Tuesday, December 27, 2016
Review of Crimea by Orlando Figes (Penguin, 2010)
Orlando Figes provides what one blurb calls ‘wide-angled history’ of the war, drawing on a range of sources to cover the conflict from all perspectives. The result is a very detailed account of the war, including an extended introduction charting the pathway into the war, and an extended epilogue that documents its short and long-term consequences with respect to European affairs and the political map. In particular, he details the geopolitical context to the war and the various machinations at work, as well as the key political and military personalities within the various nations, and each of the main battles. By drawing on personal diaries and newspaper coverage he provides intimate details of bloody encounters and political intrigue. The book thus provides a fascinating account of the context for and surrounding the war, as well as its actual prosecution. In many ways, however, the telling could have done with a bit of an edit. In its ambition to be the most thorough and balanced account of the war, it ends up being overly long, with too much context prior to and after the war, and often too much detail concerning its various elements (there are dozens of vignettes of various minor personalities, for example, which while interesting are effectively asides). This will be a huge plus for some readers, but for me put too many trees in the woods. Nonetheless, it is an impressive piece of scholarship and certainly informs the reader about all aspects of the conflict and its aftermath.