“The aim of this book is to challenge the viewer’s imagination,” writes photographer Alfred Buellesbach in the preface to “Battlescapes,” which takes readers on a 21st century tour of 34 of Europe’s most legendary battlefields. Viewing the panoramic landscape photos of battle sites like Murten (1476), Vienna (1683), Austerlitz (1805), and Waterloo (1815) it’s difficult to fathom how such hauntingly beautiful places were once the scene of bloody, vicious conflicts. With few notable exceptions—Verdun (1916), for example—the scars to the landscape have long since disappeared, and cemeteries and memorials (if any) provide the only reminder of the terrible events that once took place at these now pristine locales.
Of course, that’s precisely the point of the book. “Although a united Europe without borders is taken for granted by many, it has taken 2,000 years of war and conflict in Europe to reach this point,” observes Buellesbach. “Battlefields … should not only be remembered by military historians, but also by the general public at large.”
To that end, Marcus Cowper—longtime editor of Osprey Publishing’s military history books—contributes text that describes how each conflict unfolded. From Alesia (52 B.C.) and Poitiers (732 A.D.) to the Battle of the Bulge (1944-45) and Seelow Heights (1945)—Cowper’s summaries are concise, yet substantial enough to place each battle in context and relate its historical significance.
One can’t help but notice, however, that “Battlescapes” concludes with a battle that took place in 1945, allowing Cowper to highlight how recent European history has been characterized by peace. “With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe in the late 20th century, the European Union has done much to integrate countries that were former enemies,” he emphasizes, “putting in place structures to ensure that Europe is never again driven by warfare.”