Peninsula Wars and Waterloo

I’m fairly obsessed about the Peninsula Wars and the Battle of Waterloo. Why? Many reasons. First, my mother was fairly keen so it was encouraged. Second, Georgette Heyer, she wrote so vividly about it (with the kind of research that wouldn’t occur to most writers of light fiction – yes that’s what it used to be called!) I wanted to find out more. Third, it was the first war that was documented by soldiers of all ranks, being able to read the accounts of soldiers of all ranks makes it more interesting. 4) These wars changed how wars were in Europe up until the First World War and even effected that one, it had a profound influence and that’s still going today, European law is largely based on the Napoleonic code.

I say fairly obsessed because sometimes I’m reading about it and sometimes not. This week I am and coincidentally today is the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo and I also found out this week that  Apsley House are having a series of weekends to commemorate it. Guess where I’m going today..

Below are some books that about that period both fiction and non fiction that I love.

An Infamous Army – Georgette Heyer

The book that started the passion. Great detail, Heyer did a tremendous amount of research, lots of the things in the book that you think she made up happened and vice versa. Bear in mind though that it’s written around a soppy love story, if you’re not keen on those try the Sharpe books by Bernard Cromwell or…

Four Days in June  – Iain Gale

Based on the experience of people who were there and is brilliant.

The Spanish Bride – Georgette Heyer

More soppy romance but this is based on a true story. Harry Smith met and married Juana after the storming of Badajoz. The book skims over her age (she was 14 at the time) but she really did follow him through the campaigns and later to India and Africa (Ladysmith in South Africa is named after her.) I have Harry Smith’s autobiography but it’s not for the faint hearted. However, now you should be ready for non-fiction. So…

Rifles – Mark Urban

This follows the 95th Rifles through the Peninsula Wars and into France. Gives a great overview of the battles and the war but manages to show the men and how they lived and not just the heroes but all of them including the deserters. It digs into how the formation of the Light Brigades and the way Wellington used them changed the shape of the army in the UK and also how Wellington had an impact because so many of the officers that fought under him in these campaigns went onto command and shape the army.

Wellington: A Personal History – Christopher Hibbert

This is the first biography of Wellington I read. Chosen because I liked the book Christopher Hibbert wrote about the Battle at Waterloo..

Waterloo – Christopher Hibbert

Concise and easy to follow.

Tales of the Rifle Brigade – Capt Sir John Kincaid

Because he was there and he’s funny and sad at the same time. Having arrived in Portugal after the Battle of Bussaco, during Wellington’s retreat to Lisbon (as the British withdrew, they were basically stripping the countryside of all food and supplies) Kincaid who had left his greatcoat with the heavy baggage describes his situation, “My only covering every night was the canopy of heaven, from whence the dews descended so refreshingly”.

To War with Wellington: From the Peninsula to Waterloo – Peter Snow

I’m reading this now. Snow is enthusiastic and knowledgeable. He manages to give you the facts and the story of the people fighting.


About nicdempsey

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