Cover image for Napoleon and Wellington : the Battle of Waterloo- and the great commanders who fought it
Title:
Napoleon and Wellington : the Battle of Waterloo- and the great commanders who fought it
Author:
Roberts, Andrew, 1963-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Simon & Schuster, 2001.
Physical Description:
xxxii, 350 pages ; 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color), maps ; 24 cm
General Note:
Originally published in Great Britain in 2001 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780743228329
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

An award-winning historian offers an eye-opening view of the relationship between Napoleon Bonaparte and the Duke of Wellington, whose lives moved inexorably to their meeting at Waterloo, one of the most famous battles of all time. At breakfast on the morning of the battle of Waterloo, the Emperor Napoleon declared that the Duke of Wellington was a bad general, the British were bad soldiers and that France could not fail to win an easy victory. Forever afterwards, historians have accused him of gross overconfidence and massively underestimating the caliber of the British commander opposite him. Now Andrew Roberts presents an original, highly revisionist view of the relationship between the two greatest captains of their age and of the great battle that determined European history in the nineteenth century. Napoleon, who was born in the same year as Wellington -- 1769 -- fought Wellington by proxy years earlier in the Peninsular War, praising his ruthlessness in private while publicly deriding him as a mere "general of sepoys." In contrast, Wellington publicly lauded Napoleon, saying that his presence on a battlefield was worth forty thousand men, but privately he wrote long memoranda lambasting Napoleon's campaigning techniques. Although Wellington saved Napoleon from execution after Waterloo, the emperor left money in his will to the man who had tried to assassinate the duke. Wellington in turn amassed a series of Napoleonic trophies of his great victory, even sleeping with two of the emperor's mistresses. The fascinating, constantly changing relationship between these two historical giants forms the basis of Andrew Roberts's compelling study in pride, rivalry, propaganda, nostalgia and posthumous revenge. It is at once a brilliant work of military history and a triumphant biography. Featuring a cast of fascinating supporting characters -- including the empress Josephine, the Prince Regent and Talleyrand -- Napoleon and Wellington provides the definitive account of the most decisive battle of the nineteenth century.


Author Notes

Andrew Roberts studied Modern History at Cambridge. He writes regularly for the Sunday Telegraph and reviews widely. He lives in London, England


Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Improbable as it may seem, Roberts has found an original angle on the Battle of Waterloo. It is the personal relationship between the two commanders who conducted the clash that finished the Napoleonic era. Although they never met or corresponded, Wellington and Napoleon wrote and talked enough about each other, especially after the battle, to have created a relationship once removed. Had they met, one can be certain the loathing would have been mutual, as Wellington was an aristocrat and, like most high Tories, he was contemptuous of the Corsican upstart, while Napoleon sneeringly referred to Wellington as a "sepoy general." The self-crowned emperor soon changed his mind after Wellington's victories against French marshals in Spain; this evolving appraisal by each man for the other's professional military ability is the backbone of Roberts' narrative. Abundantly detailed and ably directed to its climax of June 18, 1815, Roberts' intriguing story adds much to a perennially popular topic. --Gilbert Taylor


Publisher's Weekly Review

Gossipy and anecdotal, at times amusing and at other times enlightening, this book meanders across an era looking for connections between its two greatest generals. British Sunday Telegraph contributor Roberts (Eminent Churchillians) concentrates not on the respective merits of Napoleon and Wellington, but on what they thought, wrote, and said about each other. He spices his text with vignettes such as an extensive description of Napoleon's hemorrhoid problem on the eve of Waterloo, and its successful treatment by the famous surgeon Baron Larrey. Then he demonstrates the relevance of his stories in this case by showing that Napoleon was by no means as debilitated on the day of battle as popular myth accepts. Wellington and Napoleon did not face each other until Waterloo in 1815. Napoleon, who first heard of Wellington in 1808, never showed his great rival quite the respect he deserved, let alone the respect Wellington considered his due, Roberts shows. Though partisans and critics of both men stress their differences, Roberts's text makes a convincing case that Napoleon and Wellington were more alike than either of them would have conceded. Both considered Hannibal their military hero; both carried Julius Caesar's Commentaries in the field. They even shared a couple of mistresses Wellington was at pains to show his post-Waterloo triumph in every way possible. Both were self-confident to the point of arrogance, consciously unemotional and obsessively focused on success. And they spent increasing amounts of time, particularly after 1815, blackguarding each other in the fashion of contemporary professional wrestlers. This history presumes a high level of background knowledge, but readers interested in the rivalries of the period will find it thoroughly absorbing. (Sept. 12) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

Roberts (Eminent Churchillians; Salisbury: Victorian Titan) warns that this book is neither "a joint biography" of Napoleon and Wellington nor "a history of the Peninsular or Napoleonic Wars." Instead, it is a study of the personal relationship between the two men-a study that "concentrates on what each man thought, wrote and said about the other." With a 14-page bibliography of archives, historical works, and articles consulted and 18 pages of notes, it is almost too much of a good thing. Not only are we given Wellington's and Napoleon's recorded thoughts, conversations, and writings about each other (from "First Recognition: 1809-1810" to Waterloo and its aftermath) but we are also presented with various reports of what contemporaries remembered hearing (either firsthand or told by a third person), sometimes several years after the fact. That mild complaint aside, what justifies this work's addition to the ever-growing bibliography for these two historical figures is Roberts's in-depth analysis of "the three battles" in which his two principals were engaged: the battle of Waterloo (a victory for Wellington), the battle of their funerals ("the honours about evenly divided"), and their "third and final battle-the struggle for primacy in their posthumous reputations." This final struggle is still being waged. Recommended for all public libraries and academic libraries as well.-Robert C. Jones, formerly with Central Missouri State Univ., Warrensburg (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice Review

Writing in the 19th century, Thomas Carlyle said, "history is the biography of great men." Roberts denies that his work is truly biographical; rather, it is a study of the connection between the two commanders and how it developed throughout their careers. Although the men never met, Roberts concentrates on what each said and wrote about the other, thereby revealing the intricate nature of their relationship. Of particular interest is a comparative chronology compiled from their birth in 1769 and paralleling their careers until the death of Napoleon in 1821 and Wellington in 1852. Roberts makes some fascinating observations in his final chapter, quoting from British and French writers who have compared and contrasted the two men over the years. He himself wrote: "There is some irony that Waterloo was fought a mere twelve miles from Brussels, the capital of today's European Union. For, although Wellington won the battle, it is Napoleon's dream that is coming true." ^BSumming Up: Recommended. All readers and libraries. S. A. Syme Coastal Carolina University


Table of Contents

Douglas Matthews
List of illustrationsp. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Comparative Chronologyp. xv
Introductionp. xxix
Part I The Road to Waterloop. 1
1 'A Fine Time for an Enterprising Young Man': 1769-1799p. 3
2 Apprenticeship at Arms: 1799-1805p. 14
3 A Near Miss: 1805-1808p. 29
4 To Lie Like a Bulletin: 1808-1809p. 45
5 First Recognition: 1809-1810p. 59
6 Will He? Won't He?: 1810-1811p. 79
7 Two Retreats, One Tragedy: 1812-1813p. 98
8 'Napoleon Has Abdicated': 1813-1814p. 113
9 Evenings on Elba, Nights in Paris: 1814-1815p. 123
10 A Hundred-Day Dash for La Gloire: March-June 1815p. 13
Part II Waterloo and Its Aftermathp. 161
11 'Thank God, I Have Met Him!': 18 June 1815p. 163
12 Wellington Protects Napoleon (and His Own Reputation): June-July 1815p. 182
13 Shepherding the Scapegoats: 1815-1816p. 199
14 A Shrinking Colossus: 1817-1821p. 226
15 Remembering with Advantages: 1822-1835p. 244
16 The War for Clio's Ear: 1836-1852p. 267
Conclusionp. 288
Notesp. 299
Maps
The Peninsular War 1808-14p. 46
The Waterloo Campaign 15-18 June 1815p. 146
The Battle of Waterloo 18 June 1815p. 164
Bibliographyp. 317
Indexp. 331