Book Review: Medieval Maritime Warfare


by Charles D. Stanton

Barnsley, Eng.: Pen & Sword / Philadelphia: Casemate, 2015. Pp. viii, 360. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $39.95. ISBN: 1781592519

Naval Warfare in the Middle Ages

Naval operations are not usually associated with the Middle Ages, and in this volume maritime historian Stanton, author of Norman Naval Operations in the Mediterranean and other works, helps draw attention to the subject.

Medieval Maritime Warfare is a readable, very serious study of naval warfare in the wider European world from the age of Justinian to the Renaissance. Stanton divides his subject into two parts,  a long section on maritime warfare in the Mediterranean and its adjacent waters, and a shorter one on naval operations in the North and Baltic Seas, and their adjacent waters.  This involves covering an impressive range of actors, Byzantine, “Barbarian,” Muslims of various background, Norman, Aragonese, English, Angevin, Crusader, Viking, the Hanse, the French, and the several Italian states.  

Stanton’s technique is a good one, effectively weaving together rather technical discussions of warship design, seafaring and the sailor’s life, with naval strategy and tactics, the complex diplomacy of some of the war, and comments and evaluations of people, commerce, cultures. In this way, the book not only throws light on the maritime history of the period, but on the overall history of the times. 

One excellent feature is that for some particularly important operations, Stanton follows his summary overview in the main text with deeper analysis in chapter annexes titled “Exemplary Engagement,” using the battle of campaign to illustrate the broader patterns of naval warfare at that moment or the larger events within which the incident took place, such as background on the Byzantine-Muslim or Aragonese-Angevin wars, which are likely to be unfamiliar with English-speaking readers.

Medieval Maritime Warfare is a particular valuable book not only for the specialist in Medieval studies, but also for the layman interested in the period or anyone interested in the history of naval warfare..


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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