Great Siege: Malta 1565
By Ernle Bradford
Published in January 1961
Thibault’s Score: 4/5
This book is an early 1960s pop history account of the siege of Malta. The book was written by WW2 British veteran Ernle Bradford. Later, he spent 30 years sailing across the Mediterranean, and studying the history of naval warfare and maritime trade. As a result, this book is way more interesting than if it had been written by some historian who never accomplished anything in the real world.
The book is a fast-paced hour by hour account of the mind-blowingly epic siege of Malta. This battle constitutes Christianity’s most epic stand against Islam. A small group of Catholic knights defeated an Ottoman army roughly twenty times larger than their garrison, stopping the Turkish advance.
Had the knights lost the siege of Malta, the Ottomans would have likely been able to invade Spain and Sicily. Instead, it marked the second major Ottoman defeat after the earlier failed attempted siege of Vienna.
The knights were a group of old crusaders who had been forced to abandon their last Eastern outpost on the island of Rhodes several decades earlier after the Ottomans successfully captured it. They came from a variety of backgrounds - French, German, Spanish, English, etc… Assisting them was a group of ragtag Maltese Catholic peasants who hated the knights. The Maltese, although Catholic, spoke a dialect of Arabic and prayed to a God they called “Allah” (albeit in Catholic masses).
The crusaders were able to win the siege thanks to the charismatic leadership of 70 year old Hospitaler grandmaster Jean Parisot de Valette. He was able to unite the fragmented Catholic forces, and crush the Ottoman attack - despite getting almost no outside assistance.
This is one of the most epic battles in history, and this book does it justice. If you want to read a fast-paced historical account of a battle, this is the book for you.
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