Most helpful positive review
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Useful and well written guide to Victorian Generalship
on May 18, 1999
This book is a detailed overwiew of the lives and military careers of eight prominent Victorian Generals and as such it represents a very interesting insight in the higher echelons of the British Officer Corps during the XIX century. Spanning from the Napoleonic Wars to the First World War, the narrative brings to life the experience of these leading figures of British military from the professional as well as human point of view. Often at loggerheads with the political authorities on the spot and at Home, these Generals (Hugh Gough, Charles James Napier, Charles Gordon, Garnet Wolseley, Frederick Roberts, Evelyn Wood, Hector MacDonald and Herbert Kitchener)were nevertheless the spearhead of the expansion of British Empire during the Victorian Era. Their failings as well as assets are presented by Farwell with fairness, even though this is not enough to conceal a slight preference for Lord Roberts, undoubtly the best person of the lot. Through the life ot these leaders of men the reader has a better understanding of the different motivations behind the "imperial adventure" of Britain. The author does a commendable work in bringing to the fore the often original, quizzical or downright ambiguous personality of these "empire-builders". As a scholarly work the book is a bit superficial: the influence of the cultural and social background of the charachters remains to be analyzed and the problems of the relationships between the Army and society are not properly stressed. These failings apart, I found this a high recommendable book for anyone interested in Victorian Colonial history and one of the very few sources of information now available about XIX century British Generals.