Review: Swedish defensive fortress warfare in the Great Northern War 1702-1710, Ulf Sundberg

Rating: 4 out of 5

Mr Sundberg’s published dissertation looks into how Sweden failed in its preeminent task: that of fortifying it’s borders for a defensive war plan. Focusing on the first ten years of the Great Northern War, the reader learns primarily about the sieges in Ingria, Estonia and Livonia, while some Danish attempts in Skåne are also included.

The principal focus is on the Russian campaigns which saw Narva, Tartu, Tallinn and Riga fall. Smaller, though still important, fortifications such as Vyborg, Nyenstadt and Nöteborg are included along with some near-Medieval fortifications (Jama, Koporye, and Marienburg) which were pounded into oblivion by the early modern artillery that Peter the Great’s forces were able to bring bear against Sweden.

Each of these chapters is assessed with respect to how suitable the chosen defensive mode of warfare was: whether Sweden was actually in a position to engage in offensive warfare is not a topic of interest, because it’s s the appositeness of the defensive tactic that Mr Sundberg investigates.

Yet, the book is not really narrative history: it’s a dissertation with no attempts to compromise on academic style. This means that the narration itself can be quite slow at times, with ponderous explanations on items that were previously covered. Nevertheless, it will make for an interesting study for anyone wishing to investigate the matter of fortifications of any period in more depth.

Overall, I came away with much new information and a very positive outlook on this title.

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