Islamic Weapons, Warfare, And Armies: Muslim Military Operations Against The Crusaders, by Paul Hilliam
This book doesn’t really live up to its name. That isn’t to say that it is a bad book, it is rather that there is a gap between what the author is doing and what the people marketing of the book think that readers want to see. It would have been far better for this book to have been labeled as a book that dealt with the Muslim military history of the Middle Ages as a whole without seeing the sort of focus on the crusades in its title that is not born out in its contents. A reader looking at the title of this book would expect to see a high degree of focus on the Crusades as an aspect of Muslim military history, and see something about the military behavior of the Seljuk Turks or the Fatimid Empire as well as something involving military equipment or tactics in various battles, but what we get instead is a book that is far more general in its look at military campaigns. That is by no means a bad thing, but it is certainly a different thing than a reader would expect, and it is my personal belief that an author and publisher should do everything possible to make a book as easy to figure out as possible, and this book doesn’t quite do it.
This book is a short one at just over 60 pages and it is divided into five chapters that show a wide scope of subject matter for such a short book with such limited text counts. The book begins with a chapter on the early spread of Islam from its origins through the Middle East and to other areas (1). After this comes the book’s best material, in my opinion, in a look at Islamic weapons and armor (2). This is followed by a discussion of what it meant for Islamic societies to go to war when it came to spying and logistics and the like (3), which is also a very excellent chapter. After this comes a couple of chapters that provide a very superficial gloss of the Muslim military history of the Middle Ages in a look at wars in the Middle East (the crusades, mostly) and the Balkans (the conquest of Constantinople and surrounding areas) (4), as well as a closing chapter on the Moors and Spain and the Mughals in India (5), showing both the continued strength as well as weakness of the Muslim regimes of the age. The book then ends with a glossary, suggested further information as well as further reading, a bibliography, and an index.
That isn’t to say, again, that this is a bad book by any means. It is, in fact, a pretty good book if you are looking for a very short introductory book on Muslim equipment during the Middle Ages. That said, this book does not provide a lot of new information that one would not have found by being generally well-read in the course of the Middle Ages as far as Islam went from its initial rise to the conquest of Constantinople, the loss of Spain, and the Mughal conquests in India. In truth, it can be said that the approach of the book to cover so much material in such a superficial fashion makes this book less enjoyable than it could have been. It is at its best when it provides a look at the equipment used by Islamic armies, and at its worst when it covers superficially what so many other books cover in much more interest and detail regarding the history of the Crusades, Byzantine Empire, medieval Spain, or India. But while this book could have been better a bit shorter, as it is it is by no means a bad example of a simple introductory book that may encourage further reading.