The Field Of Blood: The Battle For Aleppo And The Remaking Of The Medieval Middle East, by Nicholas Morton
This is the sort of battle study that deserves to be done more often, a look at an important turning point in a much larger campaign that demonstrates an inflection point that changes the nature of a conflict from what it was looking to be to what it ends up being and that demonstrates some essential issue or lack in demographics or something else in one of the combatants that ends up proving to be a glimpse into a decisive element of a massive conflict. In this case, the Battle on the Field of Blood that serves as the main subject of this book demonstrates the major demographic weakness of the Crusader states that marked this battle as a decisive shift from the strategic offensive, where the Crusader states had been advancing and threatening the survival of the Islamic regimes of the Middle East, to the strategic defensive, where the Crusader states themselves were, with increasing risks and dangers and threats, facing the threat of the destruction of their regimes and realms, as happened progressively onward from this point. And while the Battle for Aleppo is not even close to the most famous aspect of the Crusades, it certainly is something that is well worth paying more attention to because of the way that Aleppo was able to preserve its independence from Crusader invasions in a way that pushed the center of gravity for the Crusader states further south.
This book is a relatively short one at 200 pages or so, and it is divided into several large chapters that discuss an obscure and often neglected area of the Crusades. The book begins with a prologue. After that, the author discuses the rival architects of the Crusader states in Baldwin of Boulogne and Tancred of Hauteville and their rivalry as well as the rivalry between their states for dominance of the Crusader effort as a whole (1). This is followed by a chapter that discusses the division and turmoil faced on the Muslim side of the Crusades in the rivalry for control between different Turkish and Arab rulers (2) who sought to control key cities and maintain their freedom. After that the third chapter discusses the battle of the Field of Blood itself and its damaging results on the supply of knights present for the Principality of Antioch (3). After this the author looks at the later fields of blood that marked the continuing struggle between and within the various states of the Middle East over the next decade or so (4), and then finally a look at the long aftermath from the abandonment of Aleppo as a target and the decisive defeat of the Kingdom of Jerusalem at Hattin (5). The book then closes with abbreviations, notes, suggestions for further reading, and an index.
It might seem strange to many readers to consider Aleppo as being such an important city, but although Damascus and Cairo are vastly more famous cities, on account of being national capitals at present, Aleppo has long been an important city that was until recently (thanks to the horrors of the Syrian Civil War) the most populous in Syria and was a particularly vital and important city during Ottoman times and is still the capital of the most populous region of Syria. During the course of the Crusades it marked the first major target of the Crusaders during the early part of the period between the First and Second Crusade when it was targeted by both Edessa and Antioch, and for a while it seemed as if Aleppo might fall, which would have brought Northern Syria and potentially parts of Iraq under Crusader influence, but this book demonstrates that the effort on the part of the Crusaders to take Aleppo fell just short, and once it did, the Crusading states simply did not have the military strength to continue the effort, which put the strategic initiative in the hands of aggressive Muslim leaders like the Zengid and Ayubbid dynasties who would continue to threaten the survival of crusader states increasingly over the next few decades.