I’ll have to look for this book, my knowledge of this era is fairly shallow.
The Crimean War was the first major war to be covered by professional foreign correspondents, who reported on the disastrous blundering of commanders and the horrors of medical treatment at the battlefront. Today, we remember fragmentary stories: the charge of the Light Brigade, symbolizing the blundering; Florence Nightingale, for the medical treatment. But the real war has faded away, eclipsed by the two vastly worse world wars that were to come.
Still, the Crimean War — in which three-quarters of a million soldiers and untold multitudes of civilians perished — shattered almost four decades of European peace. It inflamed Russia’s rivalry with the Ottoman Empire over the Balkans, providing the tinder for World War I. And by thwarting Russian’s ambitions in Europe, it made possible the fatal rise of Germany.
In “The Crimean War: A History,” Orlando Figes restores the conflict — which predated the American Civil War by eight years — as “a major turning point” in European and Middle Eastern history. He argues forcefully that it was “the earliest example of a truly modern war — fought with new industrial technologies, modern rifles, steamships and railways, novel forms of logistics and communication like the telegraph, important innovations in military medicine and war reporters and photographers directly on the scene.” The ferocious yearlong siege of Sevastopol “was a precursor of the industrialized trench warfare” of World War I.
The war itself was initiated when religious squabbles over holy places in the Ottoman towns of Jerusalem and Bethlehem prompted Russia to march troops into present-day Romania, threatening the partition of Ottoman lands. In response, the Ottoman Empire declared war, and Britain and France rallied to its defense. The devastating combat around the Black Sea proved unbearable for Russia: two-thirds of the soldiers killed in the war were Russian. After losing Sevastopol, Russia accepted a humiliating peace.
Figes, a renowned professor of history at the University of London, might be thought the loneliest of creatures, the Crimean War buff. But his history is a huge success
(click here to continue reading Book Review – The Crimean War – By Orlando Figes – NYTimes.com.)