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Crimean texts

A basic bibliography

This is not one of those exhaustive (and exhausting!) lists of hard-to-find, long-out-of-print volumes beloved of academics, but a description of some basic books which most public libraries should be able to supply without difficulty and which newcomers to the subject may find useful.

Denis Judd, The Crimean War, Hart-Davis, MacGibbon Ltd, 1975

a volume in the British at War series edited by Ludovic Kennedy

A useful introduction which in less than 200 pages covers the whole of the war from its origins to its aftermath, including theatres of conflict outside the Crimea. It is replete with facts, including some orders of battle, and profusely illustrated with photographs, drawings, and maps. Inevitably, perhaps, it smacks of a school textbook, and some of the picture captions are suspect. (Fenton's photograph of the Valley of Death is printed in the chapter on the Battle of Balaklava, implying that it is the North Valley, and the famous painting of Cardigan recounting the battle to Prince Albert and the Royal children is captioned "Lord Cardigan explaining the triumphs and trials of the war to his family"!) Such minor faults are forgivable in comparison with its obvious virtues.

Trevor Royle, Crimea, Abacus, 2000

For anyone who wants a more detailed account than Judd's of the whole war, this is the book. Readable and thoughtful, it also has a superb index which makes it a useful work of reference.

W Baring Pemberton, Battles of the Crimean War, Pan Books, 1968

(a volume in the British Battles series)

As the title suggests, this work is concerned mainly with the military engagements of the Crimea campaign, but adequate linking material preserves its continuity. It includes ample quotations from the letters and memoirs of participants, together with a useful reminder in the Preface that these are often contradictory. As a blow-by-blow account of all the major battles (Alma, Balaclava, Inkerman, the Redan) it cannot be bettered.

Mark Adkin, The Charge, Leo Cooper, 1996

A much needed detailed description of the famous action, carefully describing the positions of the participants and the timing of events. Unfortunately it suffers from careless editing (for example, Chersonese is spelt 'Cheronese' throughout, Fitz Maxse is referred to as 'Fritz,' and Colonel Shewell is sometimes referred to as 'Sherwell'). The narrative style employed, jumping to and fro in time, makes for enjoyable reading but limits the book's value as a work of reference. Nowhere else, however, will you find a description of the charge as detailed and as accurate as this.

Cecil Woodham-Smith, The Reason Why, Constable, 1953

Penguin edition, 1958

I list this book with some misgivings. It is well known and popular, and has formed the basis of many a subsequent account of the charge. It is often referred to, and is therefore required reading for anyone interested in the charge. The book outlines the careers of Lord Lucan and Lord Cardigan both before and during the Crimean War, and in doing so makes entertaining and informative reading. Unfortunately its somewhat catchpenny title implies that the disaster of the charge was due entirely to the character and behaviour of these two men. Dramatically appealing as that idea is, in reality it is little short of ludicrous. Careful reading of Woodham-Smith's account of the crucial events reveals that she did not in fact believe it herself. Many careless readers however have assumed that the book proves more than it claims. The book has founded a line of thought that distracts from proper study of the charge. Read it with care.

Christopher Hibbert, The Destruction of Lord Raglan, Longman, Green & Co Ltd, 1951

A disappointing book. The author starts by observing No biography of Lord Raglan has yet been published. He then signally fails to make good the deficiency. By page 9 England is at war with Russia and a 65 year old Raglan is about to lead the Army of the East off to do battle. From then on the book is little more than a Readers Digest version of Kinglake and, like that work, leaves us wondering how a commander deserving of such praise could have been so ineffective. We are left with no better understanding of Raglan than we started with. Nevertheless this book, like Woodham-Smith's, is referred to so frequently that students of the Crimean War would be unwise to ignore it.

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