Historical Dictionary of the Crimean War. By Guy Arnold. Historical Dictionaries of War, Revolution, and Civil Unrest, No. 19. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2002. ISBN 0-8108-4276-9. Maps. Bibliography. Pp. xxvi, 179. $49.00. [End Page 238]
The Crimean War, 1854-56, encompasses much more than a catalogue of unprecedented maladministration and unimaginable soldier privation juxtaposed with tremendous military heroism. It can be considered a case study in diplomacy and crisis management, as the major European powers—Great Britain, France, and Russia—and their efforts to maintain or destabilize the balance of power in Europe through their policies and war over the "sick man of Europe," the Ottoman Empire, paved the way for the First World War. More importantly, the Crimean War marked a watershed between the Napoleonic way of war and, the result of advances in technology and weaponry, a new and evolving tactical and operational paradigm.
Guy Arnold, who has written extensively on Africa and international organizations, wrote the Historical Dictionary of the Crimean War to "highlight the different aspects of the war that newcomers to the subject might wish to pursue while also giving a clear picture of its many different facets" (pp. vii-viii). This volume begins with three generally adequate maps, followed by a four-page chronology, which is very general and neglects to note naval and land operations in the Baltic and White Seas and Pacific Ocean. An eight-page Introduction follows, providing an overview of the "Causes of the War," "The Course of the War," "The Battles of Alma, Balaclava, and Inkerman," "Political Changes in Britain," and "The Treaty of Paris." Selected terms and names are boldfaced in the Introduction, which indicates cross-referencing to a separate and more detailed entry in the "Dictionary" portion of the book.
The 153-page "Dictionary" is the meat of this work. It contains almost 160 relatively detailed and cross-referenced, although generally Anglo-centric, entries on persons, "places, events, battles, sieges, armaments, and auxiliary services" (p. vii). One can always question an author's criteria for inclusion of a specific entry, such as "Gordon, General Charles George," who was only a subaltern in the Crimea, and a major general, not a general, when he was killed in 1885—a distinction that needs to be made for a historical dictionary to be authoritative. While Gordon is included, Lieutenant General Sir Richard England, commander of the 3d Division, is not. With entries frequently shorter than one page in length, a number of myths are perpetuated, such as the exaggerated role of Florence Nightingale in Crimean War nursing. In another example, while properly emphasizing the upper class social status of most British Army officers, it is incorrect to state "the leading officers were all titled" (p. 30). In general terms, most entries are informative and helpful. The twenty-three page "Bibliography," divided into categories, provides general references, including a number of foreign language sources, for further reading and research.
The Historical Dictionary of the Crimean War, while rather
high-priced, is a useful tool for the neophyte Crimean War student
Harold E. Raugh, Jr.
American Military University