The End of Byzantium Paperback – 13 Jul 2012
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"A remarkable book, which offers numerous fresh insights and weaves a gripping and deeply moving story that constantly startles us with its newness, its originality, and its balance. Byzantines, Turks, Latins - Harris breathes new life into these long-dead characters and makes us understand both their choices and the circumstances that led them to make those choices. This is history as it should be written - an epic tale that rouses our imaginations and captures our sympathies as effectively as it explains and informs." - Colin Wells, author of "Sailing from Byzantium"
"Harris offers plenty of serious scholarship, and a useful amount of background."--John Hinton, "Catholic Herald"--John Hinton"Catholic Herald" (05/06/2011)
Harris offers plenty of serious scholarship, and a useful amount of background. John Hinton, "Catholic Herald"--John Hinton"Catholic Herald" (05/06/2011)"
"Lucid; extremely well written with an excellent array of quotes and spread of information." Michael Angold, "Reviews In History"--Michael Angold"Reviews in History" (07/02/2011)"
"Harris is fully in command of this Islamic conquest and records a saga seething with treachery and avarice with rich political overtones and giant cannonades. Christendom is at flashpoint in this scholarly journey into a barbaric age." Colin Gardner, "Oxford Times"--Colin Gardner"Oxford Times" (03/03/2011)"
A remarkable book, which offers numerous fresh insights and weaves a gripping and deeply moving story that constantly startles us with its newness, its originality, and its balance. Byzantines, Turks, Latins - Harris breathes new life into these long-dead characters and makes us understand both their choices and the circumstances that led them to make those choices. This is history as it should be written - an epic tale that rouses our imaginations and captures our sympathies as effectively as it explains and informs. - Colin Wells, author of "Sailing from Byzantium""
"Jonathan Harris's new account of the fall of Constantinople in 1453 is a welcome and highly readable treatment of one of the most important events in world history. The author knows his sources inside out and his book is a fine work of scholarship. But he also handles his subject with narrative momentum and descriptive flair, and he never loses sight of the humanity involved in these twilight years of a once-great empire." Norman Housley, author of "Fighting for the Cross"--Norman Housley"
Harris's book tells and oft-told tale in a fresh way. Brian G. H. Ditcham, Gillingham, Kent, England--Brian G. H. Ditcham"Sixteenth Century Journal" (04/01/2012)"
Shows expert knowledge of the Greeks in the west and of cultural trends in humanistic thought. . . . Harris provides a sympathetic reading of the civil wars and conflicts engendered by the empire s fundamental problem in this era: how to balance Byzantine traditions with the need for military aid from the West in order to confront the Ottoman Turks. Judith Herrin, "Wall Street Journal"--Judith Herrin "Wall Street Journal ""
"The End of Byzantium" is a worthy successor to [earlier] books and indeed supersedes them as an introduction to the empire in its final hour. . . . [Harris] explains the unfamiliar without dumbing-down and lets the players speak for themselves. Paul Magdalino, "American Historical Review"--Paul Magdalino "American Historical Review ""
About the Author
Jonathan Harris is professor of the history of Byzantium at Royal Holloway, University of London.
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I was expecting a book primarily about the siege of Constantinople given the title and the image on the dust jacket. I was also hoping for such a book to finally replace Steven Runciman's dated and problematic The Fall of Constantinople 1453 for the popular realm. Instead, if this book has a thesis, it is to provide a solid narrative account of the last century of Byzantine history while stressing the internal factional strife in Byzantium. Perhaps the point behind this is to undermine a Huntingtonian 'clash of civilizations' thesis and to provide the depth necessary to understand the internal political wrangling in Byzantium. Nationalists and lunatics may not appreciate the fact that this is not a story of Christianity versus Islam or east versus west, but rather a careful and nuanced approach to the 'End of Byzantium'.
There are a few minor issues with the book. For one, Harris is eager to accept the story of the Ottoman sultan Bayezid I being paraded around in a cage after his defeat by Timur. If he accepts the story, that is fine. What Harris needed to do was at least mention to readers that this is a hotly contested issue in scholarship today and is by no means a settled issue. I have not read the bulk of the scholarship, but I would be ready to accept the cage story as authentic at this point. For a book on the end of the Byzantine Empire, the end of Byzantine Trebizond in 1461 was mysteriously ignored. While Harris traces out the fate of the Palaiologoi in the Morea after the fall of Constantinople, the Grand Komnenoi of Trebizond are ignored. I do realize that this would have required a bit more space and effort on the author's part, but even an acknowledgement would have been a good start.
While the siege itself is only treated briefly, this book should easily replaced Runciman's dated work. It is also miles above Crowley's imaginative (but nonetheless, very exciting) account of the siege in Constantinople: The Last Great Siege, 1453. The pre-eminent scholarly account is The Siege and the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 but this a little beyond the price range and interest of most general readers. This is a very solid book that should remain the standard account of the last Palaiologoi for a long time.
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