Podcast: The Baltic Story

By July 8, 2019 September 3rd, 2019 Lifestyle, Podcasts, Podcasts

The Baltic Story
A Thousand-Year History of its Lands and Peoples

by Caroline Boggis-Rolfe

Amberley Publishing
(August 1, 2019)

A podcast for The New Books Network

Baltic History's Pirates, Prelates, and Princes

The history of the littoral nations of the Baltic Sea is like a saga, that genre perfected by those tenacious inhabitants of the rocky shores of this ancient trading corridor.  In it, we meet pirates, princes, and prelates; and while much divides the Slavs, Balts, Saxons, Poles, and Scandinavian peoples, much also unites them: rugged individualism and a desire to expand the boundaries of their known world.

Caroline Boggis-Rolfe’s new book, “The Baltic Story: A Thousand Year History of Its Lands, Sea, and Peoples” (Amberley, 2019) is a deep dive into this engrossing Baltic History.  It opens with the prosperity of the Hanseatic League, that commercial confederation, which ruled the Baltic between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries and closes with the end of World War I and the Russian Revolution.  Unlike other studies of the region which focus on subsets of the Baltic region: Scandinavia, Northern Germany, the Baltic States, Russia, and Poland, Boggis-Rolfe has undertaken the somewhat daunting task of examining 1000 years of the region’s history as one unified history.

Boggis-Rolfe’s approach makes “The Baltic Story” eminently readable: rather than placing her material in strict silos, she weaves the stories of separate nations into a cogent chronological narrative, examining each nation at the zenith of its power, but through the lens of its relationship to its neighbors.  That being said, each chapter is an excellent stand-alone study, and in them we get the privilege of spending time with the bold Swedish monarchs who forged empires, the erudite Kings of Poland, the patrons of Copernicus; Peter the Great who hewed for Russia a “window on the West,” and the visionary Frederick II of Prussia, and a host of other equally fascinating personalities.

“The Baltic Story” was born of Boggis-Rolfe’s two passions: her academic work on Voltaire and the Enlightenment and her many years of visiting Eastern Europe and the Baltic region.  She has a natural gift for story-telling, which makes the history of this region leap off the page.  Her tenacity and commitment to creating what did not previously exist — a complete study of the Baltic — is a boon for both amateur and seasoned historians, and anyone embarking on a voyage of discovery around the Baltic Sea.

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Enjoy my conversation with Caroline Boggis-Rolfe

Caroline Boggis-Rolfeis a writer and lecturer.  She received a BA from London University, an MA and Ph.D. in French from University College London.  She lived for many years in Eastern Europe during the Soviet period, during which she traveled extensively, including many visits to Potsdam, Leipzig, and Dresden, which were then off-limits to foreigners.  This piqued her interest in the region which she explored further in her role as a frequent history lecturer. She is at work on a history of the Adriatic Sea.  Visit Caroline’s websiteand follow her on Twitter.

Recommended Related Reading

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Amidst the wealth of Viking scholarship, Tom Shippey’s latest book, focused on the Viking obsession with making a good death stands out.  Here are berserkers, and valkyries, the longing for Valhalla, and the ever present specter of Ragnarok, the final clash of the Norse Gods and giants.  This is an engrossing and highly entertaining read!

Sweden’s Queen Christina inherited a mighty empire as an infant.  Her keen curiosity and love of art led her to almost bankrupt the royal purse in her drive to make Stockholm, “The Athens of the North.”  Adventurous and passionate, she lived a large and unusual life, which ended with abdication and conversion to Catholicism.

No examination of Baltic history is complete without a detailed look at the extraordinary life and reign of Peter the Great, the Russian tsar who dragged an insular, landlocked nation into the community of European nations and made her a mighty maritime power.  Massie’s magisterial biography is entertaining and informative.

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