by Gabriele Esposito, illustrations by Giuseppe Riva
Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2019. Pp. 48.
Illus., maps, chron., biblio., index. $19.00 paper. ISBN: 147283349X
A Handbook on a Neglected War
Little known in the English-speaking world, the Great Northern War one of the largest conflicts of the early eighteenth century, and was critical to shaping northern Europe for the next century. Involving every country in the Baltic region and eastern Europe, the war dragged on for almost two decades, as campaigns sprawled from Denmark to St. Petersburg to Ukraine, and had a high body count (30 percent of military aged Swedish men died in it). The war was dominated by two of the most notable figures in modern history, Peter the Great of Russia and Charles XII of Sweden, the latter considered by Napoleon to be one of the Great Captains of history.
So while this little book by Esposito and Riva, well known for many earlier works (e.g., Armies of the War of the Triple Alliance, Armies of Early Colonial North America) is on the face of it, about uniforms and organization, it’s actually an excellent “first book” about this extraordinary war, covering strategy, operations, tactics, and more. As is the case in any book, they naturally have to leave out many events, both informative and at times amusing (so, for example, we don’t get an account of the “porridge battle” of Veprik). Armies of the Great Northern War gives us a good outline of why there was a war, what the armies were like, the general course of events, and the consequences.
A volume in the Osprey “Men-at-Arms” series, Armies of the Great Northern War is recommended for anyone unfamiliar with this very important but obscure conflict who wishes to learn something about it.
Note: Armies of the Great Northern War is also available in several e-editions.
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