British Military Spectacle : From the Napoleonic Wars through the Crimea
By Scott Hughs Myerly
It was only after I had read some way into this book that I realised that it must have been some kind of thesis. When did people start writing them so well?
It isn't encumbered with that annoying pseudo-intellectulese that people who generally present theses are so proud of to confuse the reader. In fact the points it does present are in strikingly simple and wonderfully readable.
The issue Myerly discusses is the development of the British army in the first half of the nineteenth century, basically the Napoleonic Wars until Crimea and it is a fascinating period.
He discusses the changing attitudes to discipline, uniform, recruiting and life in general in the army - but also the effects the army had on civilian life and vice versa.
There is an enormous bibliography at the end of the book, followed by extensive footnotes (some 100 pages). If you don't like footnotes then I can assure you they don't interfer with the reading in the text but help do help to clarify issues for those that want to delve deeper into an issue.
The only reason I have marked the book down from 5 stars was really a bit trivial, I found the last couple of chapters a bit repetitive - or they seemed so to me. I could barely put the book down for the first 5 or so chapters, and it really got me thinking.
Available from £12.00
Harvard University Press
Tactics and the Experience of Battle in the Age of Napoleon
by Rory Muir
What polarising reviews readers have given on this book. However the first crime this book is accused of, Anglocentrism, I find a little unfair. As Muir points out on the very first page of his preface- "The Anglocentrism of [writers on the Peninsular Wars] approach was not simply the product of a national bias...but rather reflects the fact that for the period of the Napoleonic Wars there is an extraordinarily rich collection of first-hand British accounts of combat, which appears unmatched in any other language." He goes into far more detail on this, but I think you get the point.
Napoleonic Warfare has been a fascination for from the time I read John Keegan's account of Waterloo in The Face of Battle
- and that is the point of Muir, taking up the Challenge that Keegan posed - this is a book of action and battle order rather than general army life. I found Muir's style very readable. He interlaces his arguments with supporting information from quotes out of contemporary diaries and biographies. I liked this because it made the information more than a dry recounting of a structure, but it also gave you a chance to test Muir's theories for yourself based on his supposed supporting information. It is also pretty easy to track down the source of his quotes if you wish to find its context in further detail. I did find the secontion in Part III, which dealt with Command and Control, the most difficult to read. It overlaid the roles of a number of different armies and men which I found a little confusing. I am not sure how to do it better - but perhaps it would have been easier to split that section up by country rather than by military rank.
The book is divided into 4 sections - 1 - The introduction which has chapters on the Eve of the battle, and on Battles and Battlefields. Part 2 takes up very much where John Keegan left off and describes the conduct on the battlefield of various sections of the military so Artillery, light infantry, cavalry and so on. I did wonder where the Engineers and the Wagon train were. Part 3 is Command and control which is the role of various ranks and two very interesting chapters on morale and attitudes. I thought there were some interesting cross-overs in this chapter with Myerley's book British Military Spectacle. Part 4 is the aftermath of the battle.
There is an excellent bibliography at the end of this all. I think Muir has done a very good job in attempting to extend John Keegan's work on Napoleonic War. I don't think this is by far the end of studies that could be done on nineteenth century battles though.
Publisher: Yale University Press; New Ed edition (15 Feb 2000)
Anne Woodley is an Amazon top 500 reviewer as well as the patroness of Janeites, the Internet discussion, as well as mistress of the Regency Ring. Her excellent page, The Regency Collection is a treasure trove of information.