Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Roger Crowley's "The Accursed Tower"

Roger Crowley is a best-selling narrative historian with deep interests in the Mediterranean world and its surrounding area. At Emmanuel College, Cambridge he read English but has gone on to build a reputation for writing page-turning history based on original sources and careful scholarship.

Crowley is the author of a loose trilogy of books on the Mediterranean: Constantinople: The Last Great Siege/1453 (2005), Empires of the Sea (2008) – a Sunday Times (UK) History Book of the Year in 2009 and a New York Times bestseller – and City of Fortune on Venice (2011), as well as Conquerors (2015), a rare break out into the Atlantic with the Portuguese. His latest book, The Accursed Tower: The Fall of Acre and the End of the Crusades, explores the end of the Holy Land crusades.

Crowley applied the “Page 99 Test” to The Accursed Tower and reported the following:
Page 99 contains the grand words of a treaty sworn by a Muslim sultan: ‘By Allah by Allah by Allah…I bind myself to uphold this blessed truce agreed between myself and the Commune of Acre and the grand masters who live there.’ It goes on to describe the discussions between the sultan and his emirs as to whether the Christians had broken this truce. The Accursed Tower is a history of the collapse of the crusades in the Holy Land, featuring the final siege and destruction of Acre in 1291. Treaties are quite important to the narrative, but the book is really about the dramatic siege itself. The treaties are a detail – not a main element.

Page 99 is interesting however because it’s a hinge moment. It leads to the crucial decision to destroy Acre. It allows us to hear Muslim voices speaking directly to us – the book aims to tell the story from both sides, using Arabic as well as Christian sources – and what follows from this debate will be the launching of the largest Muslim army ever assembled during the crusades. Possibly a hundred thousand men are mobilised, giant catapults are hauled to the city walls, miners are brought in to undermine its foundations. What follows is the Alamo of the crusades – a resistance to the last man by the hopelessly outnumbered crusaders. Six weeks of bloody fighting, detailed in vivid eyewitness accounts, and the key to the defence is the so-called Accursed Tower, situated at a critical point on the city walls.
Visit Roger Crowley's website.

--Marshal Zeringue