Crimean Quagmire

Tolstoy, Russell and the Birth of Modern Warfare

August 2024 9781911723639 264pp
Forthcoming Pre-order
Available as an eBook
EU Customers


The Crimean War was the greatest international crisis of the Victorian era. And during this conflict, two embedded writers–the young Russian officer Lev Tolstoy, and William Howard Russell, an Irish correspondent for The Times–brought the horrors of modern combat home to the public for the first time.

Long recognised for introducing new technologies like the rifle, railroad and telegraph, the Crimean War also irrevocably changed how we understand warfare. Stripping away the romanticism of the Napoleonic era, Tolstoy and Russell exposed how their governments were using lies and coverups to propel their nations into the first quagmire of our age. Their writing shocked readers, demonstrating that their loved ones were dying needlessly–a revelation confirmed by soldiers’ letters and diaries. Never before had the world witnessed such a showdown between the voices of private individuals and those of their governments. Tolstoy and Russell confronted the politically powerful and paid dearly for their honesty, but their legacy remains almost unparalleled.

Crimean Quagmire is the first book to tell the full story of both writers and their impact on modern warfare and reporting. As quagmires have increasingly come to define contemporary conflict, the Crimean War has never been more relevant.


Gregory Carleton is Professor of Russian Studies at Tufts University. He has devoted his career to engaging students and readers with the challenges and mysteries of Russia's culture, history, literature and people, publishing extensively on these topics. Crimean Quagmire is his fourth book.

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