A superb, gripping and sweeping piece of writing by a great narrative historian
The terrible conflict that dominated the mid 19th century, the Crimean War killed at least 800,000 men and pitted Russia against a formidable coalition of Britain, France and the Ottoman Empire. It was a war for territory, provoked by fear that if the Ottoman Empire were to collapse then Russia could control a huge swathe of land from the Balkans to the Persian Gulf. But it was also a war of religion, driven by a fervent, populist and ever more ferocious belief by the Tsar and his ministers that it was Russia's task to rule all Orthodox Christians and control the Holy Land.
Orlando Figes' major new book reimagines this extraordinary war, in which the stakes could not have been higher and which was fought with a terrible mixture of ferocity and incompetence. It was both a recognisably modern conflict - the first to be extensively photographed, the first to employ the telegraph, the first 'newspaper war' - and a traditional one, with illiterate soldiers, amateur officers and huge casualties caused by disease. Drawing on a huge range of fascinating sources, Figes also gives the lived experience of the war, from that of the ordinary British soldier in his snow-filled trench, to the haunted, gloomy, narrow figure of Tsar Nicholas himself as he vows to take on the whole world in his hunt for religious salvation.
Praise for Crimea
This is the only book on the Crimean War anyone could need. It is lucid, well-written, alive and sensitive. Above all, it tells us why this neglected conflict and its forgotten victims deserve our remembranceOliver Bullough, The Independent
This is a heart-rending book ... its importance cannot be overestimated ... This book should be made compulsory reading in Russia todayAntony Beevor, author of 'Stalingrad'
A wonderful subject, on every level, and with Orlando Figes it has found the historian worthy of its width and depthNorman Stone, Standpoint
Not only does Figes take care to tell the Russian side of the story where the fighting is concerned; he also gives a panoramic account of the political background, explaining the 'Eastern Question', the ambitions if the warmongering French ruler Napoleon III and, above all, the mentality of the Russian Tsars, Nicholas I and Alexander II, who began and ended the war ... An impressive piece of historical writingNoel Malcolm, Sunday Telegraph
Orlando Figes ... is back doing what he does best - telling us things about Russia and the world that we did not know, and proving that they are important to our understanding of the world today ... With his deep understanding of Russia and its uncomfortable opposition in the world, Figes elegantly underlines how the cold war of the Soviet era froze over fundamental fault lines that had opened up in the 19th centuryAngus MacQueen, The Observer
It is a fine stirring account, expertly balancing analysis with a patchwork of quotation from a wide variety of spectators and participants, together with an impressive narrative across the vast panoramic sweep of the war ... However, the book's true originality lies in its unravelling of the Crimean War's religious originsMark Bostridge, Financial Times
Keenly judged, vivid history of a bloody and pointless conflictSunday Times Culture
An exhaustively researched, beautifully written bookSaul David, BBC History
One of our most engaging narrative historians, Orlando Figes has produced with his latest book a rollickingly good account of a war that shocked mid-Victorian England ... intelligent and reliable history ... Figes is a stylish and compelling narratorLesley Chamberlain, Literary Review
An impressive piece of scholarship ... a concise portrait of the political situation of the timeTelegraph Books of the Year 2010
While reading this excellent book I could not help but marvel at the many parallels with the presentAnne Applebaum, Spectator
A stellar historian. As ever, it mixes strong narrative pace, a grand canvas and compelling ideas about current geopolitical tensionsTristram Hunt, Observer Best Books of the Year: 2010
A sparkling and in passages brilliant account ... it stands amply and slendidly on its own two feetDavid Hearst, Guardian
A first-class historian, as his splendid new book, an epic account of the Crimean War of 1853-56, amply demonstratesDaily Telegraph
A model of wide-lens military historyDan Jones, The Times (Christmas books 2010)
Wonderful ... an amazing panoramic view ... I've rarely read anything like itClaire Tomalin
A masterful account of lost and stolen livesSunday Times
Awesome ... one of the most unforgettable books I have ever read. I defy anyone to read it without weeping at its human suffering, cruelty and courage ... in this book these righteous heroes have their rightful memorialSimon Sebag Montefiore, Mail on Sunday