Italian Medieval Armies 1000 - 1300
Italy in the high Middle Ages was an area of great diversity, much fought over. The period covered by this book saw the growth of the cities in the north and the establishment of the Norman kingdom in the south and Sicily. The contest between the Papacy and the Holy Roman Emperor saw German armies fighting the armies of the city communes, and its continuation between the Papacy and the Hohenstaufen kings of Sicily culminated in the conquest of the south by Charles of Anjou and the Sicilian Vespers in which his power was overthrown.
Given the complexity of the political and military situation in Italy during the period, this book necessarily must be an overview. It does this effectively with sections covering feudal and communal armies in the wealthy north, detailing the way in which the cities organised themselves into quarters, each responsible for raising troops. The section also covers the tensions between the city and the nobility of the surrounding countryside. Further sections deal with the south and Sicily covering the Lombard states, the Norman conquest and the Hohenstaufen and Angevin periods. Dr. Nicolle discusses the importance of Islamic and Byzantine influences in the region. The book is completed with sections on strategy and tactics and the development of fortifications. There is also a substantial bibliography for those wishing to study the subject in more detail.
The book is illustrated with supporting photographs showing depictions of soldiers of the period in manuscripts, wall-paintings and sculpture, together with surviving fortifications, particularly the characteristic Italian towers. There are drawings showing plans and sections of fortifications.
There are eight coloured plates by Angus McBride in his well-known highly-detailed style. These tend to focus on the better-equipped elite of the armies, though some examples of the poorer soldiers are also shown. This focus is largely a result of the available evidence, the manuscript illustrators and masons tending to depict their wealthy patrons in their work.
I found this book a good general survey and enjoyed it. One enhancement I would like to see for medieval period titles is to use one of the colour plates for relevant heraldry, in the way that one plate is used in the Muslim Conquest title to illustrate early Islamic banners.
David Nicolle, illustrated by Angus McBride
ISBN 1 84176 322 5
Back to Wargames Forum Back to book reviews