Recent review of Charles XII: Warrior King

Charles XII: Warrior King was favourably reviewed in a recent issue of the Swedish history magazine, Militär Historia. In issue number 8 from 2019, author Olle Bergman provides his take on the recent anthology edited by John Hattendorg, Augustus Veenendaal, Åsa Karlsson, Margriet Lacy Bruijn, and Rolof van Hovëll tot Westerflier. Below is a rough translation of the review into English, which was generously provided by John Hattendorf:

New Perspective on Charles XII

One of the favorite books in my history library is The Union’s Queen from 1996. In that thick anthology the Kalmar Union in general and Margareta I in particular are discussed from many different viewpoints.  But that is only the beginning: even the world of art and trade during the era are covered by knowledgeable experts.

A similar book of interest for us in Northern Europe has been recently published by Karwansaray Publishers, which is known among other things for the history magazines Ancient Warfare and Medieval Warfare. Charles XII: Warrior King is the fourth volume in the series called ‘Protagonists of History in International Perspective,’ which last dealt with the British master John Churchill, duke of Marlborough. The result is impressive.

The book gathers 20 historians from 12 different countries who all contribute their special expertise and perspective. “He continues to be a source of fascination,” writes Ǻsa Karlsson in her introduction, which is illustrated well in the book’s 19 chapters. 

Even if some of the writers make use of fairly dry academic prose, the devotion shines through in the book, which is a treat for Great-Northern-War geeks.  If I can point out some favourite chapters that are naturally interesting if you want to read about Charles XII from different national perspectives, the Danish (Knud J.V. Jespersen, Odense), the Russian (Pavel A. Krotov, Saint Petersburg), and the Polish (Gabriela Majewska, Gdansk) are particularly fascinating.  Among other things, as someone from Helsingborg, I was struck by what a reputation Magnus Stenbock (rightly) has in Poland. Of course, the Turkish, Dutch British, French and Habsburg perspectives also contribute new insights.

Another arresting chapter is Werner Scheltjens (University of Leipzig) data-rich analysis of how Baltic trade influenced the Great Northern War. And the final chapter where art historian Inga Lena Ångström Grandien (Uppsala) analyses the portraits of Charles XII, depicting his psychological journey through life in a very different way (but telling story) — from rosy cherub to grim loser.

Charles XII: Warrior King is a bold and extremely ambitious book production. Just like The Union’s Queen, the book weighs two kilos, distributed over around 450 richly-illustrated pages. That means there is a price to pay, and with our weak kronor, Charles XII buffs have to pay more than 1,300 kronor. Can a book be worth so much in the era of digital reading and listening?I will want it because the material is so rich that it will likely be used for a new biography.

Charles XII: Warrior King is available for immediate purchase via the Karwansaray Publishers webshop, through our partner Casemate Publishers, or on Amazon.com.

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