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Crimea: The Last Crusade
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Crimea: The Last Crusade

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  1,250 ratings  ·  144 reviews
The terrible conflict that dominated the mid 19th century, the Crimean War killed at least 800,000 men and pitted Russia against a formidable coalition of Britain, France and the Ottoman Empire. It was a war for territory, provoked by fear that if the Ottoman Empire were to collapse then Russia could control a huge swathe of land from the Balkans to the Persian Gulf. But i ...more
Hardcover, 575 pages
Published October 1st 2010 by Allen Lane
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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 w ...more
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 no
A comprehensive history of the war with excellent chapters on the aftermath in world politics and national identity.

[on the aftermath of the war]

The Crimean War reinforced in Russia a long-felt sense of resentment against Europe. There was a feeling of betrayal that the West had sided with the Turks against Russia. It was the first time in history that a European alliance had fought on the side of a Muslim power against another Christian state in a major war.

All around the Black Sea rim, the
Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont
It’s Good Friday, April 10, 1846. Jerusalem is packed with pilgrims on an Easter weekend that happened to fall on the same date in both the Latin and Orthodox calendars. The mood is tense. The two religious communities had been arguing over who has the right to be first to carry out the rituals at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of the holiest places in Christendom, standing on the spot where Jesus is said to have been crucified.

That Friday was to be anything but good. The Catholics arrive
Jill Hutchinson
This book began rather slowly for me but I soon became engrossed in Figes' narrative of this somewhat "forgotten" war which claimed so many lives for so little. I have always been fascinated by the Crimean War and this book added to my knowledge as the author had access to sources not previously available to other authors. It was a war of incompetent leadership, missed opportunities, outdated military tactics, and rampant disease. Much mystique and legend regarding the war has grown over the yea ...more
Jan 05, 2015 Mark is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, history, religions
Thanks Santa!!
I strongly recommend this book to anyone who has any interest in current conflict in Ukraine/Crimea, who wants to understand historical, geopolitical and political roots of idiotic modern strife between Russia and the West and who at the same time is sick of media taking sides and in fact enkindling the conflict by that.

The book itself only covers that old XIX century war between Russia and Allies (GB, France and Turkey) of course, but it reflects current events so much it is even scary. O. Fig
Bob H
A majestic and magisterial history of the bloody 1853-1856 conflict; the author has done considerable research, including first-person accounts (and not just those of a young Leo Tolstoy). He does show the other fronts in the war -- the Balkans, the Caucasus, the Baltic -- and not just the Crimean peninsula, though the narrative mostly focuses on the latter, and the siege of Sevastopol. We also learn of the diplomatic and religious intrigue before and after the conflict.

This book is not just a m
Steven Peterson
A fine history of the nasty Crimean War. This was one of those wars that should never have happened. Neither the French nor British could quite figure out why to go to war. Russia had the deteriorating Czar Nicholas seeing possible war in religious terms. The Ottoman Empire was in decline. The dynamics, thus, were not auspicious.

Once war began, the allies (Britain, France, the Ottoman Empire, plus others as well) bruised the Russian forces at the outset. Then, a surprisingly strong stand by the
Tim Martin
I have to admit that I didn’t know much at all about the Crimean War before I read this book. I was probably like most people when I thought about the conflict, if I thought about it at all; it was one of those endless little European wars, maybe less little than most, that seemed to pop up between the Napoleonic Wars and World War I, one of a series of conflicts that involved Turkey and its neighbors or somehow involved the Balkans (the Balkans!), famous for Florence Nightingale and the Charge ...more
This is a solid, very readable history of the Crimean War, with particular attention paid to the political and religious origins of the conflict.

Just to vent a little, I read this on my Kindle, and was unhappy about the ebook experience here. First, the conversion to ebook seems somewhat sloppy. I know that some books are converted in a process where the text is supplied to Amazon via a PDF file, and then presumably is scanned into Amazon's system. That appears to be what happened here, since so
A monster of a book. Took me most of the month of April to read it but worth the effort.

The Crimean War loomed as large in the minds of the Victorians as the First World War does today and yet what we know of it can be boiled to primary school kid projects on courageous nurses, that poem (Tennyson laid it on a bit thick apparently) and the names of a few pubs (The Alma, The Inkerman).

It was a war of religious fanaticism, a war spurred on by Russophobia, a war that was encouraged for the first
It’s still a little difficult for me to believe that the French and the British were relying on freaking travel writing for the logistics of their attack on Crimea, that some of the soldiers thought they were headed to a jungle, and a little more than 150 years later we can take virtual walks there. Makes you wonder what Napoleon had to work with. But one of the most interesting parts of this book, for me, was reading that the Crimean War coincided with a sort of information boom. Britain ended ...more
Alexander Vassilieff
This latest addition to the historical topic of the Crimean War sounds interesting as there are many books in English on the Crimean War. But this is the first in any language to draw extensively from Russian, French and Ottoman as well as British sources to illuminate the geo-political, cultural and religious factors that shaped the involvement of each major power in the conflict.

"It was the earliest example of a truly modern war - fought with new industrial technologies, modern rifles, steamsh
Figes rescued the Crimean War from further obscurity and it's a good thing he did. Unfortunately, it is still too relevant in today's world, especially in Ukraine, Chechnya, and the Balkans. All wars make for some depressing reading, but the Crimean War is even more than most in that regard. No power comes out looking good in this conflict -- the Russians are blinded by Christian messianic attitudes; the British are overconfident, bellicose, and arrogant; the French are determined to win back th ...more
Emmanuel Gustin
The Crimean war is today mostly a dim memory from a bygone age in politics and warfare: Most people faintly remember something about Florence Nightingale, the charge of the Light Brigade, incompetent leadership and much human suffering. And perhaps there is much to be said for that summary.

One thing Figes does is tell that story in more detail, doing more justice to those who lived through the bitter conflict. But he also adds a lot of context to this war, explaining why the governments chose t
Marguerite Kaye
I'll be honest, before I started this book, I had very little idea of where the Crimea was, let alone the causes of the war. Flroence Nightingalge, 'The Thin Red Line', balaclavas and of course The Charge of the Light Brigade I knew about. Cardigan and Raglan, I recognised had given their names to knitting. I'd read about the fall of Sevastopol in the excellent 'Rose of Sebeastopol'and had long had an idea for a book or series of my own set in and around the war, and I'd really enjoyed one of Or ...more
Dirk Baranek
Klassische, historiografische Darstellung des Krimkriegs (1854/55), in dem eine Koalition aus Frankreich, Großbritannien und der Türkei den russischen Einfluss im Schwarzen Meer und auf der Krim sowie auf dem ganzen Balkan zurückdrängten. Wir finden uns wieder in der Zeit der Kabinettskriege und europäuschen Monarchien, die um jedes Fleckchen Einfluss am Bosporus, im Kaukasus, auf dem Balkan und in Griechenland ringen, den Niedergang des osmanischen Reiches und den sich daraus ableitenden Konseq ...more
A quite excellent military, social, political and cultural history of the Crimean war rolled into one. Packed with detail and anecdote, without becoming too enormous, and very engagingly written.

Details of the military debacle are fascinating; Lord Raglan was clearly a geriatric imbecile (curious to note a pub called The Lord Raglan opposite Postman’s Park in London). However, it’s the cultural and social history that really makes this book. The interaction of the media and public opinion is fa
A well writen book that left me with the impression that the author really wanted to write a book about religious conflict in southeastern Europe during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Professor Figes did include a detailed (and excellent) account of the Crimean War itself, but he did as part of a broader narrative that went from the 1815 Congress of Vienna to the First World War. I appreciate historical context, but I thought Professor Figes went a little overboard. On the plus side, the ac ...more
This is a great history of one of the more over-looked wars of the mid-19th century. Figes does an excellent job of detailing the causes for the war as well as the long-term effect the war had on each of the main participants. This book is especially relevant given the recent situation in the Crimea between Russia and Ukraine. It is well worth the read for anyone interested in history.
Craig Fiebig
Sadly, this is exactly the right time to read about the Crimean War, its proximate causes, influential players and their internally inconsistent motivations. Today Crimea is burning again. Agitators are calling for 'external help' while flying the Soviet (not Russian, Soviet) flag. Amazingly the current American President has achieved something previously thought impossible: making his foreign policy pronouncements irrelevant and almost completely ignored. Studying this conflict is helpful becau ...more
Jeff Beardsley
First and foremost..."The Crimean War: A History" is an incredible read. Figes delves into many aspects of the war, all in tremendous and thoroughly readable detail. The part of the book I liked and appreciated the best is the significant portion he dedicates to the lead-up to the war, describing its many causes, some of which (like the sectarian and religious aspects) being thoroughly explored beyond what other books have done in the past. While the author encourages readers who are only intere ...more
well-researched professional work; sole weakness was that compared to great WW2 histories where we learn the names of individual divisions/commanders, the Crimean War was a more chaotic, less organized affair and so the story becomes more about generalities (viz., 'the minie gun' vs the 'musket') rather than pure tactics / personages.

professional work. really should give it the fourth star, but probably I'm trying to game the recommendations from the GR alg
I really enjoyed what I read of this - about 350 pages. Unfortunately, halfway through the book we went on holiday for two weeks, and when I came back, I just couldn't get into it again. Someday I'll probably start the whole thing over again, but it's a bit much to think about at the moment.
Jeff Jellets

Orlando Figes’ The Crimean War is first rate history!

Wonderfully executed and written, Orlando Figes’ The Crimean War provides a thoroughly engrossing and detailed look at this much neglected conflict. The narrative is amazing, as Figes unravels the complex causes of the war and takes the reader step-by-step through the major engagements. Despite the enormity of the subject matter, Figes handles the complexity expertly, remaining first and foremost a master storyteller. The text is easily read a
Jonathan Hyslop
Fine narrative history - gives you a real sense of Russian and (to a lesser extent) Turkish perspectives, in contrast to most British writers on the topic. Much better than Royle on the same war, which I have struggled to read several times without succes.
Adam DeVille, Ph.D.
The best history of the Crimean War I have read, not least for its fresh research and its attention to the deeply religious entanglements that led to the war in very significant ways--entanglements previous historians have all but ignored.
Mac McCormick III
With the ongoing crisis and unrest in Ukraine, I decided to read Orlando Figes' The Crimean War: A History. I'm glad that I picked this book to read because it offers some insight into the reasons of the current situation in Ukraine and the Crimea. Figes not only gives a narrative of the war, he puts in perspective by reviewing what caused the war and reviewed the impact it had on the participants, especially Russia and Great Britain. If, like me, you were not fully familiar with the Crimean War ...more
Yes indeed! This one was long but it had to be that way. This read discusses the lead up to the only War (of that time) where Western powers allied with a muslim nation against another christian nation. Read this one.
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Crimea or The Crimean War - what is the deal? 3 24 Apr 05, 2015 04:00PM  
  • Russia Against Napoleon: The Battle for Europe, 1807 to 1814
  • Crimea: The Great Crimean War, 1854-1856
  • Moscow 1812: Napoleon's Fatal March
  • Napoleon's Wars: An International History, 1803-1815
  • The Thirty Years War: Europe's Tragedy
  • The Franco-Prussian War: The German Conquest of France in 1870-1871
  • The Pursuit of Glory: Europe 1648-1815
  • Absolute War: Soviet Russia in the Second World War
  • The Boer War
  • The White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front 1915-1919
  • God's Fury, England's Fire: A New History of the English Civil Wars
  • The Fall of Paris: The Siege and the Commune 1870-71
  • Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600–1947
  • Ivan's War: Life and Death in the Red Army, 1939-1945
  • The Marne, 1914: The Opening of World War I and the Battle That Changed the World
  • The New Nobility: The Restoration of Russia's Security State and the Enduring Legacy of the KGB
  • The Eagle Unbowed: Poland and the Poles in the Second World War
  • Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s
Orlando Figes is a British historian of Russia, and a professor of history at Birkbeck, University of London.
More about Orlando Figes...
A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution: 1891-1924 Natasha's Dance: A Cultural History of Russia The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia Just Send Me Word: A True Story of Love and Survival in the Gulag Revolutionary Russia, 1891-1991: A History

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“In 1846 Easter fell on the same date in the Latin and Greek Orthodox calendars, so the holy shrines were much more crowded than usual, and the mood was very tense. The two religious communities had long been arguing about who should have first right to carry out their Good Friday rituals on the altar of Calvary inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the spot where the cross of Jesus was supposed to have been inserted in the rock. During recent years the rivalry between the Latins and the Greeks had reached such fever pitch that Mehmet Pasha, the Ottoman governor of Jerusalem, had been forced to position soldiers inside and outside the church to preserve order. But even this had not prevented fights from breaking out. On this Good Friday the Latin priests arrived with their white linen altar-cloth to find that the Greeks had got there first with their silk embroidered cloth. The Catholics demanded to see the Greeks’ firman, their decree from the Sultan in Constantinople, empowering them to place their silk cloth on the altar first. The Greeks demanded to see the Latins’ firman allowing them to remove it. A fight broke out between the priests, who were quickly joined by monks and pilgrims on either side. Soon the whole church was a battlefield. The rival groups of worshippers fought not only with their fists, but with crucifixes, candlesticks, chalices, lamps and incense-burners, and even bits of wood which they tore from the sacred shrines. The fighting continued with knives and pistols smuggled into the Holy Sepulchre by worshippers of either side. By the time the church was cleared by Mehmet Pasha’s guards, more than forty people lay dead on the floor.1” 1 likes
“The moonlight was still floating on the waters, when men, looking from numberless decks towards the east, were able to hail the dawn. There was a summer breeze blowing fair from the land. At a quarter before five a gun from the Britannia gave the signal to weigh. The air was obscured by the busy smoke of the engines, and it was hard to see how and whence due order would come; but presently the Agamemnon moved through, and with signals at all her masts – for Lyons was on board her, and was governing and ordering the convoy. The French steamers of war went out with their transports in tow, and their great vessels formed the line. The French went out more quickly than the English, and in better order. Many of their transports were vessels of very small size; and of necessity they were a swarm. Our transports went out in five columns of only thirty each. Then – guard over all – the English war-fleet, in single column, moved slowly out of the bay.50” 0 likes
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