(image source: OUP)
Frederick the Great’s famous quip about the Russian-Ottoman wars as “the one-eyed fighting the blind” diminishes the significance of these titanic clashes, which unleashed mayhem upon huge populations, spread epidemic diseases, forced human migrations, and shredded territory throughout Eastern Europe and Transcaucasia. These wars determined the boundaries of modern nation-states and forged a sense of identity among millions of people. According to Will Smiley’s new book From Slaves to Prisoners of War: The Ottoman Empire, Russia, and International Law, the wars shaped the development of international law, including regulations for ransoming military captives and the trafficking of slaves, and defined subjecthood. What makes the book particularly intriguing (and its subject so difficult to research) is how the borderlands interacted with the international legal system during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, thus helping us understand the context in which these new international rules emerged.Read more here and earlier on this blog.