Crowley’s book on Venice is about the Stato da Mar, and as such, is exactly one of the things I’ve been on the lookout for.

The first section starts with Venice’s mercantile rise, and then goes into the story of the Fourth Crusade. He’s fairly neutral on everyone’s participation later on, but it’s interesting to see a version that’s sympathetic to Venice for the beginning of it all. He doesn’t quite out-and-out blame Villehardouin for it either, but his over-inflated request for transport to the Middle East is the beginning of it all. Crowley points out that Venice effectively stopped all trade for a year to gather and build sufficient transport for the promised crusading army, which put them in a profit-or-perish position when the bill came due.

The second part talks about the small empire Venice picked up from this… and the long series of wars with Genoa, including a fairly lengthy description of the War of Chioggia. This is even more the centerpiece of the book than the Fourth Crusade’s taking of Constantinople, and almost felt like it got a little drawn out, though I’m sure that’s nothing compared to how the Venetians felt. At any rate, the entire subject is one I wish I could find more on in English.

The last part of the book is on Venice’s thankless war against the Ottomans, and is every bit as interesting as the rest of the book. As ever, there are interesting missed opportunities, but here the entire conflict is one I don’t know much of. Certainly, the loss of Negroponte and the Battle of Zonchio aren’t anything I recall hearing of before. At any rate, Crowley concentrates on this part, and finishes in 1503, before things like the loss of Crete, and finishes with some prescient quotes from a couple of Venetians on what the Portuguese discovery of a route to India was going to do to trade.

As ever, this is a very engaging narrative history, and is full of anecdotes and quotes to help it all come alive. This time his subject is one that gets less attention in English, which makes even better.