Over the last couple of months, I've been downloading books from the 'History in an Hour' series to my kindle. They are short, cheap and promise to offer bite sized chunks of history that can inspire you to find out more about subjects you are interested in. During the Bout of Books Readathon, I wanted to read something that I knew I could finish quickly, so I took the chance to try one of them out.
The Russian Revolution covers Russian history from the rule of Tsar Nicholas through the failed revolutions of the early 1900s to the triumphant revolution of 1917. Colley writes about the civil unrest in Russia at the time and the mismanagement of this by the Tsar, which led the way for revolutionary groups to gain a foothold. We learn how the Bolsheviks (the party of Lenin and Stalin) went from being a small, fringe group of extremists to the rulers of Russia (aided a bit by the Germans, who wanted Russian anarchy). The Russian Revolution also examines the history of Russia after 1917, how the Reds won the resultant Civil War and how Stalin used Lenin's death to maneuver himself into power, even though he was unpopular.
I was actually very impressed with The Russian Revolution. As it was so cheap, I wasn't expecting much from it, but it exceeded my expectations. I was already familiar with a lot of the history (I studied the Russian Revolution for my GCSE History, but that was years ago!) so it provided an excellent refresher. Although there just isn't the space for anything to be covered in depth, there's a good breadth of information and everything is explained clearly and concisely, something a lot of history writers can struggle with.
The Russian Revolution isn't a book to go to if you are looking for analysis or commentary on historical events. It sticks to the bare outlines of what happened and is good for providing a general overview of a topic. I finished the book eager to read more about the Russian Revolution and I'm already scanning my shelves, trying to decide which book about it I will pick up next. If, like me, you're interested in a topic but feel like you need something introductory before reading a more in depth book on it, the History in an Hour series would make a good choice.
Source: Personal copy
First Published: 2012
Score: 4 out of 5
I used to read a lot about the history of Communism, these are all books I read pre-blogging, that would work after reading this more introductory book.
1. Young Stalin by Simon Sebag Monteifore - A biography of the early life of Stalin by a good historian. Who knew that Stalin was a bank robber and had great success with the ladies? I've not read the follow up, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar yet.
2. The Rise and Fall of Communism by Archie Brown - This is an absolute door-stop of a book but it's also an excellent and readable account of the history of Communism across the world, not just in Russia. It took me a whole summer to read this one, but I loved it.
3. In Europe: Travels Through the Twentieth Century by Geert Mak - This is an intriguing mix of travelogue and history. Mak travels across Europe and 'back in time'.