Book Review: Empires of the Sea: The Siege of Malta, The Battle of Lepanto, and the Contest for the Center of the World by Roger Crowley

I am planning a vacation trip to Malta this summer with my family and like all vacations I take there will be an element of historical tourism involved.   I have always wanted to visit Malta and I am finally getting a chance.   As preparation for that I am reading a few books with accounts of The Great Siege of 1565, the last battle of the Medieval Crusades.   The first book is Empires of the Sea: The Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto, and the Contest for the Center of the World by Roger Crowley.

Crowley does an excellent job of bringing the siege to life and paints a very good picture of the temperament and characters of the main actors in the history of this critical period in Mediterranean history.   He writes in a style that is easy to read and engaging so that the book does not get boring.   The main account he uses for the siege is that written by Balbi, which is the best contemporary account available.   There are several maps and a good photo section in the middle to allow the reader to better visualize the places he is writing about.   The account of the siege is followed by an account of the years leading up to the Battle of Lepanto and the destruction of Ottoman sea power in the Mediterranean.

This is a fairly good book that was obviously written for a popular audience and not academics.   That being said, the book is full of source citations and there is a fairly extensive bibliography for those looking to find out more about specific incidents in the book or just wanting to know where he got his information from.

I recommend this book to anyone unfamiliar with the history of the Mediterranean in the 16th Century.   This period is often overshadowed by the Spanish exploitation of the New World and the voyages of discovery that occurred thus leaving the Story of the contest with the Turks relatively ignored in English language histories.   Crowley’s book does much to cover up that gap.