Siege Warfare during the Crusades, Michael S. Fulton

Siege Warfare during the Crusades, Michael S. Fulton

During the two centuries between the First Crusade and the destruction of the last fragments of the Crusader kingdoms warfare was largely dominated by sieges. The First Crusade was dominated by the sieges of Antioch and Jerusalem, the most significant result of Richard the Lionhearts time in the Middle East was the successful siege of Acre, and a century of later the siege and fall of Acre effectively ended the period.

One of the most valuable aspects of this book is that the author doesn’t just focus on sieges which involved both the Crusaders and Muslims, but also includes the very many sieges involving Muslim powers on both sides, the smaller number with Crusaders on both sides, and the rare examples where Crusaders and Muslins cooperated on one side. This gives a much better overview of siege warfare in the area than the more normal focus on a narrow group of ‘Crusading’ sieges.

The book is organised by theme. After a general introduction we get two ‘Strategy’ chapters. Strategy of Defence looks at the overall use of castles as defensive features – why they were located where they were, how they were garrisoned, how they were used during periods of warfare. Strategy of Attack looks at the broader picture of how sieges were conducted – how attackers prevented relief forces intervening, strategies for catching defenders by surprise etc. The author has produced a comprehensive list of sieges of this period, so we get a more accurate idea of how the majority of sieges were conducted than when the focus is on the more famous sieges.

Next come two more technical chapters. Means of Attack looks at the various siege engines – catapults, trebuchet, siege towers, rams etc and other methods of attack – mining or assault – used to actually attack castles. Means of Defence covers the more technical aspects of castle architecture – overall shape and layout, type of construction and the individual elements of castle architecture, from the outlying ditches to the changing nature of the walls, the defenses of gates etc.  

This is an excellent approach to this subject, successfully placing the more famous sieges in the wider context of the period, giving us a much better idea of how the competing powers in the Middle East used and attacked fortifications.


1 – Historical Context: The Period of the Crusades
2 – Strategy of Defence: Building and using Fortifications
3 – Strategy of Attack: Overcoming the Obstacle of Relief
4 – Means of Attack: Siege Weapons
5 – Means of Defence: the design of Fortifications
6 – Influences and Trends
Conclusion: the Siege of Acre, 1291
List of Sieges

Author: Michael S. Fulton
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 256
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2019

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