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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still my favourite, 3 Jun 2013
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JPS - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Crusader Castles (Paperback)
This book was first published in 1994 and it may, therefore, not be totally up to date and not include some of the latest findings or discussions on Crusader castles. It remains nevertheless my favourite, and certainly the best introduction and general survey to Crusader castles that I know of and because of this, it is still worth five stars.

The first reason for finding this book extremely valuable is its clarity. It shows particularly well the evolutions in fortifications, from those existing in the West and the East prior to the Frist Crusade, to those of the 12th century in the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the northern Crusader States to the fortresses of the 13th century in each of the remaining principalities of Outremer, including those of the Military Orders. It also highlights the two main reasons for these changes. One was the increasing shortages in military manpower, with the growing inability of the Franks to meet the Moslems in the field after Hattin, when large forces of Crusaders were not present. The other was the evolutions of siege warfare; in particular the talent deployed by the Moslems in terms of sapping and mining and siege artillery with the counterweight trebuchet.

Another interesting trend, which can also be found in the two books on Crusader warfare from R.C. Smail for the 12th century and Christopher Marshall for the 13th and which is well shown in this volume is the growing inability of the lay lords, counts of Tripoli, princes of Antioch and kings of Jerusalem to provide for the defence of their castles and towns. Overtime, this lead to the increasing importance and role of the Military Orders who took over so many castles and towns and of the increasing role played by Crusader lords and Kings, with one of the main contributors being Louis IX, despite his disastrous Crusade to Egypt, in financing and strengthening fortifications. The Orders and the lords from the West were the only ones to have the financial and military resources to be able to afford to do so.

A third quality of this book is to show how diverse the "crusader castles" even if the Military Orders seem to have developed some preferences during the 13th century (large rectangular towers for the Templars, large round ones for the Hospitallers). As the author shows rather well, it was essentially about experiments and experience, and trying to respond to evolving and emerging threats with the 12th century fortresses that remained in the hands of the Franks being heavily rebuilt or abandoned as indefensible.

Another strongpoint is, of course, the description of a large selection of castles and fortresses, including most of the main ones. The main features of each of them are described, with numerous plans and pictures provided to illustrate them, before the author presents a little resume of the castles history and, in particular, how it changed hands and was finally lost to the Moslems. While the presentation of Krak des Chevaliers is suitably impressive, that is Marquab, of Krak de Moab, of Château Pelerin or of a dozen other major fortresses is no less so.

One limitation, perhaps, is that some of the most heavily fortified sites, such as Acre, but also Jerusalem, Tripoli or Antioch are not described in detail. This is because the book focuses mainly on Crusader castles, rather than all types of fortifications including fortified cities. A number of these are mentioned in passing (for instance Tripoli and Antioch), but it is the castles or citadels included in them that are the subject of this book, as opposed to their walls. Moreover, the book is also focused on the castles built by the Crusaders, as opposed to the fortifications that they used and sheltered behind. Accordingly, there is little on the County of Edessa for instance, since almost all of the strong points and fortified towns pre-dated the Crusaders.

Yet another interesting feature is a short chapter about Moslem castles in the 12th and 13th century, including the citadels of Damascus, Aleppo and Cairo. The point made here is to show the "cross-fertilization" in terms of building techniques with some features being common to both Moslem castles and Crusader ones in the 13th century without it being possible to determine precisely who influenced who.

With all this going for it, and even if this book is almost two decades old, I could hardly see how I could not still rate it five stars since it is still a rather superb introduction to Crusader castles. Those wanting to learn more about this subject can make use of the host of more specialized works published by Denis Pringle over the past thirty years or so.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding study of castles in Holy Land, 12 Jan 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Crusader Castles (Paperback)
Hugh Kennedy has produced an outstanding study of both Crusader and Muslim castles in the Holy Land which will appeal to both specialist and general readers. For historians, wargamers and modellers, this book is a particularly rich seam.
Kennedy writes lucidly with plenty of supporting evidence to make his points both from primary and archaeological sources. He starts by covering fortifications in the Holy Land before the arrival of the Crusaders, reviews the castle building efforts of both Muslims and Crusaders - in particular those of the Military Orders, looks at siege warfare, and closes with comments on the impact of the Crusader experience on castle building back in the West. An interesting appendix covers the construction of the Templar castle at Saphet.
Highly recommended - one of the best book on castles around.
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Crusader Castles
Crusader Castles by Hugh Kennedy (Paperback - 15 Jan 2001)
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