It is a long time now since the publication of the late John Erickson’s magisterial two-volume study of the war on the Eastern Front, books that have stood the test of time when it comes to the dense narrative of the huge number of pitched battles and lesser engagements between the Red Army and the German Wehrmacht. He had to rely, however, on a largely German source base for much of the detail, despite the generosity of Soviet colleagues who did the best they could to get him access to Russian-language material. Since the fall of Communism, a great deal more archival material on the war has come into the public domain in Russia, in large collections of published documents. This is the chief justification for Evan Mawdsley’s new history of the conflict, which is among the first contributions to a new series of up-to-date military histories under the editorship of the Oxford professor of the history of war, Hew Strachan.
The result is something of a disappointment. True, Mawdsley presents an account of the devastating, murderous campaigns with scrupulous attention to what the new Russian material tells us that was not known before. His concern with military detail, in a span a good deal briefer and more accessible