Book Review of Guarding the Frontier: Ottoman Border Forts and Garrisons in Europe

Mark L. Stein. Guarding the Frontier: Ottoman Border Forts and Garrisons in Europe. London: Tauris Academic Studies, 2007. ISBN 978-1-84511-301-8. Tables. Map. Gazetteer. Notes. Bibliography. Glossary. Index. Pp. vii, 222. $90.00 (hardcover).

Mark L. SteinIn 1526, the Ottoman Sultan Süleyman I (the Magnificent) (ruled 1520-1566) destroyed the Kingdom of Hungary at the battle of Mohács.  Three years later, in 1529, the Ottomans besieged but failed to take Emperor Charles V’s capital city of Vienna.  The Austrian Habsburgs and the Holy Roman Empire took up the responsibility to defend Christian Europe from the Ottoman threat.  The Habsburg-Ottoman frontier would be contested over for many centuries.  In this study Dr Mark L. Stein, Associate Professor of History at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, examines Ottoman fortresses and garrisons from the end of the Habsburg-Ottoman Long War (1593-1606) through the Austro-Turkish War of 1663-1664 to the outbreak of the Great Turkish War or War of the Holy League (1683-1699).  The study is based on his doctoral dissertation (2001) from the University of Chicago.

Ottoman Borders (1683)In 1593, the Ottoman Army began the Long War by attacking the Habsburg Monarchy and capturing Yanik (Győr) and Komárom. The Ottomans had the goal of taking Vienna while the Habsburgs sought to regain all of Hungary.  Despite both sides capturing fortresses from one another, neither side could achieve a clear victory.  They agreed to the Peace of Zsitvatorok (1606) which brought little change to the frontier.  Both empires would defend their respective territories by a line of fortresses.  “These fortresses,” so writes Stein, “ranged in size from timber and dirt-walled palisades to enormous bastioned structures built according to the then state-of-the-art trace italienne system” (p.2).  Relative peace prevailed until the Austro-Turkish War of 1663-1664, resulting in the battle of St Gotthard (1664), and ending with the Peace of Vasvár (1664).  The Ottoman Empire gained control of Transylvania and Uyvar in the peace settlement.  War would break out again when the Ottomans attempted to besiege and capture Vienna in 1683.

Canischa (Kanije)Stein examines Ottoman fortresses and garrisons on the Habsburg-Ottoman frontier from 1606 to 1683.  The author focuses his research on two fortresses: the large fort at Kanije (modern-day Nagykanisza in western Hungary) and the smaller fort at Uyvar (Neühausel, modern-day Nové Zámky in Slovakia).  The Ottomans gained Kanije in 1600 during the Long War and Uyvar in 1663 during the Austro-Turkish War of 1663-1664.  Stein believes that these two forts are good examples of other Ottoman frontier garrisons, such as Estergon (Esztergom), İstolni Belgrad (Székesfehérvár), and Budin (Buda).  He explores the concept of a frontier and the Habsburg-Ottoman border; the many aspects of siege warfare, including how Ottoman techniques differed from the West; the size, composition, and activities of garrisons; as well as central and local administration of the fortresses.  The author stresses that “the Ottomans developed highly successful siege methods through their experiences in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and enjoyed a great reputation for conquering fortresses” (p.36).

Uyvar (Neuhausel, Nove Zamky)Stein provides a stimulating study that explores Ottoman fortresses and garrisons on the Habsburg-Ottoman frontier during the seventeenth century.  Unfortunately, the study is marred by the publisher’s error of printing the work with eight missing pages (they are actually blank pages) (pages 64-65, 68-69, 72-73, 76-77) in the author’s discussion of garrison troops.  Nevertheless, Stein’s work joins other studies to enlighten us regarding warfare along the Habsburg-Ottoman border.

There is a growing interest in the Habsburg-Ottoman struggle in Early Modern European history.  One can learn about Ottoman warfare in Rhoads Murphey, Ottoman Warfare, 1500-1700 (1999) and David Nicole, Ottoman Fortifications, 1300-1710 (2010).  The conflict of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries is discussed in Gunther E. Rothenberg, The Austrian Military Border in Croatia, 1522-1747 (1960), Géza Dávid and Pál Fodor (editors), Hungarian-Ottoman Military and Diplomatic Relations in the Age of Süleyman the Magnificent (1994), Caroline Finkel, The Administration of Warfare: The Ottoman Military Campaigns in Hungary, 1593-1606 (1988), and Géza Dávid and Pál Fodor (editors), Ottomans, Hungarians, and Habsburgs in Central Europe: The Military Confines in the Era of Ottoman Conquest (2000).  The siege of Vienna (1683) and the Great Turkish War is explored in John Stoye’s The Siege of Vienna: The Last Great Trial between Cross and Crescent (second edition, 2006), Thomas Mack Barker’s Double Eagle and Crescent: Vienna’s Second Turkish Siege and Its Historical Setting (1967), Andrew Wheatcroft’s The Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans, and the Battle for Europe (2008), and Simon Millar’s Vienna 1683: Christian Europe Repels the Ottomans (2008).  Ivan Părvev, Habsburgs and Ottomans between Vienna and Belgrade (1683-1739) (1995) takes the Habsburg-Ottoman struggle to the Austro-Turkish War of 1716-1718 and Austro-Turkish War of 1737-1739.  Michael Hochedlinger’s Austria’s Wars of Emergence, 1683-1797 (2003),  Karl A. Roider’s The Reluctant Ally: Austria’s Policy in the Austro-Turkish War, 1737-1739 (1972) and Austria’s Eastern Question, 1700-1790 (1982), along with Virginia Aksan’s Ottoman Wars, 1700-1870: A Besieged Empire (2007) are important works.

Dr William Young
University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, North Dakota

About William Young

Dr William Young is a retired historian with more than 30 years of experience in teaching and research. He has 18 years of teaching experience at the University of North Dakota and Valley City State University. Moreover, he was a historian in the United States Air Force History Program for 15 years. He possesses a doctoral degree in international and military history and master’s degrees in history and international relations. Young is the author of German Diplomatic Relations, 1871-1945 (2006), International Politics and Warfare in the Age of Louis XIV and Peter the Great (2004), and European War and Diplomacy, 1337-1815 (2003). He has also written 42 official Air Force unit histories, two monographs, and other studies. Young is the recipient of many history awards, including three U.S. Air Force Historian of the Year Awards and a U.S. Air Force History Program of the Year Award. He has studied and worked for 13 years overseas in the United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Germany, and Saudi Arabia. He has traveled extensively in Europe and the Middle East. His hobbies include collecting and reading history books and attending college ice hockey games.
This entry was posted in Austro-Turkish War (1663-1664), Book Reviews, Europe in the 17th Century (1598-1715), Long War (1593-1606), Ottoman Wars, War of the Holy League (1683-1699) and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Book Review of Guarding the Frontier: Ottoman Border Forts and Garrisons in Europe

  1. William Young says:

    Reblogged this on Military History.

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