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The Crimean War: A History by Orlando Figes
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The Crimean War: A History (2010)

by Orlando Figes

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Excellent. This is actually three books. The first one--up to p. 140 or so--is about the origins of the Crimean war. At the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem Catholic and Orthodox Christians would fight each other to the death for the right to, say, be the first to celebrate the Easter Mass. Disingenuously, Nicholas I of Russia used a concern for the Orthodox living under Turkish rule as an opportunity for imperialist expansion. He really wanted to partition Turkey. Russophobic Britain was having none of it. They believed, not without reason, that Russia wanted India. This pushed them into an alliance with France to challenge Russia when it occupied the Danubian Principalities, Ottoman territory.

The second book is an account of the conflict itself, which was brutal and marked by an appalling lack of planning and leadership on all but the French side. For the British it devolves to the point of travesty. The incompetence of British officers leaves one astonished, gaping. For example, no provision was made for the Crimea's harsh winter because they thought it would be a short campaign. When the harsh weather came the ensuing tragedy had to make headlines in London before asses were gotten in gear and the appropriate supplies made available. By then of course it was too late for the first winter. The tommies in their made-for-summer tents, soaked through for months at a time, died in their thousands.

The third and final book is on the aftermath of the war. How it affected the principal combatants (France, Britain, Russia, Turkey) economically and politically. Russia's humiliating loss became a significant factor in her decision to free the serfs. One can't after all fight with an army of slaves; there's a certain problem of motivation. Tolstoy was at the Siege of Sevastopol and his comments, taken from Sevastopal Sketches as well as his letters, deepen the book in surprising ways. The first great battle, fought in the fog at Balaclava, is a breathtaking read.

What I liked most was the way the book served as a linking narrative for me for many events I had read about--from Napoleon's Retreat from Moscow in 1812 through World War II. Written in simple, declarative prose there is little or no use of tedious novelistic devices. I warmly recommend The Crimean War. Now, if you would be so kind, please sign the Charter for Compassion at http://charterforcompassion.org.

Paix Peace мир barış ( )
  William345 | Jun 11, 2014 |
I learned what I set out to learn but didn't love the education. Flat and digressive. ( )
  bontley | Aug 24, 2013 |
An impressive new history of a war which seems to be almost completely forgotten over here, with the exception of "The Charge of the Light Brigade".

It covers the war in all aspects, from the grisly siege of Sevastopol, the snarled diplomatic efforts which led to the start of the war, comparisons of the major players, the effects of religious differences, and the relatively neglected campaigns in the Baltic and Caucasus.

A worthy addition to the library of anyone interested in the era, to say nothing of the conflict itself. Its effects are far more widespread than any could conceive. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
I had always been curious about the Crimean War and finally took the time to explore the subject. I am willing to bet most people have not even heard of it. This book thoroughly covered all I was missing.

Conducted right before our own Civil war in the 1850's it provided among other things the latest in war technology for our conflict. Based on the usual senseless religious or power grab motives behind most wars it provides a text book explanation for our current conflicts. History does have a knack for repeating itself it seems. Adding to the total of millions perhaps billions that have lost their lives in such conflicts over the ages the count continues on, seemingly forever. ( )
  knightlight777 | Feb 19, 2013 |
My Amazon Review:
This was a wonderful, but heartbreaking book that filled a huge gap in my own knowledge of the history of the 19th century and I suspect for many. You learn how much of the groundwork for WW1 was really laid out in this conflict, despite the shifting alliances. The Austrians may have lost WW1 in 1855 by essentially siding with the Allies! The Jihad aspects were repeated (but reversed) in WW1 as Europeans fell over themselves trying to stir up Holy War against the other powers. Amazing to consider in light of the current fear of Jihad evident in the world today! The number of firsts for war (telegraph, rail, rifle, etc) and politics are myriad but the propaganda aspects were fascinating. No power looks very good but the British press and politicians came off as particularly execrable in my mind. They seem to have been the most determined to dehumanize their enemies (this continued in the Boer War and WW1) when there was any percieved threat to the Empire. Ironic in that they ruled an empire full of people they considered beneath them as well. The author does a commendable job in laying both the groundwork for the war and the aftermath and consequences. Bravo!
2 vote PCorrigan | Jan 19, 2013 |
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THESE DAYS news is what we can digest after Sunday lunch, along with shopping advice and tips on gardening. Television make-believe, not newspaper journalism, increasingly shapes our view of the world, as life turns into a high-speed information mosaic and much journalism becomes a glossy adjunct of advertising.
added by Donogh | editThe Irish Times, Ian Thomson (Oct 16, 2010)
 
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From "the great storyteller of modern Russian historians" comes the definitive account of the Crimean War, a forgotten war that shaped the modern age. Figes reconstructs the first full conflagration of modernity, a global industrialized struggle fought with unusual ferocity and incompetence.… (more)

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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