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Historiographies, Bibliographies and War in European History (1494-1815)

Posted by William Young on October 4, 2012

International History

Jeremy Black. War in European History, 1494-1660. The Essential Bibliography Series. Dulles, Virginia.: Potomac Books, 2006. ISBN 978-1-57488-971-0. Pp. x, 118. $14.95.

Jeremy Black. War in European History, 1660-1792. The Essential Bibliography Series. Dulles, Virginia: Potomac Books, 2009. ISBN 978-1-59797-246-8. Pp. x, 112. $14.95.

Frederick C. Schneid. Napoleonic Wars. The Essential Bibliography Series. Dulles, Virginia: Potomac Books, 2012. ISBN 978-1-59797-209-3. Pp. xii, 121. $14.95.

Dr Jeremy Black, Professor of History at the University of Exeter in England, and Dr Frederick C. Schneid, Professor of History at High Point University in North Carolina, provide useful studies regarding the literature on European warfare from the beginning of the Italian Wars (1494) to the end of the Napoleonic Wars (1815).  Black is known  as a military and diplomatic historian.  His numerous studies include European Warfare, 1494-1660 (2002), European Warfare, 1660-1815 (1994), and European Warfare in a Global Context, 1660-1815 (2007).  Schneid is a historian of the…

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Posted in Book Reviews, Early Modern European (1494-1648), Early Modern European (1648-1792), Napoleonic Wars, World Military History (1500-1700), World Military History (1700-1900) | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Book Review of The Seven Years War in Europe, 1756-1763

Posted by William Young on September 10, 2012

Franz A.J. Szabo. The Seven Years War in Europe, 1756-1763. Modern Wars in Perspective series. Harlow, England: Pearson/Longman, 2008. ISBN 978-0-582-29272-7. Notes. Maps. Chronology. Bibliography. Index. Pp. xxi, 512. $56.00.

Originally posted in International History (9 September 2012)

Dr Franz A.J. Szabo, Professor of Austrian and Habsburg History at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, provides an outstanding study focused on the Seven Years War in Europe, leaving aside the Anglo-French naval and colonial aspects of the conflict.  Professor Szabo is known for his Kaunitz and Enlightened Absolutism, 1753-1780 (1994).  In the study under review, the author explores the Seven Years War from Frederick II of Prussia’s invasion of Saxony in August 1756 to the Peace of Hubertusburg in February 1763.

Historians say that the Seven Years War was a continuation of the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748).  In 1756, the Diplomatic Revolution resulted in an Anglo-Prussian alliance against an Austro-Franco-Russian alliance.  Shortly thereafter, Frederick II launched a preemptive strike against Saxony, an ally of Austria, to defend Prussia against the possible threat of Maria Theresa of Austria and Elizabeth I of Russia.  This action began a protracted European war.  While Britain and France fought for global power, Prussia fought to defend territorial conquests and maintain its recently gained status as a Great Power.  Overseas conflict split the French war effort.  France could only muster limited military moves against Prussia while the Austro-Franco-Russian alliance suffered from the lack of coordinated efforts, different objectives, tactical mistakes, and logistical problems during several years of conflict.  These problems, along with the supposed military talent of Frederick II, allowed Prussia to survive a close conflict.  “Frederick’s survival,” according to Szabo, “depended on his ability to take unexpected initiatives and to keep his enemies off balance” (p.425).  He adds that, “the benefit of interior lines also made it easier for him to react quickly to specific threats, gave him shorter supply lines and allowed him to operate at cheaper cost than his enemies” (p.425).  Even so, Prussia was a defeated power by 1761.  And, then the “miracle” happened.  Empress Elizabeth I of Russia died, and her heir, the pro-Prussian Peter III, dropped the Austrian alliance and established a Russo-Prussian alliance, saving Frederick II from a complete disaster.  Prussia would keep Silesia and the illusion of Great Power status.  “But it did so,” according to the author, “despite, rather than because of, the actions of its king” (p.426).

Szabo’s The Seven Years War in Europe, 1756-1763 is a valuable survey of the conflict, examining the politics, diplomacy, and warfare of the period.  The author puts the accomplishments of Frederick the Great in a realistic light.  Szabo is no hero worshipper of the Prussian monarch.  He stresses a negative view of Frederick the Great, writing: “there was very little ‘honourable’ about Frederick in this war.  Vengeful and ungracious in victory and self-pitying in defeat, he happily took credit for victories for which he was not primarily responsible, but invariably blamed defeats for which he was responsible on others” (p.427).  The study joins other valuable military studies on the Seven Years War in Central Europe,  including Christopher Duffy’s The Army of Frederick the Great (1974), The Army of Maria Theresa (1977), and  Frederick the Great: A Military Life (1985), as well as Dennis Showalter’s The Wars of Frederick the Great (1995).  The study is highly recommended for students and scholars interested in eighteenth-century warfare in Europe.

Dr William Young
University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, North Dakota

Posted in Book Reviews, Early Modern European (1648-1792), General, World Military History (1700-1900) | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Book Review of The Crimean War: British Grand Strategy against Russia, 1853-56

Posted by William Young on August 23, 2012

Andrew Lambert. The Crimean War: British Grand Strategy against Russia, 1853-56. Second edition. Farnham: Ashgate, 2011. ISBN 978-1-4094-1011-9. Figures. Tables. Maps. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. xvi, 380. $104.95.

Originally posted in International History (23 August 2012).

This highly praised study, originally published in 1990, has been reprinted in a second edition. The work has been hard to find for well over a decade.  Dr Andrew Lambert, Professor of Naval History in the Department of War Studies at King’s College at the University of London, is known for such studies as Battleships in Transition: The Creation of the Steam Battlefleet, 1815-1860 (1984), HMS Warrior 1860: Victoria’s Ironclad Deterrent (1987), The Last Sailing Battlefleet: Maintaining Naval Mastery, 1815-1850 (1991), Steam, Steel and Shellfire: The Steam Warship, 1815-1905 (1992), The War Correspondendents: The Crimean War  (with Stephen Badsey) (1994),  War at Sea in the Age of Sail (2000), and more recently The Challenge: Britain against America in the Naval War of 1812 (2012).  In this edition of The Crimean War Lambert provides a valuable twenty-nine page introduction that discusses recent developments in the historiography of the Crimean War.  Otherwise the author makes no changes to the original study except for part of the conclusion.

The focus of this study is on British grand strategy (the development and implementation of strategy within the context of national policy) in the so-called “Crimean War” against the Russian Empire in the 1850s.  Britain and Russia were the only two world powers from 1815 to 1854.  Even so, France was Britain’s main rival — with British blue-water naval strategy focused on France — in the years leading up to the Russian War.

Histories of the Crimean War have traditionally focused on the origins of the conflict in the Near East and Balkans, and the war against Russia in the Crimea and Black Sea Region.  Lambert discusses the Anglo-French rivalry before the conflict, the outbreak of the Russo-Turkish war in 1853, and the creation of a “fragile” Anglo-French alliance that went to war against Russia in 1854.  The Crimean phase was seen as a limited war with Allied attacks on the southern periphery of the Russian Empire.  British objectives were to defend the Ottoman Empire and maintain the existing Balance of Power in Europe.  Moreover, London wanted to reduce the Russian naval threat to British interests in the Black Sea and eastern Mediterranean.  At first, Napoleon III of France was willing to follow Britain’s lead.  In September 1854, an Allied expeditionary force invaded the Crimea, and soon began the siege of the main Russian naval base at Sevastopol.  In 1855, France massed a large army for action in the Crimea to attack southern Russia and win a decisive victory.  Britain, on the other hand, having a large fleet presence, but a small army in the region, preferred to stress naval strategy with attacks against peripheral targets.  French troop strength and British naval power achieved limited success in the 1855 military campaign.  Britain relied on steam-powered ships to control the Black Sea Region.  The Allies finally captured Sevastopol in September 1855.  The Allies, however, lacked the manpower to conquer the Crimean Peninsula and pursue the war into southern Russia.  Russia was bankrupt and incapable of winning the war.  Tsar Alexander II therefore agreed to Allied peace demands, and the Crimean War ended with the Peace of Paris in March 1856.

Lambert disagrees with this assessment of how the war ended.  He points out that the capture of Sevastopol, on the fringes of the Russian Empire, was not as important as historians would have one believe.  The author, taking in a larger view of the Russian War, depicts how the British fleet developed new tactics and conducted naval operations in the Baltic Sea in 1854 and 1855, that resulted in the destruction of Sweaborg.  British steam-powered warships dominated the Baltic Sea against obsolete Russian sailing ships.  Lambert describes how Britain built up a large naval force, the so-called “Great Armament,” for a full-scale attack on the major Russian naval base at Cronstadt in 1856.  The British Baltic Fleet for 1856 would consist of 240 naval vessels, including 24 battleships, 37 cruisers, 4 floating batteries, 120 gunboats, 50 mortar vessels, and 5 auxiliaries (p.343).  Lambert states that Palmerston’s adoption of the so-called Cronstadt Plan, “marked a shift from limited peripheral territorial seizures to an unlimited thrust at the centre of gravity of the Russian state — St Petersburg and the army that defended the city” (p.315).  The author stresses that the Tsar accepted the humiliating Peace of Paris in order to avoid a total catastrophe if the British naval force attacked and destroyed the Russian Baltic Fleet and Cronstadt, and then bombarded St Petersburg into submission.

Lambert’s argument concerning the major British naval buildup and planned attack on vital Russian targets in the Baltic to force Russia to end the war has become the accepted view of academic historians.  His research influenced David M. Goldfrank’s The Origins of the Crimean War (1994) who considers the Baltic situation in the road to war.  Basil Greenhill and Ann Giffard, The British Assault on Finland, 1854-1855: A Forgotten Naval War (1988), John D. Grainger, The First Pacific War: Britain and Russia, 1854-56 (2008), and Peter Duckers, The Crimean War at Sea: The Naval Campaigns against Russia, 1854-56 (2011)  have added to our view of the Russian War outside the Crimea.  All in all, this reviewer finds the publication of the second edition of this classic study a treat for students and scholars of the Russian War of 1853-1856.

Dr William Young
University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, North Dakota

Posted in 19th Century Military History, Book Reviews, Crimean War (1853-1856), General, Other military history, World Military History (1700-1900) | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Book Review of Empire and Military Revolution in Eastern Europe: Russia’s Turkish Wars in the Eighteenth Century

Posted by William Young on July 27, 2012

Brian L. Davies. Empire and Military Revolution in Eastern Europe: Russia’s Turkish Wars in the Eighteenth Century. Continuum Studies in Military History. London and New York: Continuum International, 2011. ISBN 978-1-4411-7004-0. Map. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. ix, 364. $120.00.

In this study, Dr Brian L. Davies, a Professor of History at the University of Texas at San Antonio, examines Russia’s wars and military campaigns against the Ottoman Empire during the eighteenth century.  The author stresses Russian military reforms from Peter I of Russia through the early reign of Catherine II.  Moreover, the author devotes detailed attention to the players involved in Russian foreign affairs, including the Ottoman Turks, Crimean Khanate, Ukrainian Cossacks, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Sweden, and others.  His previous works include State Power and Community in Early Modern Russia: The Case of Kozlov, 1635-1649 (2004) and Warfare, State and Society on the Black Sea Steppe, 1500-1700 (2007).  He has also recently edited Warfare in Eastern Europe, 1500-1800 (2012).

In 1686, Russia (Muscovy) joined the alliance of the Holy Roman Empire, Poland-Lithuania, Venice, and the Papacy, against the Ottoman Turks.  The War of the Holy League (1683-99) had begun with the Turkish invasion of Austrian Habsburg territories and the siege of Vienna in 1683.  As part of this alliance, Russia launched unsuccessful campaigns against the Crimean Tatars in 1687 and 1689.  After taking control of Russia from his half-sister Sophia, Peter I sought expansion south towards the Black Sea.  As such, Russia came into conflict with the Crimean Tatars and the Ottoman Turks.  His first military campaign to capture the Ottoman fortress of Azov in 1695 failed, but the following campaign, employing ships, captured Azov in 1696, and Russia founded the first Russian naval base at Taganrog.  The first phase of Peter I’s struggle against the Ottoman Turks ended with the Peace of Constantinople (1700).

Davies describes Peter I’s foreign policy, the Russian army, and military events dealing with the Sweden in the Baltic Region and the Ottoman Turks in the south.  In 1700, Peter I allied with Denmark, Saxony, and Poland-Lithuania in an attack on the Swedish Empire, beginning the Great Northern War (1700-1721).  But, Sweden, led by Charles XII, defeated the Danes (1700) and then the Russians at Narva (1700), followed by an invasion of Poland-Lithuania in 1701.  This gave Russia the opportunity to recover from defeat and begin reforming the army.  Therefore, when the Swedish army turned and invaded the Ukraine several years later, the tsar commanded a rebuilt military reformed and trained along western lines.  Peter I defeated Charles XII at the battle of Poltava in 1709, forcing the Swedish king to retreat to the Ottoman Empire.  Subsequently, Sultan Ahmed III declared war against Russia in 1710, leading to Peter I’s disastrous Pruth Campaign.  In this campaign the Russians attempted to invade Moldavia but were surrounded and defeated in the decisive battle of Stanileşti in July 1711.  In the Treaty of Pruth (1711), Peter I was forced to give up Azov and several fortresses, including Taganrog, were to be demolished.

Davies provides a valuable depiction of Russian military operations during the Russo-Turkish War of 1736-1739.  He argues that Field Marshal Burckhard Christoph von Münnich and General Peter Lacy gained valuable experience during each annual military campaign and gradually improved the military effectiveness of the Russian army.  This included finding revenue sources as well as increasing military discipline, logistics, and experimenting with new tactics.  The first campaign, in 1736, resulted in Münnich capturing the Turkish fortifications at Perekop and then occupying the Crimean capital of Bakhchisarai.  But, the lack of supplies and the outbreak of disease forced the Russians to retreat to the Ukraine.  Lacy, however, employed a flotilla to assist his army in capturing the fortress of Azov.  Then, in 1737, Münnich captured the Ottoman fortress of Ochakov while Lacy invaded the Crimea and captured Karasubazar.  The author points out that the Russians once again had to withdraw from the Crimea because of the lack of supplies.  In the meantime, in 1737, Habsburg Austria, allied to Russia, went to war against the Ottoman Turks (the Austro-Turkish War of 1737-1739).  Ottoman forces, however, defeated the Austrians at Banja Luka (1737) and Grocka (1739), and then besieged and captured Belgrade (1739).  In the meantime, Münnich defeated the Turks at Stavuchany and occupied the fortress of Khotin in Moldavia in 1739.  The Turkish defeat of Austria at the battle of Grocka and the capture of Belgrade resulted in the Habsburgs negotiating a separate peace in the Treaty of Belgrade (1739).  The loss of the Austrian alliance, along with the threat of a Swedish invasion in the north, forced Russia to agree to end the conflict in the Peace of Niš.  Russia had to give up its claims to the Crimea and Moldavia.

In the next few decades Russia became the strongest power in southeastern Europe.  The Russian Empire expanded through the employment of military power.  Russian military power as the author shows had been strengthened by an improved military administration, tighter central control over military finances, and an improved logistical system.  The Austrian Empire was weakened by the expense of the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748) and Seven Years War (1756-1763).  The Ottoman Empire was destabilized by widespread revolts and the Persian threat.  War between Catherine II’s Russia and the Ottomans (the Russo-Turkish War of 1668-1774) broke out after several border clashes.  In 1769, the Russian army, commanded by Field Marshal A.M. Golitsyn, invaded Moldavia and captured the fortress at Khotin and the capital of Iasi (Jassy).  Then, as Davies stresses, the Russian army, under the command of Peter Aleksandrovich Rumiantsev, won a “series of victories over much larger Ottoman and Tatar forces, victories more decisive and lopsided than had ever occurred before” (p.267).  The Russians marched south and occupied the Wallachian capital of Bucharest.  The Russians defeated the Turks at Larga, captured the fortress at Bender, won a victory at Kagul, and routed the Turks at Kartala.  Meanwhile, in 1770, the Russian Baltic Sea fleet sailed from northern Europe to the Aegean Sea and defeated an Ottoman fleet at Chesme off the coast of Asia Minor.  Next, in 1771, the Russian army under V.M. Dolgorukov invaded, captured, and held the Crimean Peninsula, including the capital Bakhchisari.  This campaign ended the threat of the Crimean Khanate to Russia’s southern frontier that had existed for 260 years (p.271).  Meanwhile, Rumiantsev captured the Ottoman fortresses in the eastern Danubian Region.

At this point, in 1772, Sultan Mustapha III of the Ottoman Empire opened up peace talks with Russia.  The Turks stretched out the peace negotiations with Russia.  The Sublime Porte realized that Austria, Prussia, and Britain feared Russian territorial expansion and the disruption of the European balance of power.  Austria was concerned about the growth of Russian power in Moldavia and Wallachia and the threat to the Austrian sphere of influence in the region.  In fact, in 1771, Emperor Joseph II of Austria had deployed troops to Hungary to restrain Russia in Moldavia and Wallachia.  He even began to negotiate an Austro-Turkish alliance against Russia.  An Austro-Russian war was avoided by Catherine II agreeing to Frederick II of Prussia’s proposal for the First Partition of Poland (1772) to satisfy Austrian and Prussian demands for territorial expansion as compensation for Russian territorial aggrandizement.  Then, to force the Sultan to come to terms, Catherine II sent Rumiantsev’s army across the Danube River into Silistria in 1773-1774.  Major General Aleksandr Suvorov defeated the Turks at Turtukai in 1773 and Kozluji in 1774.  As a result, the Sublime Porte agreed to the Peace of Kuchuk-Kainarji in Bulgaria.  In this settlement, Russia agreed to withdraw from Moldavia and Wallachia.  However, Russia gained some territory in the southern Ukraine, northern Caucasus, and the Crimea.  Russia regained Azov and the seaports of Kerch and Enikale, thus allowing Russian merchant and naval ships access to the Black Sea and the ability to pass through the Turkish Straits into the Mediterranean.  Moreover, the Crimea became a Russian protectorate, and would be annexed by Russia in 1783.

Davies asks was there a Russian military revolution during the eighteenth century that led to Russia’s success against the Ottoman Empire in the Russo-Turkish War of 1768-1774?  The author points out that most historians believe that the new tactical and strategic thinking displayed by Rumiantsev, Potemkin, and Suvorov during the conflict marked a radical change from the military doctrine of the Seven Years War.  But Davies thinks that the so-called Russian military revolution in tactics and strategy has been overstated (p.279).  Russia did adopt recent innovations in military technique from the West.  Even so, another reason for the overwhelming Russian military victory is the relative decline of Ottoman military power in the late eighteenth century.  Davies also considers as important “the long-term accumulation of strategic advantage from Russia’s more flexible taxation and military finance practices and her more aggressive and opportunistic exploitation of the weakness of frontier politics.  [T]he end of the war did mark a geopolitical ‘revolution’ in the sense that it reversed power relations in Pontic and Danubian Europe” (p.283).

Davies provides a detailed study of Russian mobilization of military resources for expansion to the southern steppe frontier and how Russian army rolled back the power of competitors, such as the independent Cossack hosts, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Crimean Khanate, Ottoman Empire, and others in the region.  Russian military operations grew in size and success against the Ottoman Empire in the eighteenth century.  This reader is looking forward to a promised subsequent volume that will discuss Catherine II’s later wars against the Ottoman Turks.  The present study is recommended to those students and scholars interested in the military history of East Europe.

Dr William Young
University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, North Dakota

Posted in Book Reviews, Early Modern European (1648-1792), Military Revolution, World Military History (1700-1900) | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

New documentary on Lafayette to air Monday on PBS

Posted by Daniel Sauerwein on September 12, 2010

On Monday, September 13 at 9PM Central Time (check local listings), PBS will air a documentary on one of the more unique and important figures from the Revolutionary War, the Marquis de Lafayette. Lafayette was a French noble, who came to fight for the American cause at only 19. Lafayette: The Lost Hero presents the intimate story of the man who served as major-general in the Continental Army, and was a close friend of George Washington.

The story of Lafayette involves struggle and troubles, as while he is from a noble family, he strives to prove himself in French aristocratic society. He marries Adrienne, daughter of French aristocrats in 1775. In his youth, he became enamored with the idea of liberty and found sympathy with the American cause, which motivated him to travel to America, leaving a pregnant Adrienne in France.

The Revolution is but one part of the whole story. Lafayette’s life after the Revolution is covered very well, including his role in the French Revolution, imprisonment in France and Austria, and return to America to a hero’s welcome in 1824-5. The interesting aspects of this film are the love between him and Adrienne, as well as how both France and the United States have seemed to forget Lafayette (an example given was a statue of him donated by American schoolchildren being moved from the center of Paris to an obscure park). Through wonderful use of living history demonstrations, interviews with scholars and descendants of the Marquis, and wonderful use of images and animations, Lafayette: The Lost Hero is a documentary that you should record and watch.

Here’s a trailer:

Lafayette: The Lost Hero from The Documentary Group on Vimeo.

Click here for images and information on the documentary from the PBS website.

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Posted in American Military History, Early Modern European (1648-1792), Napoleonic Wars, Other military history, US Army, World Military History (1700-1900) | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »


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