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The Battle That Shook Europe: Poltava and the Birth of the Russian Empire Paperback – November 29, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-1860648472 ISBN-10: 1860648479

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: I. B. Tauris (November 29, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1860648479
  • ISBN-13: 978-1860648472
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #798,824 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"The most outstanding brilliant military history I've ever read" --Sunday Telegraph

About the Author

Peter Englund is a Professor at Uppsala University.

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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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This book was an incredible read!
Homunculus
Some clues are found in the revolutionary way of raising the Swedish Army and the skilful leadership of Charles XII.
Rodney J. Szasz
It makes an excellent starting point for delving into warfare of the era.
Dimitrios

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Harald Groven on July 12, 2003
Format: Paperback
Englund's make me feel I'm reading the news from an "embedded" war correspondent reporting from three centuries ago!
After reading (the Swedish edition of) "Poltava" five years ago, I have read all of his six other books. I haven't read any other historians that resembles Englund's unique style. The closest must be either Barbara W Tuchmans "Distant mirror", Antony Beevor or perhaps even LeRoy Ladruie's "Montaillou".
Why was almost the entire Swedish(+Finnish) army slaughtered or captured in Ukraine on a hot summer day in 1709? Englund has been able to reconstruct the the story of the most disastrous battle in the Swedish history minute by minute. Based on reading of a wealth of primary sources, this documentary novel provides the ultimate introduction to the enigma of how it was possible for poor and sparsely populated country like Sweden to play a guest role as a greater European military power ("Prussia of the north") c1600-1814.
Englund doesn't write strictly traditional style military history: He explains Charles XII's campaign by both economic, political, cultural in addition to the traditional strategic causes. This broad approach to military history has later been developed further in Englund's trilogy about Sweden's 17th century wars. (Unfortunately not yet translated to English. In this trilogy Englund writes Braudel-style "l'histoire totale", discussing all aspect of daily life and mentalities of 17th century Europe to put the warfare in it's complete context.) Englund de-emphasizes any positive significance of military leadership in 1800th century battles. Englund distances himself from any attempts to point out a "scapegoat" for the disastrous decision to go to battle at Poltava.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By isala on May 3, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book was originally published in 1988. Its success took everyone by surprise, including the author, then a freshly baked historian at Uppsala University, Sweden. It has retained its bestseller status in Sweden ever since. Now, this excellent book about an important, but comparatively unknown event in world history, has been reissued in the U.S.
Peter Englund follows in the footsteps of Edward Gibbon, who taught that good history should also be good literature. The direct inspiration for this book was John Prebble's 1963 classic book Culloden
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By R. W. Levesque on March 19, 2006
Format: Paperback
Englund has written a detailed history of a key battle fought between Sweden and Russia in 1709. Although an interesting book it often becomes bogged down in its detail, both in terms of statistics and in terms of its description of the battle. The book is also limited in that it's told exclusively from the Swedish standpoint. There is little, if any, information from the Russian perspective that may have given more insight into how and why the battle evolved as it did.

However, the book is not without merit. The description of the Swedish army preparing for battle and its later disintegration as attrition and the fog of war took over, is key in understanding why the Swedes lost and allows insight into the impact of the fog of war. It also allows insight into how quickly that factor becomes real once a battle has been joined. Englund does an excellent job of describing the events leading up to the battle especially as they apply to the condition of the Swedish army on the eve of Poltava and its impact on why the Swedish king chose to fight when and how he did.

Despite the book's subtitle, Englund does little to link Poltava to the rise of Russia. Although it appears this is a generally accepted truth, he does not put the battle in the context of the Great Northern War, which didn't end until 1721.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Dimitrios on October 2, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book ranks amongst the very best military history I have ever read. It incorporates a detailed account of Charles XII's campaign that led his army deep into Ukraine, the action at Poltava, clear portraits of the main actors and moving accounts of what happened to so many of the ordinary Swedish soldiers (the wealth of information that the writer has for such an old battle is really astonishing). As it says on the cover, it pulls no punches about fighting. It makes an excellent starting point for delving into warfare of the era. I was especially impressed by the descriptions of the artillery fire and its consequences, the terrible fate of the wounded, the sacrifices made by the Swedish soldiers in order to save their king and the paradox ethics of warfare at that time. The book is mainly focused on the Swedish side with the Russians mentioned in a general and not so analytical way. Thus the subtitle on the cover should rather be "Potlava and the Demise of the Swedish Empire".
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Homunculus on November 6, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book was an incredible read! It was especially interesting to read about the Battle of Poltava from the Swedish perspective. Most authors view the battle from the Russian perspective.
Englund certainly takes a defeatist attitude with the novel, much like Charles XII in his military campaigns. It made the reader feel the emotions of the characters in the battle.
I do feel that Englund's nostalgia for the Swedes got in the way sometimes. He seemed to overinflate the Swedes only to tear them down ceremoniously when the Russians turn the tide of the battle. No doubt the Swedes were very brave and able, but I think the book was a little overly-subjective.
All in all, I absolutely loved the book! It was not like reading a dusty old history book. It was more like reading a war novel as Englund weaves in the thoughts and actions of the troops and leaders.
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