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 and layouts.
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 required here.
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