Even if the title didn’t clue you in, Bradford wastes no time and pulls no punches letting you know what he thinks of the fall of Constantinople to the Fourth Crusade. He begins with the arrival of the Venetian fleet in the Sea of Mamara, and the initial clashes before going back and laying the groundwork.

Dandolo, Philip of Swabia, and Boniface are considered to have directly and purposefully conspired to divert the Crusade to Constantinople. This is a far from an unpopular view, and Bradford is on solid ground following this track. Personally, the fall of Constantinople is one of those things that would have seemed unlikely enough beforehand that it’s a little hard to believe that it was the planned outcome. My feeling is that it was the outcome of opportunism, and damage control. Dandolo especially was using his political skill to ride the tiger, knowing that getting off would cause such a financial crash in Venice that he would not survive.

But no matter the intentions, the outcome was calamitous for everything besides Venice’s art collections. Bradford does a good job relating events, and impressing upon the reader the horrors associated with the fall of a rich city untouched for hundreds of years. If you want a sympathetic take on Venice’s part, read Crowley’s City of Fortune; but it has a much bigger scope, so Bradford’s gives a fuller account of the Crusade as a whole.