The End of Byzantium Jonathan Harris

Publication date:
15 Aug 2012
Yale University Press
320 pages: 156 x 234mm
16 b-w illus.
Sales territories:

By 1400, the once-mighty Byzantine Empire stood on the verge of destruction. Most of its territories had been lost to the Ottoman Turks, and Constantinople was under close blockade. Against all odds, Byzantium lingered on for another fifty years until 1453, when the Ottomans dramatically toppled the capital's walls. During this bleak and uncertain time, ordinary Byzantines faced difficult decisions to protect their livelihoods and families against the death throes of their homeland.

In this evocative and moving book, Jonathan Harris explores individual stories of diplomatic manoeuvres, covert defiance, and sheer luck against a backdrop of major historical currents, and he traces Byzantium's legacy through those emigrants and refugees who reached and influenced Italy, Russia, and beyond. Weaving together letters, chronicles, travellers' accounts, and other little-known archival documents, Harris dispels the myth of constant warfare between Islam and Christianity in the Middle Ages and offers a new perspective on the real reasons behind the fall of this extraordinarily fascinating empire.

Jonathan Harris is professor of the history of Byzantium at Royal Holloway, University of London.

"Harris offers plenty of serious scholarship, and a useful amount of background."-John Hinton, Catholic Herald

"Lucid; extremely well written with an excellent array of quotes and spread of information."-Michael Angold, Reviews In History

"Harris is fully in command of this Islamic conquest and records a saga seething with treachery and avarice with rich political overtones and giant cannonades. Christendom is at flashpoint in this scholarly journey into a barbaric age."-Colin Gardner, Oxford Times