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Russia Against Napoleon: The Battle for Europe, 1807 to 1814

Dominic Lieven|
Penguin (1 October 2009)

This book tells the story of one of the most astonishing dramas in Europe's history. In the summer of 1812 after years of uneasy peace, Napoleon, the master of almost the whole continent, marched into Russia with the largest army ever assembled, confident that he would sweep everything before him. Less than two years later the Russian army was itself marching into Paris and Napoleon's empire lay in ruins.

Using an array of new, rare and surprising sources, Dominic Lieven writes with great panache and insight to describe from the Russians' viewpoint how they went from retreat, defeat and the burning of Moscow to becoming the new liberators of Europe. He conveys the savagery and valour of the fighting (including such huge set-pieces as the Battle of Leipzig), the often tense diplomacy that held together the Allied coalition against Napoleon and the astonishing feats of supply which allowed the Russian army to cut its way across Europe.The consequences of these events could not have been more important: after a whole generation of fighting, Europe (except for the brief coda of Waterloo) was at peace and France's global pretensions at an end. But the great winners, Britain and Russia, now presented new nightmares for the rest of the world.

Much more than just battlefield history, Russia Against Napoleon is also the story of how Russia's home front was mobilised against Napoleon and how much the Russian people suffered in pursuit of victory. It is too the story of one of the most successful espionage operations in history. Ultimately this book shows, memorably and brilliantly, Russia embarking on its strange, central role in Europe's existence, as both threat and protector - a role that continues, in all its complexity, into our own lifetimes.

  • Dominic Lieven is Professor of Russian History in the Department of International History at LSE

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Russia Against Napoleon