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The Crimean War

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  998 ratings  ·  128 reviews
From "the great storyteller of modern Russian historians," (Financial Times) the definitive account of the forgotten war that shaped the modern age

The Charge of the Light Brigade, Florence Nightingale—these are the enduring icons of the Crimean War. Less well-known is that this savage war (1853-1856) killed almost a million soldiers and countless civilians; that it enmeshe...more
Hardcover, 575 pages
Published April 12th 2011 by Metropolitan Books (first published October 1st 2010)
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William
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
Hadrian
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...more
Caroline
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...more
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...more
Pavel
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...more
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...more
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
Don
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...more
Lizixer
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...more
Mike
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...more
Mitchell
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...more
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
Joe
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...more
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
David
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
Michael Burnam-fink
Figes creates a sweeping political history of the Crimean War, drawing on his expertise in Russian history to do more than retell the standard myths. He places the war as a sort of tectonic event in the Eastern Question-the slow decay of the Ottoman Empire and the various actions of European powers to take advantage of that decay. For decades prior to the war, Russia had kept Turkey what I can only describe as an abusive relationship-giving passports to Orthodox Ottoman subjects, carving off chu...more
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
S.
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
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...more
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
Jack
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.
Rebekah
I picked this up hoping to deepen my understanding of the Crimean War in light of current political events in Ukraine. Though the book is generally well-written and certainly rich with primary source materials, there isn't that much new here. In an attempt to justify the publication of another in a long line of Crimean War histories, Figes sets up the narrative by suggesting that previous accounts have neglected the religious dimensions to and justifications for the war. But the early parts of t...more
Christopher Fox
An exhaustively researched, persuasively written, fascinating work from one of the pre-eminent Russophiles of our time. Figes argues that this conflict was more a religious war (it all began in Jerusalem) than, as many see it, one born of national, diplomatic or territorial disputes. The prior events and those following are presented in more or less straight narrative style, one in which Figes excels. The battlefield descriptions though are enlivened by numerous letters from combatants of all ra...more
Amber
I am not normally one for military histories- I usually take more of an interest in the larger scale politics than the specific details of military actions and battles. That said, in light of recent events, I was very curious to learn more about the Crimean War. This book was very thorough and incredibly well-researched, detailing many of the events that led up to the war, the struggle itself, and the resulting "peace" and aftershocks. Having read this, I really am surprised how little attention...more
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Crimea or The Crimean War - what is the deal? 2 19 Dec 30, 2011 08:43AM  
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Orlando Figes is a British historian of Russia, and a professor of history at Birkbeck, University of London.
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