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VINE VOICEon 3 July 2005
"The Great Siege" is a fascinating study of the events surrounding the attempt in 1565 by the Moslem Turks to conquer Malta ,drive out the Christian Knights of St John and establish an Islamic hegemony over the Mediterranean ,with a view to using the island as a base for further expansion into Southern Europe. The book is written almost in the style of a novel with the narrative unfolding around the central characters Jean de la Vallette, the Knight's Grandmaster and Mustapha Pasha, the Commander of the Turkish Army ."The Great Siege" is completely absorbing and it conveys successfully the fanaticism and heroism of the participants.I was amazed at the courage and defiance shown by the Knights and their Maltese allies as they refused to bow to the superior numbers and firepower of the Turkish invaders first at St Elmo, whose resistance was unbelievable ,then at Senglea and Birgu. For four months the Knights held on against the Turks who had thought it would have been all over within four weeks, eventually demoralising them and forcing them to return home defeated. The book gives a blow by blow account of the Siege and provides details of the strategies and tactics of the respective military commanders."The Great Siege" is a remarkable true story and, looking back, its outcome is one of the great "What If's" of history. If the Turks had taken Malta, would swathes of Southern Europe have fallen to the Moslems and led to a very different geo-political landscape than that of today ? Their defeat by "The Incredibles", La Vallette's Knights and the Maltese, stung the Turks and destroyed their aura of invincibility -and they did it on their own, with no relief from outside. "The Great Siege" is a tale of individual heroism and collective bravery, of an immense religious and cultural conflagration and of a lionhearted people preferring martyrdom and death to submission.
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on 21 February 2004
Grand Master Jean de la Valette gave his name to the capital of Malta, built to fortify the island after the Turkish invasion was repelled.
Left to stand or fall on their own by the rest of the christian world, The Knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem with the people of Malta put up a heroic resistance against massive odds. The turks were well led initially and extremely experienced in the reduction of great cities. That they failed was due to the intelligent and tenacious leadership of Jean de la Valette and the willingness of the knights to sell their lives in a sacred cause.
Ernle Bradford has written an engaging account of the siege and one can only marvel at the courage, heroism, not to mention fanaticism displayed on both sides.
Malta was to become very important in a subsequent war and displayed the same heroism again. That it was in a position to do so was partly due to the resilience of 540 knights, some mercenaries and a few thousand Maltese.
This book is very readable. A brilliant page in history, not so well known now, but worth investigation.
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on 1 December 2004
This book is much better than most novels, it makes history alive and it is a delight to read. However, if it awakens your interest in sixteenth century Mediterranean history, there is a thing which is not totally correct. Bradford tells us the day-to-day story of the siege as the knights saw it. The overall strategic picture is somewhat distorted as he seems to forget that Spain was not (in fact it could not) leaving the Knights to its fate, the destiny of Western Mediterranean was at the stake. So if you are interested in what was really going on, please read "Gunpowder and Galleys" by J.F. Guilmartin. In the other hand, if what you want is more "action", go for "The two sieges of Rhodes" by Brockman and "The fall of Constantinople" by Runciman as these are the antecedents of Malta told in a really lively way.
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VINE VOICEon 20 November 2003
Once there was a time I did not care to much for history books and prefered fiction, but as I have grown older I find that good history, especially of monumental events far outclasses fiction, namely because in fiction the author normally focuses on a few characters and their motives can be quite shallow while in history every character once was a human being thinking for himself. So lately I read mostly military history and while many of the books I read tend to get technical or detailed there are a few that read like best fiction in the runing and smoothness of the telling of the story. Only it is better, because it was real. This is such a book.
As for the book itself, it tells of the first Great Siege of Malta (the second of course in World War II), when the Ottoman Turks, then at the peak of their powers, having layed the Eastern Arab Kingdoms at their feet and fought their way to Austria in Western Europe set their mind and resources on the last of the Crusading Orders, The Order of St. John. Where two of the times greatest military units, the Christian Knights and Janissaries, Spartan bred Turkish units met. Also you get to know many of the most influential persons of those times, of their actions and sacrifice.
In all one great read.
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on 21 February 2013
I had the paperback version of this many years ago and stupidly lent it to a friend who never returned it then lost it. I've looked for it ever since and am delighted to have found it at last. The story is so epic in every sense and the characters described so vividly that I have missed them like old friends in the intervening years.
These men were giants and the lives and the adversity they faced is astonishing but thanks to Mr Bradford not unimaginable. Told in full colour surround so you can smell the sea and the smoke this is a story that deserves to be read and reread. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
I envy you reading it for the first time.
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on 3 April 2013
I'm a reader of history but mostly modern history. I downloaded this book as I was interested in not only the era but Suleiman the Magnificent. I find it amazing that such a powerful ruler could be challenged by one small island. The history in the Mediterranean at this time is astoundingly rich, but I was most drawn in by Bradford's examination of the Knights of St. John and their role in the Holy Roman Empire. The Siege of Malta was a horrendous battle. Bradford has included amazing research that retells the brutality of what happened very well. A battle between two mighty civilizations. A book for those who love history as well as a well-told tale of battle.
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on 16 March 2001
I have read this "history" book several times and it is a fantastically thrilling and inspiring book of courage. The description of conditions and motives and tactics and character are absolutely fascinating as Bradford describes objectively the course of one of the most amazing military campaigns ever fought. Literally almost impossible to put down. Better than any fictional thriller you'll ever read. I urge you to get this book.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 17 October 2015
Ernle Bradford's account of the attack on Malta in 1565 by the Ottoman Empire, published just short of its 400th anniversary in 1961, has remained a standard work on the subject because, although not a detailed scholarly account it is readable, accessible, entertaining and (probably) mostly accurate.

The paucity of sources makes assurance about accuracy hard to secure, and Bradford does a good job acknowledging how the acts of ordinary Maltese - as opposed to those of the invaders or defending Christian knights - were mostly lost to the historical record despite their role in the siege being so important.

The underlying story, of the Ottoman Empire at its peak, being held off by a small band of Christian defenders played a large part in the subsequent cultural attitudes which still linger on and have an impact today. It is also a story surprisingly short of epic Hollywood adaptations or pot boiler books, by Bradford does a good jot at entertaining the reader with some gripping narrative which does not underplay the horrific cruelty and violence that the siege entailed.

The audio version is brilliantly narrated by Simon Vance.
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on 12 January 2003
Earnle Bradford is a master story teller, he conjours up heroes and villains, tells of daring deeds and spins the web of a story to inspire.
The Seige of Malta is a great read especially when read on holiday in Malta surrounded by the places so ably described. I finished it in 3 days and have picked it up often to re-read it many times in the years since.
But this is no work of fiction, the people existed, the events really occurred and are described in great detail
Inspirational, atmospheric, heroic.
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on 30 November 1999
Ernle Bradford's book offers the classical account of the siege of Malta in English. Based on many contemporary sources (two of them written by soldiers who actually partecipated in the defence) and subsequent scholarly works, it conveys much of the atmosphere of the event, while providing with a sufficient historical background to understand the broader perspective of the war between the Knights and the Ottoman Empire. A deeper description of the arms and tactics of XVI century siege warfare would have been a useful complement to what remains, in any case, a solid survey and majour source of information for anyone interested in this interesting and fascinating event.
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