Tannenberg July 15, 1410 (S. Gouguenheim)

The battle of tannenberg (or from Grunwald) opposing theTeutonic order to the alliance Polish-Lithuanian the July 15, 1410 marked the European memory. The Prussians' "revenge" in 1914 against the Russians allowed Hindenburg's eyes to wash away the infamy of the Teutonic defeat: thus was named the Battle of Tannenberg of 1914. This battle is also an important episode in Polish collective memory. These different memories sometimes prevent us from looking at this battle from a distance. Sylvain Gouguenheim achieves this and unfolds for us the story of this battle and its issues. This book is therefore not just a simple work of military history but a complete book on this event that is the Battle of Tannenberg.

A dive into mid-Europe

The author takes the time to explain the context in which this conflict emerges. On the one hand, the prosperity, prestige and power of the Teutonic Order appear to be at their peak. On the other hand emerges an alliance between the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania which turns the geopolitics of middle Europe upside down. The Polish-Lithuanian union sealed at Krewo in 1385 poses an existential problem for the Teutonic Order: by accepting the crown of Poland and by agreeing to convert (and with it all Lithuanians) to the Catholic faith, Jagiello does not does he not question the raison d'être of the Teutonic Order? What is the purpose of a religious order founded to bring the crusade to Eastern Europe if there are no more pagans left to convert? Contemporaries were aware of this. The Pope (1395) and the Emperor (1404) very quickly forbid the Teutonic Order to carry out military operations against Lithuania which had become Christian. Therefore, it is the end of a world in which part of the European nobility left to fight the pagans, in these "Prussian voyages" (Prussenreise). However, the Order did not resolve to accept this new situation.

The battle and its consequences

After presenting the various sources available on this event, the author devotes most of his book to the history of the battle and the military operations that precede it. We leave it to the reader to discover the details of these operations. The account is solid and interspersed with excerpts from sources. The text is always accessible and allows novice readers not to be lost in understanding the battle. The numerous footnotes allow more experienced readers to deepen their understanding of the events. The story is also supported by a solid bibliography.

After having evoked the immediate consequences of the battle (the fate of the vanquished, concern for the dead or the occupation of the territory, common practice in the Middle Ages), the author focuses on the political exploitation of the Polish victory. Lithuanian and in particular on the exhibition of enemy banners in the Cathedral of Krakow. This place becomes, according to K. Czyzewski's formula a " templum gloriae ". The author dwells in the last chapter on the controversies that followed the battle (Was it a just war? What is the place of the pagans in this war? Etc ...) and on the memorial construction of this event.

Notice of History for all

This book is therefore remarkable in more ways than one, complete serious and not focusing on the military aspects of the battle alone. Neutral and measured, he sets out the positions of each camp: no bias emerges on reading this book. The history of Europe is not limited to that of the Western powers. This book allows us to shift our focus and to realize that a certain Europe already existed in the Middle Ages. He revisits the battle-story with brilliance and clarity to the delight of readers.

GOUGUENHEIM Sylvain, Tannenberg July 15, 1410, Tallandier, Paris, 2012.

Video: Of Dust And Steel: Grunwald 1410-2010 (January 2022).