by Herbert J. Redman
Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2015. Pp. viii, 598.
Maps, notes, biblio., index. $49.95 paper. ISBN: 0786476699
Frederick’s Greatest and Last War
Independent historian Redman gives us a comprehensive operational treatment of the Prussian role in the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763). With only the briefest introduction to set the political stage, Redman plunges into the war, which changed a middling power Prussia into an arbiter of European politics. Primarily a military account, with political and diplomatic developments touched on only lightly, the book is organized into seven parts, each covering a single year of the war in several chapters, primarily from Frederick’s perspective, so we don’t hear much about events further afield, in the Americas or India or even much of the rest of Europe.
There are fights, marches, sieges, plots, and more, all told in considerable detail, usually with some thoughtful analysis as well. Naturally Frederick’s actions dominate the text, but many other now largely forgotten actors – Seydlitz, Daun, Laudon, de Castries, Lacy, etc. – populate Redman’s account as well. But while the initially went very well for Frederick, it eventually began to turn out badly. Only his tactically genius warded off utter disaster, at enormous cost, and in the end it was only death of the Empress Elizabeth of Russia that saved Frederick’s kingdom, as her successor, the Emperor Peter III, switched Russia’s support to him. In fact, Frederick never risked a major war again after 1763.
This is a good book on Frederick’s campaigns during the Seven Years’ War, but has one great flaw; Redman fails to give the reader an introduction to the military institutions and practice of the times, which thus makes the book more valuable for those already familiar with the background of the war.