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The Conquest of Saxony AD 782-785: Charlemagne's defeat of Widukind of Westphalia (Campaign, Band 271) (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 19. August 2014

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Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

David Nicolle, born in 1944, worked in the BBC's Arabic service for a number of years before gaining an MA from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, and a doctorate from Edinburgh University. He has written numerous books and articles on medieval and Islamic warfare, and has been a prolific author of Osprey titles for many years. The author lives in Leicestershire, UK.


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Das Heft in der OSprey-Campaign-Serie ist wieder ein Musterbeispiel für die Serie: In einem kurzen Überblick wird ein Überblick über die sächsischen und fränkischen Befehlshaber und Armeen gegeben, die gegenteiligen Pläne erläutert und dann das eigentliche Heftthema gut erklärt.

Das Thema in diesem Hewft sind die Sachsenzüge Karls des Großen, der teils mit zeittypischer Härte das fränkische Herrschaftsgebiet und nebenbei das Christentum in das sächsische Land brachte.

Kernschlachten uind damit auch in dem Heft genau beschrieben sind die Schlachten im Süntel, das "Blutgericht von Verden" und die Schlacht am Wittekindsberg. Man muss natürlich ob des Umfanges des Heftes bedenken, dass nicht alle historischen Erkenntnisse einfließen konnten, so ist es doch eher als Übersichtswerk zu sehen. Dass die teils tollen Karten der Bewegungen etc teils auf Vermutungen und INterpretation des Autors beruhen ist normal.

Ich hätte mit als kleinen Tick gewünscht, dass der Autos sich etwas mehr mit dem "Blutgericht zu Verden" beschäftigt. Nicht, weil ich aus Verden komme und mit der Geschichte (Legende?) aufgewachsen bin, sondern weil es doch stark unterschiedliche Auslegungen und Theorien zu dem Massaker an den Sachsen gibt. Das die Zahl der jahrhundertelang kolportierten 4.500 Ermordeten historisch eher unwahrscheinlich ist gesteht auch der Auto hier ein, aber der mögliche Übersetzungsfehler (aus dellocati = Umsiedlung soll decollati = Enthauptung geworden sein) hätte sicher eine Erwähnung finden können. Aber da streiten sich alle Historiker munter drum.

Fazit: Tolles Werk zur niedersächsichen Heimatgeschichte.
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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x91c11e58) von 5 Sternen 12 Rezensionen
14 von 15 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
HASH(0x91c3cb28) von 5 Sternen Rather good, although not always very exciting and well supported… 28. August 2014
Von JPS - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
This is an original topic on the little-known long and multiple Saxon wars that Charlemagne had to fight for close to forty years before he finally “pacified” what was at the times the lands of the Saxons, a significantly larger area than the two Saxon Lander in modern Germany.

The nature of the war was mostly one of rebellions, raids and ambushes, as the Saxon tribes tried to resist the increasingly encroaching, better organised, better disciplined and better equipped Franks. There were, however, a number of larger scale battles that the Saxons generally lost. There were a few exceptions.

This title of Osprey’s Campaign series focuses on one of these, the Carolingian defeat at the battle of the Süntel Hills in 782 AD. This is where an elite force of Frankish cavalry led by three prominent Carolingian warlords got tricked into prematurely attacking a force of Saxon “rebels” who were in fact well prepared to receive him and commanded by the charismatic Widukind, who seemed to have been a chieftain and a priest, and was the main leader’ of the resistance at the time.

The piece dealing with the campaign itself, but also the prelude and aftermath of the battle are mostly well told. The battle was a disaster and a massacre for the Franks. It was possibly one of the worst defeats suffered by them under the reign of Charlemagne. The battle of Roncevaux where the rear guard of Charlemagne under the command of Rollo, the margrave of Britany, got cut to pieces by the Basques was probably the other one. In cases, the more heavily armed and armoured mounted Franks were ambushed, attacked from all sides, and overwhelmed.

Another good point of this book is the emphasis put on the religious and social dimensions of the struggle. The Christians Franks sought to forcefully convert the pagan Saxons and the invasion and occupation of Saxony lead to both building and garrisoning fortresses and building monasteries and churches. The social aspect is that the Saxon aristocracy, with a few exceptions of which Widukind himself seems to have been one of the main ones, fought a bit but then rallied the Franks, partly because these were holding hostages but also largely because they had received the assurance that they would keep their lands and power and become part of the Empire’s aristocracy. The Saxon resistance was therefore mostly that of free and half-free populations revolting periodically to preserve their customs, religion and culture against the invaders and conquerors.

There is also no doubt that all of Charlemagne’s military operations during his long reign - there seems to have few if any years without at least one military expedition taking place somewhere in the Empire – placed a heavy tax and human burden of its inhabitants. A major cause for revolt may therefore also have been the tributes in kind, money and men that the Empire required and levied for these expeditions. In fact the author specifically mentions at least one clash that saw the death of Count Theodoric, a kinsman of Charlemagne no less, who had been sent to levy troops among the Saxons to fight on another front, with these killing him and his men.

An additional merit of this point is to show that while the Saxon rebellions rarely threatened the Empire’s heartlands (although there was one of two exceptions where Saxon raids reached the Rhine), they could be particularly disruptive when they took place when Charlemagne’s armies were already engaged, or about to be engaged, other fronts. This was particularly the case with the campaigns against the Avars which were settled in around what is known modern Hungary. While the Avars and the Saxons never directly cooperated against the Franks, the timing of the Saxon uprisings was hardly coincidental, especially if it allowed Frankish demands for tribute.

Three final positive points is that the author also shows that in order to finally “pacify” Saxony” and end the cycle of rebellions and submissions followed by more rebellions in other regions, the Franks pulled no punches. They send armed columns across the country, thoroughly devastated the countryside and in several cases mass deported the population to neighbouring areas, in particular Thuringia. They also allied with some of the Slavs against both the last Saxon rebels and the Danes who were attacked from two sides at the time. The last point is that this little booklet clearly shows how the Franks’ policy towards the Saxons evolved. Charlemagne and his warlords started by significantly underestimating them and they paid a heavy price for that. Then there was a period of very “heavy handed” repression and retaliation. It was only at a later stage that a new, more flexible and more “enlightened” policy of conquest and integration seems to have been put in place with regards to the Saxons, and it is only then that large numbers going beyond the aristocracy and their followers seemed to have converted, as Widukind finally did.

However, and while the text is mostly good, the supporting documents and illustrations are often bland. I found that the numerous photos of the modern landscape do not really allow the reader to get a very impression of what the mostly hilly and heavily forested countryside. The text accompanying the diagrams of the campaign duplicates the narrative that is part of the core text and therefore do not add anything, something that is a pity because the diagrams are not bad. There is also something that did not quite work for me with the plates themselves (three double pages). Here again, there are not “bad” but, somehow, the characters represented seemed somewhat artificial and do not “come to life” as they do with the plates of some other illustrators.

Another (mild) criticism is perhaps that the author, interested as he is in medieval legends and literature, devotes quite a bit of the limited space he has to his pet topic. While this is interested, it does perhaps come at the expenses of explanations on arms and tactics used by either side, with the section on the opposing forces being rather too short to develop these in a satisfactory way. Having said this, there are also already a number of other Osprey publications which deal with these aspects in detail with several being from the same author.

After hesitating a bit, I’ll go for four stars because I feel that three stars would have been both harsh and “unfair”.
7 von 7 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
HASH(0x91c3cb7c) von 5 Sternen An erudite and useful assessment 21. September 2014
Von R. A Forczyk - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
The military history of Western Europe from the fall of the West Roman Empire in the 5th Century until the Battle of Hastings in 1066 is a large void that usually gets little attention, except from serious scholars. This was the epoch of the so-called Dark Ages, which historians have tended to avoid due to the limitations of source material. Consequently, historical figures of great weight who lived in this period, such as Charlemagne, are generally known to the reading public by reputation, but not in any great detail. Dr. David Nicolle’s The Conquest of Saxony 782-785 is a rare interesting early Medieval military history, covering a campaign that was important both in its own time and for the later Holy Roman Empire. As is his wont, Dr. Nicolle tends to focus on cultural issues, rather than tactics, military organization or weapons, but the campaign narrative reads very smoothly. Overall, this book is a welcome addition to the relatively limited library of books on early Medieval warfare.

The author devotes a lengthy introduction describing the nature of the Franks and Saxons and the basis of their conflict, partly based on religion (Christianity vs. Paganism) and partly based upon territorial issues. For readers not familiar with Charlemagne, the section is adequate but you will probably want to peruse other books for background material. The Saxons and their leader, Widukind, are harder to evaluate, since most of the limited source material is from the Franks. Dr. Nicolle then marches into the usual Campaign-series sections on opposing commanders, forces and plans. The campaign narrative itself is 44 pages long. Most of the campaign – and all three 3-D BEV maps – focus on the Battle of the Suntel Hills in 782, which resulted in a major defeat for three of Charlemagne’s subordinates. Dr. Nicolle describes the basis of the defeat as the impetuosity of one of the Frankish commanders, who attacked prematurely, but ignores the tactical idiocy of attacking uphill into heavily wooded terrain with heavy cavalry. The Saxons dug in atop a heavily-wooded ridge that had steep cliff sides and the Franks obliged them by conducting a frontal attack with no reconnaissance, no infantry and no reserve – it is hardly a wonder that this ended in disaster. Although the author doesn’t really state this outright, reading between the lines I could sense that Frankish disdain for the “Barbarian” Saxons problem was the root cause of their imprudence. This of course is one of the enduring lessons of war – never underestimate your foe.

The rest of the narrative focuses on Charlemagne’s personal campaigning against the Saxons, which led to their first submission in 785. However, every time that he turned his back on them, parts of Saxony rebelled against Frankish rule, necessitating more campaigning for the next fifteen years. Mixing carrot and stick, Charlemagne rewarded those Saxon nobles who submitted and Christianized, while those who rebelled were dealt with harshly. Fire and sword, along with some ethnic cleansing, finally settled the region. The author concludes with an assessment of how this campaign affected later European history, which has merit. The artwork is by Graham Turner; it is rather bland. However, the photographs are better than in some Medieval History volumes, including a number of interesting modern photos of terrain or structures. Overall, an erudite and useful assessment of a campaign that helped to shape modern Germany.
HASH(0x91c3cfb4) von 5 Sternen Good starting point to learn more about this campaign during ... 3. Juni 2015
Von Karl A. Rodriguez - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
Good starting point to learn more about this campaign during Charlemagne's reign. It definitely points to the highlights of this conflict, and there is not a lot of detail about many of the engagements, though this treatment of the subject also illustrates the lack of evidence, especially archaeological from this time period.
2 von 3 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
HASH(0x91c3cf9c) von 5 Sternen A Good First Book on the Area 30. November 2014
Von Arthur Mosel - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
While not disappointed, it was a very superficial coverage in some regards. At points, either by my reading or through general coverage, there was a feeling of incompleteness. While if you have little knowledge of the events and period; it is good, it could be better.
7 von 9 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
HASH(0x91c3f36c) von 5 Sternen Good Illustrated Popular History 1. September 2014
Von Mostofizadeh - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verifizierter Kauf
This overview of the Frankish conquest and forced Christianization of the pagan Saxons that consumed much of Charlemagne's reign is a typical David Nicolle product: well-written, well-researched and excellently illustrated. It is an excellent popular history that should appeal to the casual reader. Caution: Get the print edition; the illustrations fit the Kindle format awkwardly.
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