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Russia Against Napoleon: The Battle for Europe, 1807 to 1814 Paperback – 29 Jul 2010


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Product details

  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (29 July 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141009357
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141009353
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 63,722 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Winner of the 2009 Wolfson Prize for History and shortlisted for the Duff Cooper Prize (various )

A compulsive page-turner ... a triumph of brilliant storytelling ... an instant classic that is an awesome, remarkable and exuberant achievement (Simon Sebag Montefiore Evening Standard )

Radically alters our assumptions about how Napoleon was beaten (Andrew Roberts Daily Telegraph, Books of the Year )

(He creates) an historic canvas that is both overwhelming and meticulous ... he inevitably touches the nerve points of modern power politics. (The Economist )

A compulsive read. This master storyteller and scholar has written an instant classic that is awesome, remarkable and exuberant. (Simon Sebag Montefiore The Scotsman )

An essential reference ... the Princess would have approved. (The Spectator )

(An) erudite, monumental piece of historial research ... it's a great tale with a clear argument, baked by an impressive array of sources and detail. (Charles Clover Financial Times )

A superbly crafted book (Alexander M. Martin TLS )

A lucid and detailed account (Geoffrey Hosking London Review of Books )

From the Publisher

Winner of the 2009 Wolfson Prize for History & shortlisted for Duff Cooper Prize

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Philip on 27 Feb. 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book is a masterpiece, a work of genius. It is noteworthy that the author Dominic Lieven seems to have found a large number of his ancestors named Lieven in his story. He writes with both astonishing passion and erudition. He obviously has a great passion and love for his subject and a novelists skill at telling it. At some points the detail is almost overwhelming but not quite. It is always an enjoyable read, with characters very fully drawn. At the same time the historical detail regarding ALL the facets of Russia's war against Napoleon are very fully described.

So, a word of warning; it is by no means a light read. It may be advisable to get a general overview of Napoleons campaign in Russia, and the subsequent Liberation of Europe, before diving into this book.

It is such a joy to read the full account of the Russian struggle in the Napoleonic wars. It is about time they were given fuller credit for their part in his downfall. Very much as the Soviet Union, for all its faults, should be given the credit that it is due for its sacrifice in bearing the brunt of the war against Hitler.

Having said all this there is one glaring fault that really lets the book down - hence 4 stars, not 5. The author goes into immense detail with his descriptions of the battles - he could probably have written a book for each one. But, and it is a huge but, he does not provide the kind of maps that would help the reader to follow the battles. By chpt 12 this ommission actuallybecomes quite burdensome. He could easily have made this work into 2 vols., and have included far more maps on the pages opposite the descrptions; nice shiny colour maps would have been perfect.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By D. Timpau on 10 Dec. 2009
Format: Hardcover
Lieven's stated objective is to demolish the myth so common in Western Europe and North America, and also, surprisingly, in Russia that it was mainly the harsh weather that destroyed Napoleon's Grand Armee in Russia, and not so much the Russians themselves. He studies new and yet untapped sources and walks the battlefields to tell a story of human courage and sacrifice, of diplomacy and espionage, of pride and passion, of victory and defeat. He tells it from the point of view of the Russians to show how their ability to manage logistics, recruit and train the best cavalry of the time, and mobilize the home front turned them from potential victims of Napoleon's hunger for conquest into Europe's liberators.

Russia Against Napoleon is a history book that reads like a novel. This is Dominic Lieven at his very best. His text is rich and insightful, incredibly well researched, colourful, intellectually provocative, and at times humorous. I have just finished reading it and I see myself going back to it over and over again. It is a feast of the mind.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Sebastian Palmer TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 9 Aug. 2012
Format: Paperback
An excellent & very thorough book covering, as the subtitle makes clear, much more than just Napoleon's infamous 1812 adventure which, in a refreshing change to the norm, is entirely about the Russian perspective.

It's both interesting and welcome to see how much time and space Lieven devotes to pre and post 1812 material. There's extensive analysis of the diplomatic and geopolitical context, as well as Russia's preparation for what, even by 1810, was clearly inevitable, i.e. that Boney meant to attack The Great Bear. Indeed, it's not until p137 that Nap invades, and even then it's some time before the action begins, because the Russians opt for a strategy based on evading Napoleon, and thereby denying him his favoured 'blitzkrieg' style method.

Whereas Napoleon liked to strike hard and fast, fighting large decisive engagements in order to triumph quickly, Czar Alexander and many (but by no means all) of his senior generals correctly saw that denying Boney a quick campaign on his own terms, and instead wearing down and over-stretching him, might cause him to lose patience, then focus, and finally and inevitably lead him into making tactical and strategic mistakes, all of which duly happened. But it was neither smooth, easy, nor a foregone conclusion. The stakes were high the risks large and the drama massive, which is all part of why this gargantuan military affair remains so captivatingly interesting, nearly 200 years later.

As well as exhaustive coverage of the build up to the eventual outbreak of hostilities, Lieven also pursues the unfolding aftermath, in the campaigns of 1813-14, leading to the Battle of Nations at Leipzig.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By JWH on 30 July 2011
Format: Paperback
This is a very interesting and informative book concentrating on the Russian viewpoint of the latter parts of Napoleonic Wars. It doesn't pretend to give a general military history of the campaign, but focusses entirely on the characters, organisation and decision-making that defined the way the Russians planned for and executed their part in the struggle against Napoleon. The author is particularly strong on the relationship between Russian foreign policy, politics, internal dissension and military strategy, both during the 1812 campaign and in the subsequent fighting in Germany and France. The author is also very good at explaining the way that the Russian Army was recruited and equipped as well as capturing something of that `spirit' which motivated the men and particularly, the officers and generals.

The author takes pains to demonstrate that the French were not defeated simply by the Russian winter and that this is in fact a myth.

Although the book covers the Russians, and doesn't pretend to do anything else, I didn't find the book biased against the Imperial French. The author does not come across as an admirer of Napoleon's politics, so readers who view Napoleon as basically benevolent might find themselves disagreeing with some of the author's opinions.

The book does not cover the battles themselves in any great depth, so a reader wishing to study the battles themselves will need to consult other works. In English, Nafziger has written a study of the 1812 battles
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