights, Vol. 2: The Stone Castles of Latvia and Estonia, 1185-1560 (Fortress 19) ~ Stephen Turnbull, Illustrated by
Reading Level: 8th through 12th Grade and up
This book takes up
were the first book on "Crusader Castles of the Teutonic
Knights" left off, moving from Prussia to Latvia and Estonia and
moving along the time line from 1185-1560.
The author covers
the history of Latvia and Estonia (Livonia) in regards to the time
leading up to the Teutonic Knights and their castle networks and then
covers the Knights, their Crusades and control in that area.
The conversion of the local people by the 'Brethern of the
Sword' is examined and how they became absorbed by the Teutonic
Knights. The history of these countries is well covered from
the system of fortresses and how it helped them control the area to
why the area was of interest to the Knights and the Church. The
research is in depth, giving some very good accounts of the time.
illustrations stand out as enabling the reader to clearly visualize
the castles, the maps give outstanding historical reference to the
geography of the time and the pictures of the castles in the present
day included by the author present a very well rounded view of the
importance of these fortresses in the campaigns of the Teutonic
Knights, and how they enabled these Knights to implement their
control over the lives of the peoples of Livonia.
For those with
interests in the Teutonic Knights, their means and methods of
crusading and a good overall history of the Castles of this area,
this is an excellent primer, easy to read, very detailed, well
illustrated and a good reference tool. medievalcrusadesbabe
The Alexiad of Anna Comnena (The Penguin Classics)
~ Translated by E.R.A. Sewter
Reading Level: 8th through 12th Grade and up
Written by Anna
Comnena, the daughter of the Byzantine Emperor Alexius I (1083-1153),
this is the recollections by the princess of the Crusades as it
occurred in her father's court during his reign.
not only of a member of the court but also a woman's view point makes
this an interesting and exceptional view of the Crusaders, often
describing them more realistically than some of the histories that
were commissioned by the lords.
Ms. Comnena is
perceptive in her observations. She notes details that are
overlooked in other historical accounts. She starts with the
history of her father the Emperor, the revolt that placed him on the
throne, various families and their relationship with her father.
She then gives
accounts of the wars with the Normans, the Scyths, the Turkish wars,
and the First Crusade.
Ms. Comnena has a
very good grasp of those things we would not expect a lady of the
court at that time to have. She knows politics, diplomacy and
has a good grounding in science and mechanics.
Her accounts are
dramatic but show a good grasp of the situations she is
describing. We do not expect this from a woman of this time,
but this book clearly illustrates we are not as aware as we thought
we were about woman at that time and place. She has a strong
writing style and presents us with a picture of a well educated and
aware woman who knows well her position and the positions of those in
We also experience
first hand her hatred of her younger brother, whom she seems to
resent and whom she actually tries to assassinate.
physical accounts of the Crusaders as they appear in her fathers
court, the feeling of the life and politics of the time are all
preserved in this book as a slice of culture in Byzantine Empire at
the time of the First Crusade. A good reference book and a
wonderful read for those interested in a different perspective of the Crusades.
Fortress 11: Crusader Castles of the Teutonic Knights (1) AD
~ Stephen Turnbull - Illustrated
by Peter Dennis
Reading Level: 8th through 12th Grade and up
Crusades, a new order of Military Knights started in Germany.
Created by a group of German Merchants for the care of countrymen who
had been at the siege of Acre and had suffered, they started with
makeshift hospitals for their care.
From this arose
the Teutonic Order. Never having seen battle in the Holy
Land, their Crusade was against the pagans in Prussia. Their
weapon... red-brick castles.
This book outlines
the Teutonic Order, its origins, and the campaigns they waged in the
areas of Prussia and Poland
remain today as a memorial to the Order and the battles they fought
and the lands they claimed. The book outlines the building of
these fortresses, their designs and layouts, how they were used, and
how the Teutonic Knights operated their campaigns.
The material is
easy to follow, very descriptive in the campaigns and military
strategies and historical details. This, accompanied by color
and black and white photos of the castles, the surrounding areas,
contemporary art depicting the Knights, and wonderfully detailed maps
make this a book easy to understand and a good reference guide for
the Order and the time period covered.
provides insights into the areas discussed, in everyday life as well
as military references. This gives you a good grasp on the
culture and background. He also provides key dates, important
names and places.
There is a list in
the back of the book of the important Prussian castles that have
survived to the present day and their locations. There is a
bibliography and a glossary of terms, important to help you
understand some of the German titles and words. And there is an
index for quick reference.
Worth noting are
the detailed illustrations of castle layouts, battle scene
illustrations and some wonderful photography of the actual castles,
some intact, others of the remains. Overall, this makes for a
fine book to familiarize yourself with the topic or to use as
reference to include this in your studies of the time, the castles,
or the Teutonic Order. A very good overview of the topic. medievalcrusadesbabe
The First Crusade 1096-99: Conquest of the Holy Land (Campaign) ~
Nicolle Illustrated by Christa Hook
Recommended Reading Level: 8th through
12th Grade and up
This is a good
overview of the first Crusade and is well put together for reference purposes.
The book discusses
the various aspects of the Crusades, such as reasons for its start,
who were the participants and descriptions of the political climate
at that time in both Europe and the Middle East. There are some
very good descriptions of the structure of the Arab and Turk tribes
and their internal construction and conflicts as well as the
background of the European forces.
There are some
very detailed descriptions of the key battles of the Crusades, how
the troops on each side were composed, their strategies, some
discussion on troop readiness, extenuating circumstances and
influences, both real and perceived, as to why each battle was a
success or failure. This book deals in factual history and is
not overly romanticized or constructed.
The book contains
some well researched material, with an excellent bibliography, a
chronology table and is indexed for quick reference.
features are the maps (by The Map Studio) showing not only the areas
discussed, but also the military maps outlining the key battles of
the first Crusade. They show topographical information, use
military symbols for the troops and divisions and discuss military
strategies and deployments.
mentioning are the many photos and graphics that grace every page of
this book. The illustrations, done for the most part by Christa
Hook, give a pictorial idea of the key players, some battle scenes
and some impressions of how this may have appeared. Based on
research of that era, the players come alive, dressed in their
historical clothing, weapons, and gives us a visual impression of how
the event may have looked.
The photos, most
taken by the author himself, give you an idea of what some of these
areas looked like when he took many of them in the 70's, and also
includes art and architecture of the period. Many of these
photos show places that are in areas where we can not travel today
and provides a good window into the culture and places of the time.
This is a good
reference book for students looking to do research on the subject as
well as a good first book for those wanting to make themselves
familiar with the First Crusade. While I have recommended it
for grades as low as the 8th, this is easily a book grownups with no
background on the Crusades can pick up and enjoy. medievalcrusadesbabe
The First Crusade (Canto)
~ Steven Runciman
Reading Level: 8th through 12th Grade and up
Steven Runciman is
well noted for his three-volume 'History of the Crusades' published
in 1951. This paperback edition is an abridged excerpt of that
work that focuses on specifically the First Crusade.
This is a much
'romanticized' narration of the First Crusades, as Mr. Runciman is
well known for inscribing his passion for this event into his
work. But do not let that stop you from reading this
account. Mr. Runciman has added detail to this volume using
quotes from actual chroniclers of the time to build and augment his story.
paperback gives you contemporary descriptions of the political
climate, the backgrounds of the main players, overviews of many of
the campaigns and battles of the event and weaves it all into an
interesting story filled with zealots, nobility, passion, intrigue
and fire. Reading this you can easily get swept into the
spiritual fervor and single minded determination that these people
must have had.
You also feel the
impact of the battles and massacres in his descriptions of the sieges
and taking of the various cities. Mr. Runciman does a very good
job of making sure the reader becomes involved in the details of
events as the Crusaders storm through the Holy Land to the city of Jerusalem.
There is no
bibliography in the volume I have nor are there any pictures or
maps. The 'Introductory Note' states 'The book is published
without reference notes nor a bibliography. If readers wish to
consult the sources, primary and secondary, on which my account is
based, may I refer them to the original work, in which a full
apparatus criticus is provided? A recent edition is still in print.'
For a very well
written and passionate account of the First Crusade this book will
provide a good read as well as an historical overview of the event.