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Crimea: The Great Crimean War 1854-1856 by…

Crimea: The Great Crimean War 1854-1856 (original 1999; edition 2000)

by Trevor Royle

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Title:Crimea: The Great Crimean War 1854-1856
Authors:Trevor Royle
Info:Abacus (2000), Edition: New Ed, Paperback, 576 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Military History, Victorian Wars, Crimea

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Crimea: The Great Crimean War, 1854-1856 by Trevor Royle (1999)



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This is the only book I have read about the Crimean War except for The Reason Why, which was about the Charge of the Light Brigade. It seems strange to describe a war this way but the Crimean War was a little eccentric, except for the wounding, killing and dying. Even the dying was out of the usual since more men died of disease than battlefield wounds. One of the causes of the war was a dispute between France and Russia over who would control the key to the main door of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. It is not normal that people would kill each other about such a dispute. The Ottoman's had decided to take the key from the Greek Orthodox monks and give it to French Roman Catholic monks. The Russians were the guardians of the Orthodox faith and took umbrage at the change. Russia also wanted some Turkish territory and access to the Mediterranean Sea. Britain became involved in defense of the Ottoman Empire and to keep the Russians in their place. Napoleon III, the French Emperor, wanted to reassert the power of France in Europe. Unfortunately this ambition led to a little war with Prussia in 1870-71 that ousted him from his throne. The Ottoman Empire was slowly disintegrating and the Russians had invaded the Danubian principalities (territory where the Danube River enters the Black Sea, now parts of Romania and Bulgaria) and that started the war..
The French, British, Ottoman Turks and later the Sardinians were all allied against the Russians. The Austrians were not on the side of the Russians but they were not actively fighting. The French supplied the majority of the troops and the British the majority of the naval forces. The soldiers of the Ottoman army fought hard at times but their leadership was inept and corrupt. The majority of the war was the allied siege of Sevastopol in the Crimean peninsula. There was also a naval campaign in the Baltic Sea involving the fortress islands that guarded St. Petersburg and fighting in the eastern part of Turkey bordering the Caucasus mountains.
The technology of war saw advances on both sides. The siege of Sevastopol saw the first large scale use of trench warfare on both sides, a prelude to the Western Front in WWI. The French and British made extensive use of the Minie rifle which was developed into the Springfield rifle used in the U.S. Civil War. The Russians made large scale use of mines in their sea defenses. Other technological advances included the electric telegraph, steam powered battleships and the use of trains for moving troops and supplies.
The armies numbered almost 1,000,000 on the allied side and 700,000 on the Russian side. The health and sanitation problems were massive. Extensive reporting of health conditions for the soldiers and care for the wounded was the impetus for the efforts of Florence Nightingale and a general upgrade of diet, sanitation and clean clothes for the soldiers. Still more soldiers died from disease than battlefield wounds.
There are extensive quotations from letters and dispatches written by the military and political leaders. These provided some insight into how the writers saw the situation and what their world was like. Fully one-half of the book covers the political and diplomatic background to the military campaigns. The author is English and there is a marked emphasis on the British sources and point of view.
After the capture of Sevastopol the parties seemed to get tired of the war. There had been many casualties and the Russian war machine was breaking down. The French began withdrawing troops and Austria came forward with proposals for peace. The treaty of Paris ended the war in a rather inconclusive fashion. Russia had to give up some territory and lost standing as a military power, which was the goal of Britain. France regained some of their big power status lost at the end of the Napoleonic wars. The Ottoman Empire continued to decline as "the sick man of Europe" until its fall after WWI.
The book is a good single volume history that gives the reader a thorough and detailed narration of the events of the war. It is a little dry and reads at times like a history textbook. I felt the author was more concerned with being thorough and accurate than providing an experience for the reader that was interesting and entertaining. A greater emphasis on analysis of the how and why of the events would have produced a better book.
The Crimean War was a significant event in European history and there is a short concluding chapter that sets forth the futures of the countries involved and how they were affected by the events of the war. I read this book as an amateur historian plugging a gap in my knowledge of European history. It was well suited for that purpose. The most interesting sections were the quotations from letters that give some insight into the thoughts of the different parties and what life was like during that time. Unless the reader has an interest in history or this topic I would have to recommend you pass to the next book on the list. ( )
2 vote wildbill | Sep 13, 2009 |
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Preface -- The Crimean War is either one of history's bad jokes or one of the compulsive subjects of historical writing.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312230796, Hardcover)

The mid-19th-century Crimean War, pitting England, France, and less powerful allies against Russia, was one of the first major international wars in history. In the execution, it was none too inspiring. As Trevor Royle writes in his sweeping study of the conflict, "it encompassed maladministration on a grand scale and human suffering, if not without parallel then at least minutely recorded by the watching war correspondents"--the war being the first as well to have been widely reported. It was, a contemporary British journal put it, a war of "lions led by donkeys," young men commanded by doddering veterans of the Napoleonic campaigns who served in an unlikely alliance. The English officers, Royle writes, could never shake the habit of calling their French comrades "the enemy," and never quite trusted them, either.

The result was carnage: not only the loss of a good portion of the Light Brigade in the most famous--but not the most inept--incident of the war, but also the destruction of whole regiments left to blunder about in the fog and smoke, thanks to their commanders' inadequate intelligence-gathering efforts. Not much changed at war's end. In the eventual peace treaty, France and England and Russia kept their territories more or less intact, and the struggle for power between Russia and the neighboring Ottoman Empire, in whose defense France and England had ostensibly gone to war, stretched out for another generation. It ended with a Russian victory that allowed Russia to assume control of Turkish holdings in the Balkans, which, Royle notes, lay the seeds for still another international conflict, World War I.

Royle does a fine job of negotiating through the many complexities, diplomatic and military, of the Crimean War. His descriptions of battlefield tactics (or the lack thereof) are among the best in the literature. More comprehensive than Robert B. Edgerton's Death or Glory: The Legacy of the Crimean War, Royle's Crimea is likely to stand as an enduring work on this strange, wasteful conflict. --Gregory McNamee

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:20 -0400)

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