Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Who defeated Napoleon?

[Above is a picture of the Russian general Kutizov at Borodino in 1812.]

You might be interested in this review in the Spectator of Dominic Lieven's Russia against Napoleon (Allen Lane, 2009).

This quotation from the review gives a flavour of the whole:
What [Lieven] is keen to demonstrate is that because the campaigns of 1813-14 are generally buried, so to speak, beneath the snows of 1812, the real quality of the Russian army remains unseen. For here was an army that followed up its success by fighting through Prussia all the way to Paris, a considerable feat of logistics, command and control as well as of arms — and without the depredations of the Red Army the following century. Indeed, when they marched home again, Alexander’s troops were feted in many a German town.
In all this, Lieven makes a compelling case that Russia is the biggest gap in contemporary Western understanding of the Napoleonic era, and that study reveals a hitherto hidden military quality. The book stands, therefore, as an essential reference.