Book Review: Byron's War: Romantic Rebellion, Greek Revolution


by Roderick Beaton

New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Pp. xviii, 338. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $27.99 paper. ISBN: 1107470382

Lord Byron at War

Essentially the first book to seriously look at Byron’s experiences during the Greek War for Independence, although primarily focused on Byron’s activities and the country’s influence on his life and writings, in telling that story, Prof. Beaton (Richard Stockton) does more.  He also gives the reader a rather comprehensive overview of the opening years of the Greek War for Independence (1821-1824), in which the poet was deeply involved , a subject largely overlooked in English historical literature .

Beaton’s account of the war naturally reflects Byron’s role, which, despite the poet’s apparent desires, was not a combatant one.  So while Beaton gives us an outline of the military events, we learn much more about conditions under Ottoman rule, the politics and diplomacy of revolution, the complexities of forging a common “front” from among several Greek factions, and revolutionary finance, a matter in which Byron’s great personal wealth played an important role. 

In addition to Byron, Beaton also introduces us to quite a number of interesting, now largely forgotten characters, Ali Pasha, the Gamba family, Alexandros Mavrocordatos, and more.  So despite some limitations, given the lack of a good recent English history of the Greek War for Independence, Byron’s War is likely to be of value to those interested in popular revolutionary movements and organization, the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, and 19th century international revolutionary volunteerism.

Note: Byron’s War is also available in hardback, $50.00, ISBN 978-1-107-03308-5


Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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