Medieval Maritime Warfare, Charles D Stanton

Medieval Maritime Warfare, Charles D Stanton

I must admit this book wasn't entirely what I'd expected. Recent titles in a similar vein have focused on the technical aspects of naval warfare in their period - navigation, ship building, weaponry, ship's crews or tactics. What we have here is a narrative history of the main periods of naval warfare in the Middle Ages, from the early period of Byzantine domination to the story of the Hanseatic League. On reflection this is not such a surprise - many of the more technical aspects of Medieval naval warfare are either very poorly understood or the subject of complex arguments - we don’t even really know what some of the ship types looked like (in particular the Hulk, portrayed in late Medieval art as almost Banana shaped).

The introduction covers the more technical aspects of naval warfare of the period, and each chapter ends with a more detailed examination of a particular battle or campaign (the last one looks at the story of a particular ship). 

This is a very readable text, covering a mix of the familiar and the relatively unknown. I'd heard of the War of the Sicilian Vespers, but didn't know much about it. Likewise the details of the various conflicts between the Italian powers were new to me, as were some of the details of later Byzantine naval history. Each of the chapters is well written, and the author tells an interesting tale.

This is a useful addition to the literature on Medieval military history, as long as you aren't expecting a deeply technical discussion of the topic. It will be of interest to the general reader, and also helps fill in some of the gaps in my own knowledge.


Part I: Southern Europe - The Mediterranean and the Black Sea
1 - The Byzantine-Muslim Struggle for Supremacy on the Black Sea
2 - Norman Naval Expansion in the Central Mediterranean
3 - The Crusades: The Clash of East and West at Sea
4 - Genoese-Pisan Rivalry for the Western Mediterranean
5 - The War of the Sicilian Vespers: Angevin versus Aragonese Sea Power
6 - Venetian-Genoese Competition for Control in the East

Part II: Northern Europe - The North Sea, the Baltic Sea and the English Channel
7 - The Viking Onslaught
8 - The Norman Invasion and the Rise of Anglo-French Naval Warfare
9 - The Hundred Years War: Anglo-French Conflict across the Narrow Sea
10 - The German Hanse: Martial Merchants of the Baltic

Author: Charles D Stanton
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 368
Year: 2015

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