Monday, November 21, 2022

A bit more applied history

Buoyed by some encouraging comments to my last post, here's a bit more about the campaign—you should not encourage him, you know!

I am becoming a bit obsessed with this! Over the weekend, I made some improvements to the document, a few additions and edits to the diplomatic events and national interest and began the lists for the initial military forces (army and navy),  and reinforcements. I have decided to call it the 'Campaign of the 'Greater' Great Northern War'.

This is one of the aspects of the wargaming hobby that I enjoy immensely; applied historical analysis, as I like to think of it. It involves compiling and synthesising information from secondary and tertiary sources (occasionally primary) to produced something that can drive and inform the applied historical analysis that is historical wargaming.

This tertiary (or perhaps quarternary?) level of historical writing involves very much riding on the shoulders of others. I have several books that I have been using to date and some others that I expect to use as we go along. They reflect my main focus of the northern and eastern spheres—I'll be relying on Julian to fill gaps for the west.

The Great Northern War Compendium

When this came out, I delayed for a long time before I took the plunge and purchased my copies (both volumes). It was at the upper range of price that I was prepared to pay for books (something that has moved further upwards since then!) and I wondered how much it would add to Höglund's books (thinking of them chiefly for uniform details).

I should not have hesitated, as I was really pleased with them once they arrived—still chiefly considering them for army and uniform details. They have really come into their own in the past couple of weeks. Some of those chapters that I thought were a bit 'tangential' to the main aspects of the Great Northern War have become really, really useful now that I too am considering it in it's widest context. An aspect that I really like about the compendium is that, while the chapters are quite brief they provide sufficient information to be informed about each topic, each provides a list of sources/further reading, most of which are readily accessible/available. Having read chapters here and there, I now have it on my reading list for the near future, to go from cover to cover.

The Great Northern War 1700–1721 Colours and Uniforms

Höglund and Sallnäs (Höglund, Sallnäs and Bespalow)'s books are a magnificent, detailed source of information about the armies of the nations involved in the Great Northern War, the battles and campaigns that each unit was present at, initial strength and, of course, uniform and colours. Introductory chapters (and to each army) provide background and some of the specifics about each nation.


Charles XII of Sweden

I came late to Ragnhild Hatton's biography of Charles. Boy was it worth the 'wait'. It is one of the best pieces of historical writing that I have ever read and the most engaging read since Alistair Horne's 'Price of Glory'—and I have only finished the first section 'Book One'. The information about Charles' character, background and family have been most useful in drafting the National Interest section for Sweden for the campaign. I have had to set it aside temporarily as a copy of Double Eagle and Crescent that I ordered through our library arrived sooner than expected, so I need to prioritise reading that. I look forward to getting back to Hatton!

Peter the Great

Robert Massie's acclaimed biography of Peter I is another book that I have come to late. I saw a re-release of it in a bookshop at the airport in Perth around the turn of the century but, stupidly, did not buy it. Ah well, I have a second hand copy of the original version now and it is on the current reading list.

Russian Rebels, 1600-1800: Four Great Rebellions Which Shook the Russian State in the Seventeenth  and Eighteenth Centuries

I found out about Avrich's book about three rebellions in Russia, including Bulavin's, when looking up a bit of information about it on the web. Second hand copy promptly obtained and it too is on the current reading list!

The Army of the Rákóczi War of Independence 1703-1711

I think that this is primarily a book of uniforms, but no doubt it will have some interesting background as well, perhaps even some army lists/strenghts? I have it on back-order. Hopefully it will be in stock and dispatched soon.

Wars And Soldiers In The Early Reign Of Louis XIV. Volume 2: The Imperial Army, 1657-1687.

A fine book that I'll do a review of in due course While it deals with an earlier period, Mugnai's description of the Holy Roman Empire, Reichsarmee and brief biography of Leopold I have provided some useful 'fodder'.

Double Eagle and Crescent

Like Mugnai's book, this one is from an earlier period (Siege of Vienna), but the impacts of that conflict are important background to this campaign. He also has a useful description/assessment of Leopold I

By Defeating My Enemies: Charles XII of Sweden and the Great Northern War 1682-1721  & Peter The Great Humbled: The Russo-Ottoman War of 1711

These two are also on the current reading list, but I won't get to them until I have read those above.

The Battle That Shook Europe: Poltava and the Birth of the Russian Empire


I read Peter Englund's excellent book some time ago. His mini-biographies of several of the Swedish generals will be most useful for the campaign.


Örjan Martinsson's website is an absolute gem. To an extent, I am re-treading the path that he has already trod in assimilatiing information about the various beligerents. I won't be producing anything that will be 1/10th of the quality and beauty what he has done though!

I stumbled on The War of Spanish Succession website (the name of the author is not given) when I began the document for this campaign. It is another wonderful compilation and will provide the starting point for information about the 'south-western' nations and their armies form which Julain can add or adapt.

The Wyre Forest Gamers site has an archive for the Great Northern War (amongst others) that is packed with useful information about armies and army lists (as well as scenarios for games of historic battles.


Avrich, P (1976) Russian Rebels, 1600-1800: Four Great Rebellions Which Shook the Russian State in the Seventeenth. First Published 1972. W. W. Norton & Company, New York. 309 pp.

Barker, TM (1967) Double eagle and crescent; Vienna's second Turkish siege and its historical setting. State University of New York Press, Albany. 447 pp.

Dorrell, N (2018) Peter The Great Humbled: The Russo-Ottoman War of 1711. Century of the Soldier 1618-1721 #22. Helion & Company, Solihull, England. 104 pp.

Englund, P (2013) The Battle That Shook Europe: Poltava and the Birth of the Russian Empire. First Published 1992. Reprinted 2013. I.B.Tauris Reprint edition edition. 287 pp.

Glaeser, M (2020) By Defeating My Enemies: Charles XII of Sweden and the Great Northern War 1682-1721. Century of the Soldier 1618-1721 #60. Helion & Company, Solihull, England. 190 pp.

Hatton, RM (1968) Charles XII of Sweden. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London. 656 pp.

Höglund, L-E and Sallnäs, Å (2000) The Great Northern War 1700–1721 Colours and Uniforms. Acedia Press, Karlstad. 142 pp.

Höglund, L-E, Sallnäs, Å and Bespalow, A (2006) The Great Northern War 1700–1721, II. Sweden's allies and enemies Colours and Uniforms. Acedia Press, Karlstad. 142 pp.

Kling (Jr.), SL (Ed.) (2015) Great Northern War Compendium The Historical Game Company. 332 pp.

Kling (Jr.), SL (Ed.) (2015) Great Northern War Compendium The Historical Game Company. 304 pp.

Massie, RK (1982) Peter the Great: His Life And World. First Published 1981. Abacus Books. 909 pp.

Mugnai, B (2019) Wars And Soldiers In The Early Reign Of Louis XIV. Volume 2: The Imperial Army, 1657-1687. Century of the Soldier 1618-1721 No. 47. Helion & Company, Solihull, England. 301 pp. 

Somogyi, G (2018) The Army of the Rákóczi War of Independence 1703-1711. HM Zrínyi, 98 pp.


A Guide to Armies of the Great Northern War. Wyre Forest Gamers

Martinsson, O. Armies of the Great Northern War

The Spanish Succession



  1. Brilliant. Thanks James for sharing and guiding through these resources. Plenty to get ones teeth into here. I feel that I may pass some time dipping into GNW ... for the history only, I hasten to add.

    1. Yes, not another period. We are all good at sticking to that aren't we?! hahaha

  2. Some great source material you have their. Helion also have a number of other books for the Swedish and Russian armies. Well worth picking up

    1. Thank you Neil.
      Yeah, I have in mind to get an electronic copy of Megorsky's one about the Russian army, since Martinsson recommends it and says that it has information from Russian sources not covered/erroneous in Höglund. I can't bring myself to having the guard regiments in cavalry boots though!!
      I was not gonna bother with the Swedish one as I reckon I have them well covered 'tween Höglund (principally) and the Compendium. What's in it that the others don't have?
      I am painting my Swedish units in their uniforms around 1702–06, or perhaps Poltava for some. Apart from an early and late Russian army, I won't be modelling the changes in armies/uniforms through the course of the war. That is something that I restrict to Napoleonics (and possibly early and mid-late First World War)!!

  3. Great stuff James, I discovered the Tacticus Blog/site when constructing my own GNW Swedish collection about 18 months ago - it certainly is useful source of info. I also happened to stumble across a "virtual library" from which I was able to download pdf copies of the Höglund books - the site was recently closed down by the FBI and Dept of Justice, so I won't be getting anything else there obviously! Your campaign ideas look very interesting, and I will look forward to following your progress on this ion the months (years??! :)) ahead.

    1. Ha ha, years for sure, I wonder if we could go the full?!

  4. Excellent selection of books. Years ago I considered starting with the Great Northern war but finally decided to chose the WAS.

    1. That's interesting. I have far more interest in the Great Northern (and 'eastern' wars). The Spanish Succession War is Julian's 'thing'!

  5. Great library, James! According to the color of the uniforms of the regiments of Peter the Great, I can recommend Nebratenko's very useful work "Colors of the Russian military uniform (First quarter of the 18th century)."

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    1. Thank you for the link Valentine. Unfortunately, I cannot get it to work. A minor casualty of this devastating war in Ukraine perhaps?