Book Review: The Great Northern War Compendium edited by Steve Kling

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the author and/or publisher. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own]

The Great Northern War Compendium is a massive two-volume work that covers just about everything you ever wanted to know about the Great Northern War (assuming you have ever heard of this obscure to English speakers war), and probably some that you don’t.

Some stats.  The two volumes together comprise 660 pages consisting of over 70 articles arranged in chronological order from the wars beginning in 1700 to its conclusion in 1721.  Each volume has an index and in addition there is an appendix in volume with a large list of museums with artifacts related to the Great Northern War at locations in the region where the war was fought.

The vast majority of the articles have to with the different battles and campaigns fought during the war throughout the Baltic region.  They are written from the perspectives of the various combatants, mostly by scholars native to the combatant countries.  The articles are not cited but each articles contains a small bibliographical list of suggested reading to learn more about the subject of the article.

There are also articles that deal with the make-up, organization, training, doctrine, and even unit insignia and uniforms of the combatants.  The attention to detail in these articles is a testament to the quest for exactitude within the historical gaming community because it is really only those groups and archaeologists that get that down into the weeds about uniform details and unit flags.  The uniform articles are fascinating reading although they do not really add to our understanding of the course of the war.  The articles about doctrine and organization are relevant through as the state of training and discipline in the various armies had much to do with battlefield success.

The articles are all uniformly well written.  I did not find myself having to slog through any of them.  The prose is tight and engaging and the length of the articles is just right to keep the reader engaged without getting bored.  The organization of the book keeps the pace going and I did not notice any glaring editorial errors.

This book I not for everybody.  The person with a casual interest in history would probably put it down but for any serious student of military history this is an outstanding resource on a period of European history that is all but ignored outside of the countries where it was fought.  Most European history books for the English speaking world mention that the Great Northern War occurred and that is about it.  This book fills a large gap in English language historiography about this large conflict that was formative for the Baltic region and it is long past due that a work like this appeared to fill a gap in scholarship.

I highly recommend this in-depth and easy to read history of an ignored episode.

The book is not available on Amazon at the time of this review although it will be available for purchase directly from the publisher THGC Publishing at: