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The Crimean War: A History

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  2,186 Ratings  ·  198 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
Hardcover, 575 pages
Published April 12th 2011 by Metropolitan Books (first published October 1st 2010)
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Jun 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, 21-ce, war, uk, 19-ce
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
The Crimean War: A History, by Orlando Figes, is a large history of the Crimean War between Russia on one side, and France, Britain and the Ottoman Empire on the other. The war began over religious scuffling between Catholic and Greek Orthodox pilgrims in Jerusalem - then part of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman's had recently passed policy favourable to Catholic pilgrims at the expense of Orthodox pilgrims in the city, with religious rights and priorities being granted to Catholic churches at th ...more
Jill Hutchinson
Oct 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 It was a war of incompetent leadership, missed opportunities, outdated military tactics, and rampant disease.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
May 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
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
May 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Hard core history types
Recommended to James by: Andrew
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Figes hits the nail on the head in his introduction, many of the earlier works covered mostly the British battles and didn't touch upon the geopolitical or religious causes of the Crimean War. (I've read a couple in the distant past like this.) How many times can the Charge of the Light Brigade be rehashed? There's a large chunk of history I was unaware of, the initial conditions and the aftermath are covered in detail based on documents from all sides of the conflict.

First bits of interest are
Mar 03, 2014 marked it as maybe
To look into given the recent developments

Orlando Figes is a discredited author, however I would still like a flick through this.

May 2014: President Putin's visit to Crimea was welcomed there but criticised by Washington BBC news
May 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
James Murphy
Dec 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reading this interesting history I discovered that some of my preconceived notions about the war were wrong. Besides knowing very little about the war itself, I realized what familiarity I have with it is through British perceptions. The histories most available to us are British histories, and so such innovative work such as that of Florence Nightingale is filtered through British sensibilities, and the attention given to something like Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade" has made that act ...more
Dec 16, 2012 marked it as to-read
Shelves: history, religions, 2016
Thanks Santa!!
Tim Martin
Aug 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, reviewed
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
Marguerite Kaye
Oct 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Steven Peterson
Apr 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Bob H
Mar 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Sharon Barrow Wilfong
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Orlando Figes' book, The Crimean War is an excellent account of a little known war. It took place in 1855-57, and it is a war that did not involve the United States for a change, since the States' impeding war between the north and the south kept that country's citizens otherwise occupied.

Russia wanted a warm water port so it decided to invade Turkey. This threatened the British and France so they came to Turkey's defense. Each country had mixed motives.

One, they did not want Russia or each othe
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
Alexander Vassilieff
Apr 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
May 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a wonderful book about a not so wonderful war. There are several ways to look at the Crimean War. It was just like the Napoleonic Wars, only with fewer people and better firearms. It was just like World War I, except that it was smaller in scale, with more primitive technology, and perhaps even more incompetent generals. It was a Crusade -- a religious war -- although the protagonists seemed to use religion as more of a rationalization than a reason. The religious war was three-way or mo ...more
Columbia Warren
Feb 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
If you are in the market for a book about the Crimean War (and who isn't?), this is a damn fine book. Apparently there are other recent books out there about this war, but I'm certainly not going to read another one, so I can't really compare. This book provides very good coverage about the actual fighting of the war as well as the causes, connected events during the war, and the aftermath. One complaint I'd have is that the author seemed to set up the war as a religious conflict, but then stron ...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
Czarny Pies
Apr 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who can accept the idea that some times the facts must be made to fit the case.
Shelves: european-history
Crimea is a delightful farrago from the pre-eminent Anglo-Saxon historian of Russia that is centered on the Crimea War. Figes is all over the place but he has insight everywhere. He identifies the practice by European powers of encouraging sectarian violence in Holy Land as a major factor causing the Crimean War. He shows how the Concert of Europe fell apart because of the inability of an autocrat to communicate with the political leaders of Austria, France and England. He describes in the maste ...more
Dirk Baranek
May 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: geschichte
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
May 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Well written account of the Crimean War. My connection with the Crimean War had been hearing of the siege of Sevastopal, the charge of the light brigade, and Florence Nigthingale. Figes' book gave me the background on how this war was driven by factors such as the British press, Napoleon III's quest for legitimacy for himself and France and Russian nationalism. It also helped me understand the flash point of the Holy Land religious sites that provided the spark for this conflict.
I also appreciat
A beautifully written and comprehensive account of Europe's biggest war post-Napoleon and before the German Wars of unification. Figes, who is primarily a cultural historian, gives the proper weight to the non-British participants in the war, something not usually accomplished by English-language authors. He also breaks down some of the hoarier myths - Florence Nightingale, the Gallant 600, etc. The Crimean War had vast unseen repercussions, and Figes explains carefully how they came about. Ther ...more
Dec 02, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
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
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Crimea or The Crimean War - what is the deal? 3 28 Apr 05, 2015 04:00PM  
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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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“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” 2 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” 1 likes
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