Wednesday, 29 April 2020

The siege and 'The Siege'

I've decided that the previous two periods for which I recommended books were insufficiently niche, so today we are going to consider Ottoman sieges of the fifteenth century.

For non-fiction we are going to go for the big one, the Fall of Constantinople in 1453. There are first hand accounts available, but they are not accessible by me or, I suspect, you, so we need someone else's interpretation. Top of my list would be Roger Crowley's 'Constantinople', a very vivid account that brings to life not just the major figures such as the Sultan and the Emperor, but a whole host of supporting characters. Runciman's 'The Fall of Constantinople' is very good as well; treat yourself and read them both.

'The Siege' by Ismail Kadare is a cracking, and literary prize-winning, historical novel about a fictional siege during the Ottoman invasion of what is now Albania, full of detailed descriptions of what was done and how. Narrated by a variety of characters from both besiegers and besieged and ranging from those directing events to those whose only task is to fight and die, the writing really brings alive not just action, but also motivation.


  1. They both sound verry interesting indeed. They might have to go on the list of books to be ordered.

    You’ve reminded me of Ernle Bradford’s The Great Siege (Malta 1565) which I read many years ago. There’s something about a long siege that lends itself to great narratives.

    1. I have the Ernle Bradford book, and very good it is too. An appropriate fictional counterpoint to that would be 'The Disorderly Knights' by Dorothy Dunnett, part of the Lymond Chronicles, although I'd suggest that you read the first two books in the series beforehand.