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Books: Waterloo


The battle of Waterloo, fought all day on the 18th June 1815, is one of the most famous events in Europe's entire history. Although the climax of the Napoleonic Wars, the battle is sometimes examined as an event in its own right.

1. Waterloo 1815: The birth of modern Europe by Geoffrey Wootten

A concise narrative, clear maps and full colour pictures of the various combatants combine to make this my pick as the best introductory book on Waterloo. It doesn't tell you everything, or give you much idea of the many debates that continue today, but all ages can enjoy this smart volume.

2. 1815: The Waterloo Campaign. Volume 1 by Peter Hofschroer

Combining acute and detailed analyses with a multi-lingual examination of often over-looked sources, Hofschroer's two-part account of the 'Waterloo Campaign' is profoundly revisionist, and has upset more than a few traditionalists. Volume One covers the earlier events, and is an essential read for anyone wishing to take their study of either Waterloo, or the Napoleonic Wars, further.

3. 1815: The Waterloo Campaign. Volume 2 by Peter Hofschroer

Part 2 of Hofschroer's monumental study is considered to be slightly weaker than the first, because of a misjudged balancing of sources and an anachronistic concept of 'Germany'; however, as most accounts contain an over-reliance on French and English documents, the focus on Prussian material is welcome. The sub-title gives you some idea of Hofschroer's conclusions; again, essential reading for any serious study.

4. Journal of the Waterloo Campaign by General Cavalie Mercer

General Cavalie Mercer was both a General in the Royal Horse Artillery and a talented writer. This combination has led to Journal of the Waterloo Campaign, an eyewitnesses view of the hundred days. Personal opinions and compelling descriptions from a soldier present at Waterloo combine to make this a classic read.

5. Wellington at Waterloo by Jac Weller

Regarded by some as a classic and informative text, and by others as an exciting, but flawed, account which accepts too many myths, Weller's book has divided opinion. As such, I would not advise this to a beginner in the subject (the volume is also too detailed to be an introduction), but I recommend it to everyone else as one component of a large historical debate.

6. Uniforms of Waterloo by Haythornthwaite, Cassin-Scott and Chappell

Uniforms of Waterloo is a superb achievement, cramming in a formidable level of detail and art for the low price. Using 80 full colour plates, a few line drawings and over 80 pages of text the authors and illustrators describe and explain the dress, uniforms, weapons and appearance of Waterloo's combatants. Every army is covered, as are the major commanders.

7. Waterloo: The Hundred Days by David Chandler

This is a well-written and measured account of the whole hundred days by one of the world's leading military experts on Napoleon, David Chandler. You may not agree with his conclusions, but he does outline the key areas of debate, and a selection of excellent maps and black and white pictures round out a good narrative which is slightly more than an introduction.

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