Johann Nobili and Christopher Pringle ed., Hungary 1848, The Winter Campaign (Helion, 2021)
(Guest Review: Mike Huston)
Hungary 1848, The Winter Campaign, is the semi-official Austrian history of the first half of the Hungarian war of Independence. Johann Nobili was tasked with rewriting the history after the initial author’s draft was deemed too negative by the Austrian authorities. It is written almost entirely from the Austrian perspective and certainly takes a more positive view of the winter campaign than the facts would allow. It is crammed full of the strategic plans for the campaign, initial troop locations and their subsequent deployments, numerous orders of battle, discusses Commanders that are unfamiliar, and takes place over a geography where many of the place names have changed. The main historical text is so full of information that it is neither a quick nor an easy read. So why bother?
The War of Hungarian Independence in 1848/49 is one of the most interesting of the many conflicts that rocked Europe at that time. It is woefully under-represented in the English language and Christopher Pringle’s efforts in translating and editing this work are to be warmly welcomed. The translation flows well, and Pringle does his best to make it an easier read. He has written well over 300 footnotes to the text, providing supplementary information to help the readers understand who’s who and what is actually going on. There is even a table of place names that runs to nearly 20 pages, which details all the names mentioned in the book along with their modern equivalent when they differ to allow the readers to find them on modern maps. When the original place name is used for the first time in the text the modern equivalent appears beside it, which is a service that I wish a few more authors would take the time to provide. Several high level maps have also been provided showing the most important troop movements. To add to the context of Nobili’s account, Pringle also summarises the main events before and after the campaign. The end result is a resource that is an “un”official Austrian military history of the campaign chock full of detail that would not be found elsewhere and supported by a knowledgeable translator who makes it far more accessible to the reader.
Don’t buy this if you want the ladybird book of everything there is to know about the Hungarian War of Independence. However, if like me you have a love for the European conflicts of the mid nineteenth-century and you want to add to your knowledge of a fascinating war, you really should squeeze this one on to your already groaning bookshelves. It is a book that you will be returning to for years.