Books I'm Reading: The Crimean War by Orlando Figes (July 18, 2013)
The Crimean War--a long-ago war often referred to but one that people seem to know little about anymore. Having said something on that subject to my mother a while back, she gave me a copy of The Crimean War (Picador, 2010), by Orlando Figes, a succinct, well written account of the conflict, which seems sadly relevant today. The opening chapters dealing with the causes of the war and the war aims of the nations involved sound eerily familiar--involving much squabbling over rights of access to sacred sites in the holy lands, religious jingoism, squabbling about territorial boundaries in the Balkans, jockeying for political influence, and irredentist meddling. Figes brings to life the political background but also the horrors of the fighting, particularly during the siege of Sevastopol for both those in the bombarded city and the ill-equipped soldiers besieging the place. Much sounds depressingly familiar. Perhaps governments should have ministries of history to help avoid pointless wars that repeat the idiotic mistakes of the past. About the only good thing to have emerged from the Crimean War appears to have be an historically new concern for the well being of the common soldier. The blunders of the Crimean War led to real reform (especially in Britain) in sanitation and medical care, military organization, and recognition of merit. That Sebastopol, California, the town neighboring Santa Rosa to the west, is named after the siege is testament to the widespread impact reporting on the war had around the world. A worthwhile read.