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Charles XII and the Collapse of the Swedish Empire: 1682-1719 Paperback – 16 Feb 2001


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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Adamant Media Corporation (16 Feb. 2001)
  • ISBN-10: 1402177267
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402177262
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 2.3 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 426,187 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Cella Mauro on 31 Oct. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Robert Nisbet Bain's book is over a century old: this is the faithful reproduction of the 1895 edition.
Yet you'll be hard pressed to find a better history of the "Alexander of the North" in English language. While his great rival, Czar Peter, has been the subject of countless books, Charles has been mostly ignored outside of his native Sweden.
Nisbet Bain paints a vivid portrait of a man who literally lived and died by the sword. The battlefield and the barracks were all of his world. Sadly, while Nisbet Bain does a sterling work by reconstructing the major battles of the Great Northern War in which Charles took part, the maps provided in the book have not aged gracefully. There's also lack of a detailed description of the opposing armies. However, this isn't a military history: it's a well-researched biography, so it can be forgiven.
Nisbet Bain's prose is surprisingly modern and won't pose a problem even to casual readers. His tendency to put personal remarks in the text will perhaps put off some readers looking for a more balanced view but in the end it's hard not share Nisbet Bain's views.
Highly recommended for anyone even mildly interested in XVIII century Europe.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By M. Baerends on 1 Nov. 2012
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The red thread in this book is obviously the epic struggle between Charles XII and his arch-enemy Peter the Great. What I gathered is that both of them were somewhat deranged, albeit in very different ways. Whereas Peter was more of a run-of-the-mill evil potentate, Charles was highly principled and very brave - unlike Peter, who actually ran away before the battle of Narva even started, his excuse being that an urgent meeting with Augustus the Strong had 'suddenly' come up. The problem was that his high principles precluded him from consolidating his gains when times were good. He spurned all sorts of great offers from the Russians and the Saxonians (for peace) and later from the Prussians (for high-quality military assistance) thinking that with God's assistance he would single-handedly defeat all his foes, no matter at what cost to Sweden itself. At the end of the day, he found himself having lost all lands on the other side of the Baltic, the army in tatters and Sweden itself broke and depopulated. Nisbet Bain's style is certainly distinctly un-modern (1895 vintage I believe) but that in no way detracts from this absolute page-turner.

Aside from a great story, Nisbet Bain provides a lot of insight in the Great Northern War, an interesting conflict that somehow has always been overshadowed by its bigger brother, the War of Spanish Succession. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Paul Reynolds on 1 April 2014
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I found this book very enjoyable. I had only read the account of Charles XII in Massie's Peter the Great, and wanted to know more about the Swedish King. This was exactly what I was looking for. It was very readable, unlike some older books. The style is very focussed on the monarchs, so it does lack something of the 'social context' that more modern biographies might include, but it makes up for it by the clear focus on the personality of Charles XII. Very readable, and very highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By christopher on 7 Nov. 2013
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Having to write a history essay on Charles XII, this book gave all of the information and quotes i pretty much needed! Very good detailed description of Charles XII life and military campaigns as well as his tactics, economic and political approach and Spartan lifestyle!
I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Charles XII, Russia and the fight for a Baltic window, Sweden's decline as a first world power and pretty much anyone who is interested in history.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
An 1895 Precursor to the New School of Thought on King Charles XII of Sweden 21 Nov. 2014
By Brian Wayne Wells - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a reprint of an 1895 biography of King Charles (or Karl) XII of Sweden written by Robert Nesbit Bain. Karl XII reigned in Sweden from 1697 until 1709. At the start of Karl XII's reign, Sweden was a large empire that had vast holdings in the Baltic States and Germany. However, at the end of Karl XII's reign Sweden was clearly in decline. This decline of Sweden was blamed on the adventuristic military ambitions of Karl XII which led to the continuous wars with Russia, Poland and Saxony that dominated the reign of Karl XII. The school of historians which are now called the "old school" tend to blame King Karl XII directly for the decline of Sweden. This school is largely a nineteenth century view of Karl XII. Since 1900 a "new school" of historians has revisited the reign of Karl XII with a gentler view of the king. This new school suggests that events outside the reach of King Karl XII are to blame for the decline of Sweden.

Written just prior to 1900, Bain's biography of King Charles (or Karl) XII of Sweden is an example of the new school of history in regards to Karl XII. Bain holds that the Swedish Empire was built on the shifting sands of military expansionism during the Thirty Years War (1619-1648) on the part of King Gustavus Adolphus (who reigned in Sweden from 1611 until 1632). During the Thirty Years War Europe, Germany and the Baltic States were devastated. Gustavus Adolphus entered the Thirty Years War and carved out a large empire for Sweden over the weakened and prostrate states of northern Germany. Bain maintains that in normal times, Europe and Germany would have put up more defense to Gustavus Adolphus and Sweden would never have built the Empire that it did. Accordingly, the Swedish Empire was really a hollow sham that was built on extremely poor footing and was sure to fall as soon as the states of Germany and the Baltic recovered from the destruction of the Thirty Years War. This Bain maintains would have happened no matter who was King during the period of time following the Thirty Years War. Thus, Bain maintains that King Karl XII was merely fighting hard against an inevitable downfall of the Swedish Empire.
The Swedish Empire seems like it took advantage of a window of opportunity when ... 7 July 2014
By Douglas E. Libert - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is an older book written about 1899 but it is definitely a classic because of its brevity and readability. It's hard to believe that at one time Sweden could compete against almost any European or Middle Eastern power in regard to world politics and come out on top. The Swedish Empire seems like it took advantage of a window of opportunity when Russia, under Peter the Great, was just beginning to realize its potential to become the major world power it became.
Charles seems like an old Viking style conqueror type ruler more at ease on the battlefield than the court. However as the author points out repeatedly, Charles efforts while initially a continuation and heightening of Sweden's power politics, later became more a liability as he overextended his conquests and at time came close to ruining the country. his motto seems to be in regard to the rise of the "modern" nation state, the same as Clausewitz, "there are no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests". At times his juggling of Sweden's alliances seemed prudent, at other times he made major miscalculations. There are also some good capsule type descriptions of Charles' ministers and military shoguns some of whom ended up being executed, in this regard few happy endings.
So was Charles an "enlightened despot"? -that description seems to hold according to this book, he is both just and cruel at times and sees people as little more than cattle at times,(or most of the time), to be used to make Sweden great, (of course according to his own terms.) When Charles runs into a despot much like himself but with greater resources, (like Peter the Great), that is pretty much the end of the Swedish Empire and no amount of alliance shuffling with all the small European Nation States such as Poland, Saxony, Turkey, etc., can save it. Charles seems like a very private person, is contemptuous of his own personal wealth, keeps his thoughts to himself with no religious bombast even though he was a devout Lutheran. So according to the book it looks like Charles sought glory and power for Sweden(and probably for himself as well), at least he doesn't seem like a religious hypocrite. More at home in a field tent under the stars than a softly cushioned couch pontificating, but still he did make a lot of his own soldiers casualty statistics.
8 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Stubborn ruler throws away everything 31 Aug. 2008
By James Lee - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
for no real purpose in this excellent account of Swedish military glory. Yes Sweden. Boy King Charles manages to win virtually every battle but messes up everything else. There lies the reason Peter is called " The Great " while he remains Charles the 12th. Clear vivid account of the men and the times it shows how Sweden declines as Russia emerges.
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