- Bruno Mugnai
- ARRSE Rating
- 3 Mushroom Heads
Had the European powers, instead of quarrelling among themselves, promptly united to support Venice, the outcome could have been different. As it was, other Italian, French, Dutch, Danish, and even English ships and men would become involved in the campaign on the Venetian side. Turkey drew its soldiers from all over its empire, including Arabia and Africa. Slavs and Greeks fought on both sides. A parallel campaign was waged in Dalmatia (the eastern shore of the Adriatic), with Venice and Turkey seizing islands and enclaves from each other.
Military historians like to discuss which was “the first modern war”. Much depends upon which criteria you choose to apply: the American Civil War, with its trenches, economic warfare and industrial input, is a favourite candidate. Bruno Mugnai proposes the Cretan War because:
- It was waged for the most part far from the home territory of the involved Great Powers;
- It therefore involved long supply-lines, whose maintenance was vital to the outcome of the campaign;
- Men from all over Europe, as well as Asia and Africa, took part. It was a major European war;
- Military technology evolved rapidly in response to the challenges of the campaign. This included modifications to armaments, equipment and clothing;
- There was likewise a fast evolution of strategy and combat tactics.
On the positive side, The Cretan War 1645-1671uncovers an important and interesting conflict about which I – and I suspect many other ARRSE-ers – previously knew almost nothing. Yet this little-known campaign altered the balance of power in Europe. The book is copiously illustrated with excellent maps and illustrations; many never published before.
I have however to award it a low score because of the deficiencies of the text. No-one is given credit for the translation from Italian to English, which leads me to suspect that the author or his publisher decided to economise by using a computer to do the job. Speaking from experience, this is an unwise thing to do. It results in translated observations like:
“The logistical effort for supply an Ottoman army required an operative staff of relevant dimension.”
I sort-of know what he means, but trying to make sense of this kind of obscure and ungrammatical sentence is both annoying and challenging. Sometimes the poor translation can be positively misleading. The word “kingdom” is repeatedly used as a translation of the Italian terms for “State” and also “province” or “colony”. The fact is that Venice was a republic; it had no king but an elected Doge. The Venetian Duke of Crete was a colonial governor; he did not preside over a kingdom, either. By the time I finished reading this book, I was ready to throw it across the room. Had I been an Italian scholar, able to read it easily in the original language, I suspect that I would have enjoyed it and have learned a lot more.
Finally, although there are excellent Notes and a Select Bibliography, there is no Index; a serious deficiency in any work of history.
Metellus Cimber II