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Crimea [Kindle Edition]

Orlando Figes
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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 it was also a war of religion, driven by a fervent, populist and ever more ferocious belief by the Tsar and his ministers that it was Russia's task to rule all Orthodox Christians and control the Holy Land.

Orlando Figes' major new book reimagines this extraordinary war, in which the stakes could not have been higher and which was fought with a terrible mixture of ferocity and incompetence. It was both a recognisably modern conflict - the first to be extensively photographed, the first to employ the telegraph, the first 'newspaper war' - and a traditional one, with illiterate soldiers, amateur officers and huge casualties caused by disease. Drawing on a huge range of fascinating sources, Figes also gives the lived experience of the war, from that of the ordinary British soldier in his snow-filled trench, to the haunted, gloomy, narrow figure of Tsar Nicholas himself as he vows to take on the whole world in his hunt for religious salvation.

Product Description


This is the only book on the Crimean War anyone could need. It is lucid, well-written, alive and sensitive. Above all, it tells us why this neglected conflict and its forgotten victims deserve our remembrance (Oliver Bullough The Independent )

This is a heart-rending book ... its importance cannot be overestimated ... This book should be made compulsory reading in Russia today (Antony Beevor, Author Of 'stalingrad' )

A wonderful subject, on every level, and with Orlando Figes it has found the historian worthy of its width and depth (Norman Stone Standpoint )

Not only does Figes take care to tell the Russian side of the story where the fighting is concerned; he also gives a panoramic account of the political background, explaining the 'Eastern Question', the ambitions if the warmongering French ruler Napoleon III and, above all, the mentality of the Russian Tsars, Nicholas I and Alexander II, who began and ended the war ... An impressive piece of historical writing (Noel Malcolm Sunday Telegraph )

Orlando Figes ... is back doing what he does best - telling us things about Russia and the world that we did not know, and proving that they are important to our understanding of the world today ... With his deep understanding of Russia and its uncomfortable opposition in the world, Figes elegantly underlines how the cold war of the Soviet era froze over fundamental fault lines that had opened up in the 19th century (Angus Macqueen The Observer )

It is a fine stirring account, expertly balancing analysis with a patchwork of quotation from a wide variety of spectators and participants, together with an impressive narrative across the vast panoramic sweep of the war ... However, the book's true originality lies in its unravelling of the Crimean War's religious origins (Mark Bostridge Financial Times )

Keenly judged, vivid history of a bloody and pointless conflict (Sunday Times Culture )

An exhaustively researched, beautifully written book (Saul David BBC History )

One of our most engaging narrative historians, Orlando Figes has produced with his latest book a rollickingly good account of a war that shocked mid-Victorian England ... intelligent and reliable history ... Figes is a stylish and compelling narrator (Lesley Chamberlain Literary Review )

An impressive piece of scholarship ... a concise portrait of the political situation of the time (Telegraph Books of the Year 2010 )

While reading this excellent book I could not help but marvel at the many parallels with the present (Anne Applebaum Spectator )

A stellar historian. As ever, it mixes strong narrative pace, a grand canvas and compelling ideas about current geopolitical tensions (Tristram Hunt Observer Best Books of the Year: 2010 )

A sparkling and in passages brilliant account ... it stands amply and slendidly on its own two feet (David Hearst Guardian )

A first-class historian, as his splendid new book, an epic account of the Crimean War of 1853-56, amply demonstrates (Daily Telegraph )

A model of wide-lens military history (Dan Jones The Times (Christmas books 2010) )

Wonderful ... an amazing panoramic view ... I've rarely read anything like it (Claire Tomalin )

A masterful account of lost and stolen lives (Sunday Times )

Awesome ... one of the most unforgettable books I have ever read. I defy anyone to read it without weeping at its human suffering, cruelty and courage ... in this book these righteous heroes have their rightful memorial (Simon Sebag Montefiore Mail on Sunday )

About the Author

Orlando Figes is Professor of History at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is the author of Peasant Russia, Civil War, A People's Tragedy, Natasha's Dance and The Whisperers. He lives in Cambridge and London. His books have been translated into over twenty languages.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 33970 KB
  • Print Length: 602 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0713997044
  • Publisher: Penguin (2 Jun. 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0052RJU2U
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #65,792 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Orlando Figes is Professor of History at Birkbeck College, University of London. His books include The Whisperers, A People's Tragedy and Natasha's Dance. He lives in Cambridge.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Victory but what a price! 31 Dec. 2010
By Screel
This is a beautifully paced book. There is an excellent account of the factors leading up to the war making some sense out of the "Eastern Question". The battles are dealt with in sufficient depth but not a blow by blow narrative as is too often the case in military history. What makes the book outstanding is the focus on the ordinary soldier and particularly their suffering during the first winter in the Crimea. We get a clear picture of the awful conditions, the disease, the injuries and above all the incompetence of the commanders.There are many extracts from personal letters and they, along with the illustrations and maps, contribute greatly to the story. The book does not end with the Treaty of Paris but goes on to describe the effect that the war had on European politics during the ensuing deacdes.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History -writing at its best 11 Sept. 2011
By Didier TOP 1000 REVIEWER
This is the first book by Figes I've read (having until now little or no interest in Russian history, or perhaps more correctly: not the time to immerse myself in the subject), but it will definitely not be the last. 'Crimea' is truly a gem. I had read The Destruction of Lord Raglan (Wordsworth Military Library) years ago, but looking back now I enjoyed 'Crimea' a lot more, and - more to the point perhaps - I think it's not just a fuller account of the Crimean War (and what came before and after) but also a more objective view.

Figes consulted a wealth of primary and secondary sources, considers the conflict from all viewpoints, gives each of the allies and opponents their due (from the commanders-in-chief to the lowliest soldier), and above writes it all down in a clear, easy and sweeping style which kept me reading on well into the night completely oblivious of the time. An unputdownable book about the defining conflict of the 19th century.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Definitive work on the Crimean war 2 Feb. 2011
By Bazrama
I have read much on the Crimean war but little about it's causes and aftermath. This book is easy to read, brilliantly researched and I enjoyed it very much. In some respects it is rather like a mural as it paints the various players, the political and religious factions, the war itself and the social and national consequences. The use of quotations from other writers is very well done to illustrate the feelings of those times. My great grandfather and great great grandfather were at the siege of Sevastopol and I have visited the city twice. I would have liked to see some of the paintings mentioned in the book by way of illustration as I could only recall one of them, "the roll call". Well done Orlando.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
On July 18, 1854, two British warships under the command of Captain Erasmus Ommaeny bombarded the monastery on the main island in the Solovetskie Islands in the White Sea. The monastery itself had no real military or political value, but Ommaney lacked the forces necessary to attack the main Russian base in the area at Archangel and decided that the monastery was a suitable enough target to win his men plaudits at home. After the outdated Russian batteries defending the monastery were destroyed, Ommaney demanded the surrender of the place; when this was refused he launched a second bombardment before sailing away in frustration, his bold military action having caused a total of six casualties, all among his own men.

There is no mention of Ommaney's adventure in Orlando Figes's history of the Crimean War, which is unfortunate considering how nicely it encapsulates the pointlessness that is a dominant theme of his assessment of the conflict. Its absence is also revealing, as it shows Figes's focus to be squarely on the eponymous theater of the war. There is some discussion of the combat in the Caucauses, a couple of passing mentions of fighting in the Baltic and no mention of battles anywhere else. This is also unfortunate, as it would have been interesting to see him employ the same penetrating analysis to these other overlooked theaters that he applies to the fighting in the Crimea. For his book offers a insightful reexamination of this often-overlooked conflict, one that demonstrates its underrated significance to the history of Europe in the 19th century.

Figes spends the first part of the book teasing out the complicated origins of the war.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gem of a book 27 Jun. 2013
If you are a general reader of history, rather than a specialist, and are looking for a lucidly written, one-volume account of the Crimean War, its causes and effects, then this is the book for you. Prior to reading it my knowledge of the war was confined to a hazy awareness of the charge of the Light Brigade, Florence Nightingale, and some Russian place-names such as Sevastopol and Balaklava. This history sets out in great detail the political context within which the war broke out, including the fear of Russian expansion which led western nations such as Britain and France to take the side of the Ottoman Empire against Russian attempts to release Orthodox Christians from Muslim hegemony.

Figes draws on Russian and Turkish sources in addition to British and French ones and the result is a very impressive and convincing account. The military course of the war is covered without overwhelming the reader with technical detail but the book is particularly strong on the plight of soldiers injured in the war or suffering from the conditions under which they operated, particularly during the siege of Sevastopol. If I have any quibble it is that I would have liked more on the experience of the people being besieged.

The fascinating course of events following the war is also deftly handled by Figes. Read it!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The reason why n o t !
A very comprehensive description of a war where two christian states allied themselves with a muslim empire, to fight another christian state with unrealistic aims, where for the... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Athina Cacouri
5.0 out of 5 stars Crimea review
Excellent presentation.
Detailed history with undertones of European nations' attitutes and thinking towards each other,Russia and the Ottamans. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Tahsin Erol
4.0 out of 5 stars detailed
I only read in short periods and although this book is full of interest there were parts that I found hard going. Read more
Published 9 months ago by A. D. Mcclean
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Orlando Figges masterpiece!
Coupled with his masterpiece Natasha's Dance this wonderful work could not be more relevant to the times that are in it.
Published 10 months ago by Brian J Nolan
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good book.
Fantastic book. Very well written and it was a great opportunity to learn and to develop my knowledge about Crimea war.
Published 11 months ago by Paula Coelho
5.0 out of 5 stars crimea
This book is an excellent account of the Crimean war (1853-6)that started between the Ottoman empire and Russia over religious matters such as the church of the Holy Sepulchre in... Read more
Published 12 months ago by G.I.Forbes
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written, captivating
I'm a history addict anyway but this is head and shoulders above anything I've read recently. I actually considered ringing in sick to finish it! (I managed to resist - just!).
Published 12 months ago by Helen Drummond
4.0 out of 5 stars History of Crimea
Enjoyed this well written history of the lead up, circumstances, events and consequences of the Crimea War. Happy to recommend it to a person interested in this era of history.
Published 13 months ago by Elizabeth Calnan
5.0 out of 5 stars Review
Excellent Book on this almost forgotten war in which many Irishmen died alongside those of other nations in the 19 century
Published 15 months ago by Joe Smyth
4.0 out of 5 stars To fill the gap in my history
Hope to get time to read this soon, looks good. I am sure it will be. I like Figes writing.
Published 16 months ago by sally manning
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