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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Study of a Neglected War
This book is based upon reseaarch into the Austrian Military Archives not previously used by authors writing in English.
Wawro explodes the myth of the Austrian General Benedek as a competent commander betrayed by unruly subordinates. He demonstrates that Benedek was a fumbling inept general who threw away chances of victory and whose staff tried to rewrite...
Published on 18 Feb 2006 by Amazon Customer

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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Curate's Egg.
The title of this brief review comes from a famous cartoon published in Punch magazine (the New Yorker of 19th century London) in 1895. In it a young clergyman, when served a bad egg by his host exclaims, 'Oh no my Lord I assure you, parts of it are excellent'. So with Dr. Wawro's book, excellent in parts, but only in parts.

If a military historian wants to be...
Published on 19 April 2010 by G. Henry


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Study of a Neglected War, 18 Feb 2006
This review is from: The Austro-Prussian War: Austria's War with Prussia and Italy in 1866 (Paperback)
This book is based upon reseaarch into the Austrian Military Archives not previously used by authors writing in English.
Wawro explodes the myth of the Austrian General Benedek as a competent commander betrayed by unruly subordinates. He demonstrates that Benedek was a fumbling inept general who threw away chances of victory and whose staff tried to rewrite history.
Not only this but his accounts of the battles are vivid if tragic. One cannnot feel anything but sadness and horror as he describes how the white coated Austrian infantry in obsolete columns throw themselves at better armed and trained Prussians and are cut down in droves.
If you have any interest in 19th Century Warfare you must buy this book.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Curate's Egg., 19 April 2010
By 
G. Henry (Scotland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Austro-Prussian War: Austria's War with Prussia and Italy in 1866 (Paperback)
The title of this brief review comes from a famous cartoon published in Punch magazine (the New Yorker of 19th century London) in 1895. In it a young clergyman, when served a bad egg by his host exclaims, 'Oh no my Lord I assure you, parts of it are excellent'. So with Dr. Wawro's book, excellent in parts, but only in parts.

If a military historian wants to be taken seriously then in my opinion he cannot afford to make simple errors of scholarship on page one. To claim that Fontenoy was fought in 1743 suggests either ignorance, carelessness, poor editing, or a combination of all three. Unfortunately this isn't the only factual error to be found in the text, for example and in no particular order; the sun couldn't have glinted on the Austrian Cuirassiers body armour at Koniggratz as they had divested themselves of the breastplate in 1862; Prussian 'schrapnel' didn't burst in the Austrian ranks as the Prussians had no air burst capability in 1866; the introduction of the rifled musket did not increase the range of the infantryman to 1200m!; an Austrian field hospital at Koniggratz couldn't have been overun by 8000 Austrian Cuirassiers as there were probably no more than 5000 Cuirassiers on all parts of the field in total. And so it goes on, page after page of foolish errors and hyperbole combining to irritate the informed reader and, more seriously, to reduce his faith in the author's credibility. Add to this an unfair and almost pathological distain for the non-Germanic elements of the Austrian army* and Dr. Wawro's book begins to look decidedly thin. He makes great play of his extensive primary source research (and it is impressive) yet offers no evidence for, for example, Von Poschacher's successful fire-fight defense at Brada, surely one of the most extraordinary incidents of the whole Jicin battle and a fascinating jump off for 'what ifs', but no primary source is adduced to back up what might simply be anecdote.
And yet, and yet ... there are good parts in this book, actually, some very good parts. When he can bring himself to stop despising slavs his narrative style is pacy and lucid. He manages to give the reader an excellent overview of events and the wealth of new material his research has thrown up is truly impressive. What Dr. Wawro's book lacks is good, firm editing. It could have been a truly excellent contribution to the literature of the period, instead its only excellent in parts; what a pity.

*Here Dr. Wawro has 'previous form', as we say in the UK, i.e. he has transgressed before. In an essay he wrote some years ago he twists an innocent if somewhat exasperated Austrian officer's expression of frustration at his men's poor shooting - 'They shoot like pigs', into something altogether nastier - 'An Army of Pigs', not the same thing at all.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly but Uninspiring, 21 July 2006
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This review is from: The Austro-Prussian War: Austria's War with Prussia and Italy in 1866 (Paperback)
This book was full of the details of this neglected war, one which I wanted to learn more about.

But whilst the book was scholarly (filled with references for example) and also comprehensive, giving a full account, in chronological order, of each and all of the skirmishes and mini battles that led up to the final denouement at Konigratz (Sadow), several things seemed to be missing.

Firstly, more maps would have helped me properly understand the troop movements and the terrain.

Secondly I needed an appendix with the chain of command in the armies. I found it very hard to follow the characters and exactly who was doing what. Some have similar names for example Prince Friedrich Karl and Prince Friedrich Willhelm, whilst others seemed to change their title and position during the conflict. I kept checking -- was this the person who previously was doing such and such on page y, or not. A list of the major characters at the end, together with the particular bit of army the were commanding, and when, would have been invaluable.

But most serious of all it didn't seem to give the big picture. I was looking for the grand themes as well as the detail and they seemed either absent or simplistic. For example I was left thinking that the Germans won simply because a) they had a better gun and b) the Austrians were incompetent. Wawro seems rather dismissive of the loser.

Despite these limitations I'm not sure you'll find a better book on the topic. His other book on the Franco Prussian war is much better!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Well worth a read, but sloppy., 11 Mar 2012
As others have commented, this is a mixed bag. Yes, there are sloppy factual errors, getting the date of the Battle of Fontenoy wrong was particularly jarring; yes, there was a rather irritating overuse (or misuse) of the word 'disbanded'; yes, the author seems to display a sometimes disconcerting dismissiveness towards non-Germanic elements in the Austrian army.

That said, he presents the campaign on both the German and Italian fronts in a clear way so that it is easy to follow the course of the action and understand how events unfolded. There are also frequent, reasonably clear maps (often something that is overlooked in military history books) that help the reader to follow events. His description of the battles is masterful, as you feel yourself plunged into the thick of the action and almost holding your breath as the climax of the Battle of Konigratz approaches, even if you are familiar already with how the battle ended. His account shows a rare compassion, making you feel for the doomed Austrians as they advance into the devastating fire of the Prussian needle guns (at one point I recall he referred to a particular Austrian brigade with the words 'these poor men...').

All in all this is a flawed book but still one well worth reading, and I feel it has added to my rather skimpy knowledge of the period. I give it three stars, but with a bit of careful editing it could easily have been four.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very readable account, 28 Oct 2014
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This review is from: The Austro-Prussian War: Austria's War with Prussia and Italy in 1866 (Paperback)
A very enjoyable read and a clear explanation of this little known war. I have tried reading this campaign before in other books but have ground to a halt due to tedious detail but Wawro's account held my attention to the very last page. Highly recommended.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disbanded?, 26 July 2010
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This review is from: The Austro-Prussian War: Austria's War with Prussia and Italy in 1866 (Paperback)
I have titled this review after Wawro's favourite word. It is only used of Austrian forces and means variously: 'stopped, shaken, interpenetrated, losing, disordered,running,fired upon by nasty needle guns etc'. It is NOT used to mean what everyone else thinks the word means - 'no longer embodied as a force on a permanent basis'. I can't make up my mind whether this is a deliberate use of a word to reflect Austrian archival usage - or a lack of familiarity with military terms.

This problem pervades the book. Are we being treated to unique insights drawn from in depth research of primary sources, or are we receiving the biased perceptions of an academic writing of inadequately grasped military matters? Or is it both? I suspect that to be the case. Ironically, the prose is far better than that of most miltary writers and the treatment of the development of the Battle of Konigrgratz is masterful. I was almost panting as I read, carried by the surge to and fro of the description.

Apparently the book was based on Wawro's PhD thesis. If I had repeated myself so much in mine, I would have been suspected of regarding my supervisor as a moron. Even the most limited reader will be fed up with constant harping on the failings of Benedek. Surely his actions speak for themselves? The need to ram home the most obvious points makes the reader feel quite patronised. It is not as if the English speaking reader already had an entrenched belief in the genius of Benedek. 'The Lion of Soferino' is not even much regarded in Austria today.

Finally, I would very much have liked Wawro to let us know what happened to the Austrian generals and their men after Konigratz. He only tells us what happened to the nations. It is not even made clear how the enquiry into the conduct of the war went. I seem to remember that most Austrian senior protagonists were forbidden to discuss it ever again, but what actually happened to them would give a good idea of how they were regarded subsequently. Clearly from the footnotes one can see that a lot of more junior officers wrote scathing memoirs. Authors like Richard Holmes and John Keegan (eg Six armies in Normandy) are able to seamlessly draw together the individual and personal with the social and strategic. Wawro will dramatically improve in his next book, but never develop the 'common touch'.
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