Nicholas Morton’s new book on the formative years of the Crusader states is a delight on multiple levels. The Field of Blood: The Battle for Aleppo and the Remaking of the Medieval Middle East provides an illuminating survey of the Levantine region in the period immediately after the Christian Frank incursion, when Jerusalem was the newly-created seat of a Christian kingdom and European nobles sought to dominate the Holy Land. Historians have long assumed the Crusader experiment was destined to fail, but Morton makes a very persuasive case that it could well have succeeded.
The action takes place in present-day Syria, Lebanon, and Israel, and involves the same strategic cities—Damascus, Aleppo, and Homs—that so tragically dominate headlines today. Morton doesn’t shy away from pointing out historical lessons for the present-day conflict, but when he does he is thoughtful and rigorous. The book is really well-done: compact, entertaining, and insightful.
For more, please read my review in the Washington Independent Review of Books.