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The Field of Blood: The Battle for Aleppo and the Remaking of the Medieval Middle East

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A history of the 1119 Battle of the Field of Blood, which decisively halted the momentum gained during the First Crusade and decided the fate of the Crusader states During the First Crusade, Frankish armies swept across the Middle East, capturing major cities and setting up the Crusader States in the Levant. A sustained Western conquest of the region appeared utterl A history of the 1119 Battle of the Field of Blood, which decisively halted the momentum gained during the First Crusade and decided the fate of the Crusader states During the First Crusade, Frankish armies swept across the Middle East, capturing major cities and setting up the Crusader States in the Levant. A sustained Western conquest of the region appeared utterly inevitable. Why, then, did the crusades ultimately fail? To answer this question, historian Nicholas Morton focuses on a period of bitter conflict between the Franks and their Turkish enemies, when both factions were locked in a struggle for supremacy over the city of Aleppo. For the Franks, Aleppo was key to securing dominance over the entire region. For the Turks, this was nothing less than a battle for survival--without Aleppo they would have little hope of ever repelling the European invaders. This conflict came to a head at the Battle of the Field of Blood in 1199, and the face of the Middle East was forever changed.


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A history of the 1119 Battle of the Field of Blood, which decisively halted the momentum gained during the First Crusade and decided the fate of the Crusader states During the First Crusade, Frankish armies swept across the Middle East, capturing major cities and setting up the Crusader States in the Levant. A sustained Western conquest of the region appeared utterl A history of the 1119 Battle of the Field of Blood, which decisively halted the momentum gained during the First Crusade and decided the fate of the Crusader states During the First Crusade, Frankish armies swept across the Middle East, capturing major cities and setting up the Crusader States in the Levant. A sustained Western conquest of the region appeared utterly inevitable. Why, then, did the crusades ultimately fail? To answer this question, historian Nicholas Morton focuses on a period of bitter conflict between the Franks and their Turkish enemies, when both factions were locked in a struggle for supremacy over the city of Aleppo. For the Franks, Aleppo was key to securing dominance over the entire region. For the Turks, this was nothing less than a battle for survival--without Aleppo they would have little hope of ever repelling the European invaders. This conflict came to a head at the Battle of the Field of Blood in 1199, and the face of the Middle East was forever changed.

30 review for The Field of Blood: The Battle for Aleppo and the Remaking of the Medieval Middle East

  1. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    This is the kind of book that fills in the spaces of broader history tales, in this case the time between the First and Second Crusade. It shows the complexity of the Crusades and the Crusader States that is often missed by most accounts. It becomes less about religion, though it had its part, and more about regional quest for power and the interplay between the many, many rival factions made up of Turks, Muslims, Armenians, Byzantines and Franks and how they fought with and against each other i This is the kind of book that fills in the spaces of broader history tales, in this case the time between the First and Second Crusade. It shows the complexity of the Crusades and the Crusader States that is often missed by most accounts. It becomes less about religion, though it had its part, and more about regional quest for power and the interplay between the many, many rival factions made up of Turks, Muslims, Armenians, Byzantines and Franks and how they fought with and against each other in vast array of shifting alliances and civil wars. This is a book will make you appreciate the complexity that existed and remove from you the notion of the simplistic black and white holy war that most people think of, if they think at all, that was the crusades and the Crusading States. I have only one criticism its that this book would of been well served with a timeline so you could keep track of the dizzying array of alliances and betrayals and the huge amount of characters involved. A good book worth reading.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mark Lawry

    Some books lend themselves to audio books, not this one. Don't ask me to recall or write about any of the endless French and Arabic names or where all the small towns are located throughout the Levante. A good chart of names, events, alliances, and maps would be very useful. That being said, it is an interesting discussion of the big picture concepts of what was taking place and why this city was so important. Morton does a great job of covering the complexity of the time. On the first crusade t Some books lend themselves to audio books, not this one. Don't ask me to recall or write about any of the endless French and Arabic names or where all the small towns are located throughout the Levante. A good chart of names, events, alliances, and maps would be very useful. That being said, it is an interesting discussion of the big picture concepts of what was taking place and why this city was so important. Morton does a great job of covering the complexity of the time. On the first crusade the Christians had advantages that will slowly be lost over the coming decades. They initially had new weapons and tactics, the muslims themselves were in the middle of a civil war, etc. Far more interesting is how in the middle of all this fighting intermarriage was taking place, crusaders themselves often fell away from the Christian faith, Muslims and Christians often found themselves in an alliance with each other to fight against one of their own faction, trade in goods and ideas was still taking place in both directions across the Med. Obviously this part of the world has somehow only grown more complex and this book should be on the reading list for anyone interested in the region.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Albert

    Morton does an excellent job showing why the battles in the Middle East were not so simple as "Christians" vs "Muslims." Leaders partnered with those they thought best and that might well change from day to day. Muslims and Christians often fought side by side against Muslims and/or Christians. He also explains why the Christians lost in his opinion. There was a huge difference in the circumstances for them and for their Muslim and Arab "enemies."

  4. 4 out of 5

    Chris Jaffe

    This is the sort of book I'd like to give 3.5 stars to if I could. I'm not entirely sure why I went with 4 stars over 3. But I also have no compelling reason to mark it down to 3, so OK. Well, author Morton does know his stuff (he better, he's a lecturer on this history in England) so may as well give it four stars. It's a look about an aspect of the Crusades I didn't know much about: how the Crusader states tried to secure their position during the 12th century. Sure, they came down in the 1090s This is the sort of book I'd like to give 3.5 stars to if I could. I'm not entirely sure why I went with 4 stars over 3. But I also have no compelling reason to mark it down to 3, so OK. Well, author Morton does know his stuff (he better, he's a lecturer on this history in England) so may as well give it four stars. It's a look about an aspect of the Crusades I didn't know much about: how the Crusader states tried to secure their position during the 12th century. Sure, they came down in the 1090s and secured the key cities of Jerusalem, Antioch, and Tripoli (no, not the one in Libya. Different Tripoli) but they weren't very secure as long as the major cities in the region - Damascus, Cairo, and Aleppo - remained outside their grasp. Aleppo was the key one, as the Crusaders nearly took it during the 11th century, and at times it looked like they could/would capture it. Obviously, that didn't happen - but it was a legitimate possibility. The failure of the Crusader states, often looked back on as something inevitable, wasn't. Helping the Crusaders out was the contested power struggle between Muslim groups prior to the Crusades. OK, the Turks were in charge - but that power was pretty damn new. And often the Turks were decentralized, with a series of local chieftans and warlords rather than a single strong ruler over there. For many Arabs, the supremacy of the Turks was an aberration. They saw the Turks as semi-barbarians. The success of the First Crusade further destabilized things by making it easier for Arabs in the region to rebel. The Muslims were divided and it never was a simple war over religion. The Crusader states often had allies in the Muslim world and that helped them survive. In 1124, for instance, a force of Franks and Arabs laid siege to Aleppo - and it only ended with the Franks lifted it in early 1125. That proved to be their last hurrah in trying to take Aleppo. One key problem with the Crusaders (also called the Franks) was that they were skittish about committing too many forces to one battle. There were sensible reasons for this - they didn't have many people in the area, and reinforcements from Europe were both a long way off and not guaranteed. But this refusal to put it all on the line at some moments in time meant they also couldn't get the big wins that ultimately they needed to stay viable as Chrisian political entities in the Mideast. They were respected for their cavalry attacks, especially heavy cavalry. That led to their big wins in the First Crusade. For this book, the big moment was the Second Battle of Tell Danith. This was in their best push for Aleppo in 1119. At the time, much of the surrounding area was accepting a sort of vassalage to the Franks and Aleppo seemed ripe to fall. The battle itself was described by most sources as a bloody draw. Even if it qualifies as a technical victory for the Franks, it came at such a high cost of manpower that it wasn't worth it. It exposed their weaknesses and destroyed any momentum they had. It ended the best threat they ever had to Aleppo -- and is the Field of Battle in the book's title. By the 1140s, an alliance between the Franks and Damascus residents was over. The Second Crusade of that era failed. From then on, things were in decline. It wasn't overnight, as the Muslim world was divided. Nur al-Din helped unite it and after he died, Saladin became the main man. He retook Jerusalem in 1187. That's essentially where the book ends. The book is a decent narrative and analysis of the 12th century Crusader states.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Gauthier Myard

    Always eager to learn something about the Crusades, I started this one liking its approach: to outline how the Crusades could have succeeded instead of taking the usual stance on how they were doomed to fail. Yet, when you finish the book, you still end up with the feeling that they were doomed to fail. The author explains very well that in order to secure their position, the Crusader States needed to expand and control at least one, but ideally all, major city of the region: Aleppo, Damascus, a Always eager to learn something about the Crusades, I started this one liking its approach: to outline how the Crusades could have succeeded instead of taking the usual stance on how they were doomed to fail. Yet, when you finish the book, you still end up with the feeling that they were doomed to fail. The author explains very well that in order to secure their position, the Crusader States needed to expand and control at least one, but ideally all, major city of the region: Aleppo, Damascus, and Cairo. He also outlines the Franks' strategy to achieve those aims and how they came close to achieving it. First by almost capturing Aleppo in the 1110s-1120s and second by actually making Egypt submit to them in the 1160s. Yet, even when they did control Cairo, they still did not have the means to maintain their hold in the long run. That alone kind of invalidates the whole book. Yet, one could argue that capturing Aleppo in the first half of the 12th century would probably have had a very different impact than the capture of Cairo in the second half. With Aleppo, the Crusaders had momentum and divided enemies, which was not so much the case in the 1160s. Additionally, this book is also very interesting as he offers a lot of hindsight on the political, religious, ethnical, etc. divisions that were present among the Crusaders' enemies. While it is now common knowledge that the success of the 1st Crusade relied heavily on those divisions, it is not often that a book centered on the Crusaders themselves also provides details on the other side. Some critics have pointed that the author seems to root for the Franks and it may be true. Westerners tend to adopt the Westerner's perspective just like easterners will adopt their own. There is nothing wrong with that and even if it were, it does not prevent the author from conveying his point. Others have pointed out that the book was too short. With about 200 pages, it is indeed a short book but sometimes it is not necessary to have 8 volumes of 600 pages each to explore a specific aspect. After all, the author does not claim to tell the whole story of the Crusader Kingdoms between 1099 and 1187, he just explains the generic dynamics that drove the events surrounding their rise and their fall. All in all, a worthy addition to one's library about the Crusades and one that had really good details about the effectiveness of the Franks' heavy cavalry (explaining their fearsome reputation and many of their military successes) as well as a nice overall view of life in those lands during those times.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Antonios

    How should I put this? While on the one hand I understand the positive reviews towards this book I can only but disagree. While it's a very recent book it doesn't offer anything new. There isn't something that you won't find in Runciman's History of the Crusades. It's actually a bit embarrassing if you think that Runciman's first volume was first published in 1951. What I find really disconcerting is the pro-Frankish attitude of the author. Even though he is not hostile towards the other people How should I put this? While on the one hand I understand the positive reviews towards this book I can only but disagree. While it's a very recent book it doesn't offer anything new. There isn't something that you won't find in Runciman's History of the Crusades. It's actually a bit embarrassing if you think that Runciman's first volume was first published in 1951. What I find really disconcerting is the pro-Frankish attitude of the author. Even though he is not hostile towards the other people of the Levant you get the filling that he would be very glad if the Crusader states had survived. He is clearly ignorant (0r he is suppressing the evidence) of the influence of the Eastern Roman Empire in the region, especially during the first Crusade. I wouldn't say that it's a complete waste of time but if you want to learn the basics about the Crusades you should read Runciman and if you want new insight about the ongoing research you should definitely check out "The First Crusade: The Call from the East" by Frankopan. I think that I would have given it two stars but he then started politicizing in his afterword and talking about things he clearly doesn't understand about the current situation in the Middle East.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Stu Campbell

    An interesting pop history on the Crusader States drive to conquer the city of Aleppo in modern day Syria and establish an interior foothold in the Middle East. The author traces a couple of near misses in the 12th century (the titular failure of the Battle of The Field of Blood in 1118 chief among them) and makes a convincing argument that history could have had a different shape if they had succeeded. There's also a fascinating look at the rising power of the Turks at the time and their adapta An interesting pop history on the Crusader States drive to conquer the city of Aleppo in modern day Syria and establish an interior foothold in the Middle East. The author traces a couple of near misses in the 12th century (the titular failure of the Battle of The Field of Blood in 1118 chief among them) and makes a convincing argument that history could have had a different shape if they had succeeded. There's also a fascinating look at the rising power of the Turks at the time and their adaptation to Islam. The Book also stresses a level of mutual respect between the Franks, the Turks and the Arabs in the region, even in the midst of war.....something vital that is missing today

  8. 4 out of 5

    Hotspur

    Engaging, well-written, and concise. I would have liked more exploration of the socio-cultural element, religion, and how religion was not the dominant factor in the many wars and interactions between the crusaders, arabs and turks. This complaint could really be levied on the entire book, as nothing felt appropriately fleshed out. However, it was well-written, and not overly academic which is so rare to find among professors these days.

  9. 4 out of 5

    John

    A reasonably short book on an interesting topic I knew very little about. Pretty well written and easy to read although it did a good bit of jumping back in time instead of being a straight chronological history.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Kukwa

    A surprising amount of detail is packed into this small but effective volume, which manages to cover much ground that tends to get lost in the study of the Crusades. Informative and very easy to read, with only the occasional eye-glazing that is unavoidable, even in the best military histories.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Grant

    Pretty interesting, wished it was a bit longer and more detailed.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jim

  13. 4 out of 5

    Santos lopez

  14. 5 out of 5

    Barry

  15. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  16. 5 out of 5

    Cricket

  17. 4 out of 5

    Gregoire Debre

  18. 4 out of 5

    Cambrone

  19. 5 out of 5

    Borden Stevenson

  20. 5 out of 5

    Michael

  21. 4 out of 5

    Petr1108

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tim Kardatzke

  23. 5 out of 5

    Gary

  24. 4 out of 5

    Phillip Hartman

  25. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Corcoran

  26. 4 out of 5

    Robert Corzine

  27. 5 out of 5

    Shelly Wall

  28. 5 out of 5

    Alex Sampson

  29. 5 out of 5

    Steve Ross

  30. 4 out of 5

    Adam Tahir

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