Monday, 7 September 2015

Book Review: 1864: The Forgotten War that Shaped Modern Europe

1864: The Forgotten War that Shaped Modern Europe1864: The Forgotten War that Shaped Modern Europe by Tom Buk-Swienty
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really wanted to like this book more than I did. I've always been interested in the Dano-Prussian War, also known as the Second Schleswig War. In 1864, Prussia and Austria went to war against Denmark over control of the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. The war led to Denmark losing the duchies and made Otto von Bismark's career, giving him the political clout invade France in 1870 and then unifying Germany.
So it's an important war, and this book is a popular-level but detailed look at the political situation as well as the war's main battle.
Unfortunately, it misses the mark. The text is rather disorganized, jumping around from one subject to another and it appears to be the victim of bad translation. In a couple of spots the actions of the Danes and Prussians are switched. Also, there are proper names in the captions that are spelled differently than they are in the text. I'm thinking that this isn't the fault of the author, who is obviously familiar with his subject, but rather that the fault lies with the translator or copyeditor.
Other problems abound. There is no good operational map, many photos are reproduced at such a small size that they are difficult to see, and the author assumes knowledge that may be obvious to his original Danish audience, but not to outsiders.
The fact that this got glowing reviews in Danish tells me this is a good book badly mishandled by its English language publishers. That's a shame. Here's hoping that a second edition will come out that will correct these errors.

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