Troubador The Byzantine World War

Released: 28/05/2019

ISBN: 9781789017588

eISBN: 9781838598921

Format: Paperback/eBook

Review this Book

The Byzantine World War


The Crusades shook the world. But why did they happen? 

Their origins are revealed in a new light. As part of a medieval world war that stretched from Asia to Europe. At its centre was an ancient empire – Byzantium.

Told for the first time as a single, linked narrative are three great events that changed history: the fall of Byzantium in the eleventh century, the epic campaign of the First Crusade and the origins of modern Turkey.

Nick Holmes not only presents the First Crusade in a wider global context but he also puts forwards new interpretations of the original sources, suggesting that its success was in fact largely accidental, and that the central role of Byzantium in the Crusades has been underestimated.

Excellent! Fascinating and easy to read.
This is a great book to give an introduction to the history of the first crusade for readers of historical fiction.

by Jenny

I am a history aficionado. Admittedly, I haven’t read many history books in the last year or so, so I was eager to dive back in. I am glad I chose, The Byzantine World War. Anatolia, Byzantium, The Ottoman Empire, Turkey…this region is steeped in history and culture and has always fascinated me. Author Nick Homes does a superb job telling the story of the fall of Byzantium, the First Crusade and the modern origins of Turkey. His writing style, rather than dry and monotonous like many history books, is conversational and engaging. I especially appreciated the comprehensive yet succinct chronology of the Byzantine Empire and the list of rulers by year included at the end of the book.

by Shell

This book delivers exactly what it promises; a quick, well-researched, clearly written book on the origins of the Crusades and the importance of the Byzantine Empire.

As a United States historian I didn't know much beyond the basics of the Crusades and the Eastern Roman Empire before starting this. I'm amazed at how much information Holmes was able to fit into so few pages. I loved the depth of knowledge provided in a short read. The comparisons to a world war were interesting and the first holocaust was something I had never heard of before.

I enjoyed the sometimes informality that this was written with, it made some parts read like historical fiction which helps the reader retain the information and not lose interest. Now it was more military heavy than I personally like and some parts were clearly better developed than others but it all came together well.

The maps, character guides, pictures, and timelines were great and overall I really enjoyed this book! I read it in a day and learned so much about the topic.

by Katie

This is a good, popular introduction to a much more interlinked and globalized (the "world war" bit is exaggerated, but I get the point) era of the Crusades than most people ever encountered in a history course or popular culture. Holmes uses new studies of the greater central Asian region to understand how actions within and by the Cumans, Seljuk turks and Arabs (not to mention mercenary Rus and Normans), in combination with internal politics and economics of the Byzantine Empire unraveled the last vestiges of Roman authority in Anatolia and opened the call for western Europeans (who, Holmes doesn't get into at any depth, had their own organizational reasons for sending their most violent and agitating far away to fight) to come wage holy war in the middle east. As usual in popular books, the footnotes and sources are in the back and minimal, so you're left guessing how Holmes interpreted the sources and what they are.

by Margaret

The oddly titled Byzantine World War mostly covers the rule of Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes and his betrayal and untimely death at the hands of the Doukas family, which led to the demise of the Eastern Roman Empire. The book continues with a brief continuation into the Crusades, with the Fourth Crusade actually sacking Constantinople, the Empire's seat of power. Oddly titled because the battles and politics were centred around the Levant and modern day Turkey - European and Islamic mercenaries were used, such as Saxons, Normans, Franks and the Uzes, but a 'world war' is a adding marketing grandeur!

This is an excellent book. Holmes's style is chatty without being whimsical, and his conclusions are garnered from multiple sources, even contradicting some well-established theories. I especially enjoyed the political back story running throughout, how incompetent, self-serving schemers were willing to destroy a leader even though he was the last hope of a declining empire. It reminded me of the UK's Brexit - populist politicians whipping up the country to commit national suicide.

A very good book, very readable, and very engaging.

by Colin

Having minimal knowledge of the Byzantine empire, I found this book quite interesting. The depictions and the information presented are relatable in this well-written book.

by Eva

If you are a scholar of Byzantine history this is not the book for you. If you don't know much about Byzanthium this is an easy way to learn about it.

It is clear, concise and easy to follow. The author does a good job of keeping the story and the actors straight. He provides tables, bibliography and footnotes.

A good introduction that will lead those who find the topic interesting, to dig deeper.

by Suzanne

Very readable, with fix on history as a series of conflicts, this comprehensive but not overly dense book takes us back through history of the byzantine empire. He includes snippets of personalities and family connections but most intriguingly political and war strategies. Ordinary life is not his theme but a wonderful dramatic sense of changing times .. this reads like absorbing historical fiction .. but with a theme of how individuals can change the course of real things for a few different future. Recommended to get an informed, intelligent fix on this subject ...

by Leslie

The Byzantine World War describes the struggle between the Byzantine Empire and the Seljuk Turks during the eleventh century, and the events of the First Crusade that arose following the Emperor Alexius Comnenus's appeal to the West for aid.

While the events of the First Crusade have been examined in great detail by historians, Nick Holmes sets them within the context of the larger struggle for dominion in Eastern Europe and Asia, highlighting the impact of the fractured politics of Byzantium on individual battles, picking out the critical moments as the balance of power ebbs and flows and, in particular, reassessing the failure of the emperor Romanus IV Diogenes, whom, he suggests, might have stemmed the Turkish tide but for betrayal from within the Byzantium nobility.

There's an array of colourful characters: emperors, sultans, kings ,popes, caliphs, nobles, war lords and mercenaries. I would have preferred a little more background on some of them and a little less detail of the individual battles. In places, also, I felt the tone could have been more objective. Nonetheless, this is a well-researched and vivid account of one of the defining conflicts in world history.

by Brian

This is an interesting and well written book - even if the choice of "world war" is an odd title. There is a lot packed into this book - and the unusual people and place names sometimes make it hard to keep up but it is well worth it. Mr Holmes tells a complex story as if it were fiction and the narrative races along. We are far into the book before the crusades are mentioned as the history of Byzantine is well covered in its own right. I learned a lot and it didn't feel like learning.

If you are interested in the history of the East and how the Crusades could come about and how cruel the world could be in the past, then this is the book for you. It is well researched and written for an intelligent audience but with a bit of perseverance and interest, anyone will get lots out of this book.

by Anne

he Byzantine World War is a compelling, engaging book for historians and general readers alike. It is meticulously researched and uses original sources to clarify three seminal events and how they are tied together: the fall of Byzantium in the 1000s, the rise of and reasons for the first Crusade, and the establishment of modern Turkey. Holmes' vivid descriptions of battles and alliances and prominent figures in this ongoing war are illuminating, educational, and keep the reader eagerly wondering what will happen next in this web of war. It is highly recommended.

by Jane

There is no doubt that the Crusades shook the world in the Middle Ages but why did they happen?

In this book their origins are revealed in a new light. As part of a medieval world war that stretched all the way from Asia to Europe. At its centre was an ancient empire –Byzantium.

The story of the Crusades is told for the first time as a single linked narratives the three linked events that changed the course of history As part of a medieval world war that stretched from Asia to Europe. At its centre was an ancient empire – Byzantium.

The first crusade began on a cold wintry day on November 27 1095 in Clermont in Southern France.

Nick Holmes presents the First Crusade in a wider global context but he also puts forwards new interpretations of the original sources, suggesting that its success was in fact largely accidental, and that the central role of Byzantium in the Crusades has been underestimated.

I give The Byzantine World War five out of five stars!

Happy Reading!

by Michelle

Nick Holmes is a graduate of Cambridge University with a degree in history. He was entranced by the ancient walls that circle Istanbul, Turkey and became intrigued with Byzantium following a trip to the region. The juxtaposition of the modern and the ancient engaged him and surprised him. The massive escarpments over a thousand years old decorate the city with imposing battlements. Hagia Sophia, a key location in the events that transpire in his book still stands in testament to the events of the past that still color our world today. Holmes finds the important role of Constantinople and the fulcrum around which Europe and the Near East pivot to be a wonderful backdrop of the events that took place so long ago. Nick posits the importance of the period beginning in 1068 that leads to the First, of several, Crusades and its effect on modern history.

Target Audience:

If you are the kind of person that loves to read history books that are not dry and stuffy, but engaging and conversational, then look no further. The Author, Nick Holmes shares a style of writing not so different from Simon Winchester or Erik Larson. Well-constructed, and set in an important time in world history, Holmes posits his opinion on the what, when, and how of the now distant history. The Byzantine World War, is a perfect fit for teenagers or adults bookshelf, and is a must read for anyone who enjoys intelligently constructed concepts set against the context of tumultuous times.

The Book:

The Byzantium World War is set at a time when the power of Rome was beginning to ebb and the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) was
beginning. Some of the Key locations of historic importance
include; Anatolia, Byzantium, The Middle East, The Balkans, The
Caucuses, and North Africa. The timeline is 1068-1097 and is written almost as a thriller in its style. The range of characters is extensive, and Holmes does a masterful job in recreating them and their foibles for the modern audience. It is a must read for all those who want to extend their knowledge of pivotal historic events, and for those who enjoy their history made three-dimensional, easily consumed.


This book is a great primer for those who are looking to increase their knowledge of the rise of Turkey in the form of the Pax Ottomana, and the fall of Pax Romana. The book is written in an easily accessible style, in a clear, chronological order, and illustrated with images, maps and detailed timelines. It is an engaging look at past events that still have influence over our period of history. I would like to see a more extensive referencing and bibliography, as well as the addition of some footnotes. That said, I did enjoy the fact that the key players in the book are listed at the rear for examination. I really enjoyed reading this book and I have no hesitation in recommending it highly. It is a rare treat in the world of dusty, dry history books that such a pleasantly written, brief but comprehensive volume comes along. Although I received this book for review; I loved it so much, I bought a copy for my library.

by Nemo

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