Friday, August 27, 2010
The Battle That Shook Europe: Poltava and the Birth of the Russian Empire by Peter Englund
Being very much interested in Russian and military history, this was a book I had been meaning to read. In the end, I'm surprised and very much glad I finally got to it. Englund is an historian but this book was not written as per the usual guidelines for a historical monograph. There is no theory or methodology laid out nor is there an argument professed beyond the title of the book (Poltava marked the birth of the Russian Empire). That being said, this book is excellent for what it is and what it sets out to do. Aside from the campaign undertaken by Sweden against Russia, this book is also an excellent introduction to the history of warfare during the seventeenth and eighteenth century. The reasons for why the Swedish go to war, including political, economic, and military. The role officers and soldiers played on the field of battle, that of infantry, cavalry, grenadiers, standard-bearers, etc. The attention remains on that of the Swedish troops and officers so don't expect much in terms of the Russian side. Finally, the overall account of the battle is well written and relies on a plethora of sources, including a multitude of eye-witness accounts, which really makes this an engrossing read.