Barbarians, Marauders, and Infidels examines the motives and terrors of war during the Middle Ages, the rise and fall of ethnic and religious groups, and the actions of good and evil military leaders during this violent and colorful period. In this sweeping chronicle, historical figures and major campaigns such as Charlemagne, the Magyars, and the Crusades are presented not as icons but as a living part of their times, with all their achievements and human failures. Santosuosso asserts that war, for most of the Middle Ages, was carried out for God, personal gain, and honor. Both Christians and Muslims often explained their acts of violence in war as the will of God. Besides the religious motivation, soldiers, if upper class, believed that acts of bravery were a necessary aspect of gaining honor in society. Finally, war constituted a way to make material gains in a period of chronic underemployment and low prosperity. Particular emphasis is given to massive transitions from one period to the next in the medieval era. The author explains how these changes reflected an environment where charismatic leaders, the Church, and the aristocracy played leading roles as "managers" of the art and practice of war and normally as main actors on the battlefield.
Santosuosso (history, emeritus, Univ. of Western Ontario) has written two earlier works on classical armies. Now he looks at warfare during the Middle Ages, beginning his study with the death of Attila, king of the Huns, in 453 C.E., and concluding in the 15th century when firearms began to have a decisive effect on warfare. In between, such historical actors as Charlemagne and the Magyars cross the bloody stage. Santosuosso perceives three major motivations for war-making during this period: the desire for personal gain, the need to sustain individual honor, and the sense that one's actions were fulfilling the will of God. Whether he is discussing the breeding of large war horses in the West, the proper carriage of a lance while on a march, or the exploits of a military leader, Santosuosso's writing style is accessible and his sense for the telling narrative detail keen. This work will prove useful not only to students of medieval studies or military history but also to lay readers with an interest in these areas. Highly recommended for academic and larger public libraries.-Robert J. Andrews, Duluth P.L., MN Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Antonio Santosuosso is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Western Ontario and author of Storming and Heavens, and Soldiers, Citizens, and the Symbols of War. He lives in London, Ontario.