The Center of the World

Empires of the Sea: The Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto, and the Contest for the Center of the World -

     This is a history of the struggle for the Mediterranean, spanning the lives of many different generals, emperors, and sultans, but always spearheaded by the two great powers dominant in the area at the time: Spain and the Ottoman Empire. Hapsburg Spain and the Holy Roman Empire, led by men such as Charles V and Philip II, drew resources from their massive realm extending from Austria to Mexico and South America for the purposes of creating galleys and recruiting men to fight in their war for the "Center of the World". The Ottomans, under men such as Suleiman the Magnificent and Selim II, not to mention the many pashas who often held practical control in all but name, may not have had the resources of  the New World at their disposal, but their vast Old World domains which stretched across North Africa, the Middle East, and Arabia provided the money and manpower required for the Ottoman war machine. In the middle were the many states of Italy, always backing the Hapsburg (well, except for Venice; they were always playing both sides, hoping to get a better deal from one or the other). Significant events in this book include the sieges of Rhodes, Malta, and Cyprus; the many large and small raids conducted by both sides, sometimes as official operations but often led only by crusading pirates; and a few sea battles, most significantly that of Lepanto.
    This is a very good work of history. Not only does it provide you with a good view of the backroom politics of all these political and military struggles, but it provides good history of the operations themselves. It not only offers a good view of the military strategy of the many battles, but also a good perspective of the men on the ground, drawing heavily from personal memoirs and recollections of the priests, soldiers, and civilians involved in the sad and bloody struggles. I would heavily recommend this to anyone who likes Ottoman or Spanish history in particular, and also to anyone who likes history at all. It was amazingly written, and can almost make you forget that you are reading a history book in certain places, as it is so full of action and personal accounts.