Friday, June 18, 2010

Battle of Waterloo June 18, 1815 - the 195th Anniversary

As today is the 195th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo which ended Napoleon's attempt at European domination, it seems appropriate to mark the day. One can hardly celebrate a conflict which cost the lives of some 22,000 Allied soldiers and officers, and about 25,000 dead and wounded French combatants. The battle, and those losses, took place in less than twelve hours, and in less space than that occupied by many of today's major cities. The carnage was appalling.

The website British Battles has an excellent précis of the battle and the armies, and many details and statistics. I am not a military scholar, and do not pretend to a great interest in wars and conflicts. But one cannot ignore Waterloo.

Georgette Heyer's outstanding novel, An Infamous Army, has been over the years my favourite source for information about Waterloo. In addition to a moving love story, the tale of the days preceding and following June 18th, 1815 is told in meticulous detail. I have heard that the book has been used in history classes because of its excellent recounting of the battle.

But a new book has just come to my attention, and it came into my hands yesterday. It is titled "Dancing Into Battle" and is subtitled "A Social History of the Battle of Waterloo". The author is Nick Foulkes and the book was first published in 2006. Social history is my thing--and I can only regret that I just discovered this book.

It looks terrific. The reviews on its publication were laudatory. I have not yet had a chance to read it of course but a close examination has me itching to get started on it. The writing style seems to be lively and readable, and the author has used contemporary accounts to great advantage. The bibliography spans eleven pages and most of the works cited are original accounts. I have previously discussed in my blog how much I like memoirs; this book excels in their use. Charlotte Eaton had her account of the days surrounding the battle published in 1853. Mr. Foulkes uses the following quotation from her reminiscences "…one poor fellow…immediately under our window, turned back again and again, to bid his wife farewell, and take his baby once more in his arms; and I saw him hastily brush away a tear with the sleeve of his coat,…" Social history at its finest.

The illustrations are not numerous but they are well-chosen. Some I have seen before, others I have not. I very much enjoy seeing representations that are new to me--visual images are so important.

I highly recommend this book, and I would like to hear your opinion of it if you have encountered it already. And give a thought today to the Battle of Waterloo…and join me in praying that we find a better way to resolve our differences than armed conflict.

Next week, guest blogger Ann Lethbridge will be joining us to talk about Regency weddings--a most appropriate topic for June! Ann Lethbridge writes Regency Historical for Harlequin Mills and Boon. Her current release entitled Captured for the Captain’s Pleasure is out this month (June) in the UK.  As an army brat growing up in Britain Ann spent many happy hours visiting historical sites of every era of history, but when she found Jane Austen she knew which time period she wanted to write about.
I will return in two weeks,
'Til then, all the best,


Unknown said...

Lesley-Ann, You are right, Waterloo is just one of those battles not easily forgotten. The book you found looks really interesting and I will definitely be checking it out.
Looking forward to meeting with everyone next week.

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

'Dancing into Battle' really does seem excellent, Ann. I hope you enjoy it. It will be great to have you with us next week! Take care...