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The Battle of Waterloo [Kindle Edition]

Jeremy Black
2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: $10.99
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

The name Waterloo has become synonymous with final, crushing defeat. Now this legendary battle is re-created in a groundbreaking book by an eminent British military historian making his major American debut. Revealing how and why Napoleon fell in Belgium in June 1815, The Battle of Waterloo definitively clears away the fog that has, over time, obscured the truth.

With fresh details and interpretations, Jeremy Black places Waterloo within the context of the warfare of the period, showing that Napoleon’s modern army was beaten by Britain and Prussia with techniques as old as those of antiquity, including close-quarter combat. Here are the fateful early stages, from Napoleon’s strategy of surprise attack—perhaps spoiled by the defection of one of his own commanders—to his younger brother’s wasteful efforts assaulting the farm called Hougoumont. And here is the endgame, including Commander Michel Ney’s botched cavalry charge against the Anglo-Dutch line and the solid British resistance against a series of French cavalry strikes, with Napoleon “repeating defeat and reinforcing failure.”

More than a masterly guide to an armed conflict, The Battle of Waterloo is a brilliant portrait of the men who fought it: Napoleon, the bold emperor who had bullied other rulers and worn down his own army with too many wars, and the steadfast Duke of Wellington, who used superior firepower and a flexible generalship in his march to victory.

With bold analysis of the battle’s impact on history and its lessons for building lasting alliances in today’s world, The Battle of Waterloo is a small volume bound to have a big impact on global scholarship.


From the Hardcover edition.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Cool British resolve defeats heavy-handed Gallic bluster in this probing study of the famous battle. University of Exeter military historian Black gives a lucid, if sometimes disjointed, narrative of the 1815 Waterloo campaign, set within a canny analysis of the grand strategy of the Napoleonic wars and of technological and organizational developments in 18th-century warfare. The author is disdainful of Napoleon's generalship in his last battle. In Black's reckoning, the French emperor is overconfident and lethargic, sitting in the rear and launching masses of infantry, artillery, and cavalry in unimaginative frontal assaults. Wellington, by contrast, is brave, shrewd, and energetic, always up front and under fire, encouraging his men and waiting for an opening to counterattack. Black paints a well-balanced portrait of the time, moving easily from the level of operations where generals plan and blunder to the firing line where common soldiers slaughter each other. He's at his most provocative in assessing Waterloo's world-historical import. Wellington's triumph is often judged a victory of reaction over revolution, but Black argues the opposite:the British, he cogently insists, were the era's real agents of change and progress, clearing away the dead endof Napoleon's bloody adventurism. (Mar. 16)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Eminent British military historian Black narrates Napoléon’s final defeat in 1815 amid an analysis of military methods of the period. Reviewing theories for deployment of infantry, artillery, and cavalry, Black recounts their practical results in the Napoleonic Wars, rating the 1812 Battle of Borodino as the harbinger of Waterloo. In both, Napoléon adopted the frontal assault, but at Waterloo, Black argues, his poor coordination between the infantry and cavalry probably denied the French a victory in the battle’s early hours, when the initial attack pierced Wellington’s line but was thrown back. If a critic of Napoléon’s battlefield decisions, Black is not a facile one; he underscores options available to Napoléon during the daylong carnage’s changing tactical situation; they finally vanished when the Prussian army arrived and crushed the French right flank. Black’s consideration of Wellington’s command performance is equally subtle and supports the British general’s pithy quotation of Waterloo as the “nearest-run thing you ever saw.” Incorporating the international political context, Black’s incisive appraisal taps the enduring interest in this ghastly, decisive battle. --Gilbert Taylor

Product Details

  • File Size: 372 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (March 16, 2010)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0036S4B58
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #781,469 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars One Big Shortcoming May 20, 2010
Format:Hardcover
This is a short book on Waterloo at 217 pages of narrative. That is not a bad thing in itself. Some books are too lengthy and the reader ends up lost in the mass of details about which company, in which battalion, did what at 2:15, so much so that you lose the big picture. The big picture is well portrayed here. But the book has one glaring failure which leads to my low rating: there is not a single map of the battle in the book. I have always found good maps a great asset to grasping the interplay of events on a battlefield. Their total lack in this case is a surprise to me for someone of Jeremy Black's reputation and standing. Perhaps it was a publisher's decision to cut costs, but it affects the overall value of the book when you cannot look at a map to see the relationship of events being described in the narrative.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Newer Waterloo Account April 26, 2011
Format:Hardcover
The author goes to some length to make this a comparative analysis of the great battle. Making comparisons between 18th century and later 19th century warfare, the author tries to put Waterloo into perspective. While at times probing, with some good points, the author sometimes loses himself within the complexity of his own prose. Long, complicated statements makes for difficult reading and does have this 200 page book seem longer than it actually is.

Nappy comes in for some harsh criticism here. Basically the author feels he had nothing to offer France and Europe by this point, and his whole attempt to regain power is just an ego trip. Even if he had won Waterloo the coalition set against him would have continued until his downfall. This was something Nappy could not seem to understand. He could not divide and conquer his enemies politically any longer. This left only the battlefield to decide things and here again Nappy miscalculated. By 1815 he was no longer the great general that he had been in 1805. With Wellington and Blucher he was also facing the kind of determined opposition that had not been the case in his earlier campaigns. These are all good point to make, despite being a bit wordy at times.

When it comes to the battle itself the author attempts in a short space to give a good, concise view of the day and the decisions that were made. Again, he feels Nappy's handling of the battle was flawed. Tactical mistakes compromised what operational advantages the French might have had on the morning of June 18th. Had Nappy moved faster, had Murat been there instead of Ney, had Berthier still been chief of staff things might have been different. These are all great what ifs, but they don't answer the essential question.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Solid work on the Battle of Waterloo October 17, 2010
Format:Hardcover
A nice telling of the story of Waterloo. Here, Napoleon, after returning from exile, scratches together an army, led by some of his old generals (such as Ney), in order to return to power.

A massive coalition responds by creating a large set of forces--England, Austria, Prussia, and Russia, numbering hundreds of thousands of troops. Of most immediate concern to Napoleon was the two armies converging in Belgium--Blucher's Prussian host and Wellington's mixed force (dominated by English, but including Germans and others).

Napoleon tried to defeat the two armies in detail. The end result was Waterloo, where he slugged it out with Wellington's forces. It was not one of Napoleon's masterwork battles. He was detached and showed little of his flair from the Austerlitz era.

The book does a nice job detailing the battle in a rather thin volume (about 200 pages). The book claims to have a somewhat different take on the key point of the battle. I will leave that for others to decide. There is a discussion of the aftereffects of the battle and its continuing fascination for many over time. The book cries out for maps of the campaign--but does not contain a single one. All in all, a good solid volume on the subject.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Water without the loo July 9, 2011
Format:Hardcover
When younger I was an avid reader of books about the Napoleonic wars and especially Waterloo. However, it is a subject that has been somewhat on the back-burner over the past few years. Therefore I came to this book with some anticipation at rekindling a past passion.
Unfortunately it failed to ignite. What the book does is place Waterloo in a wider context and therefore spends a large section setting the scene in both terms of the strategy prior to the battle and the even larger subject of warfare generally during this period. I have nothing against this and indeed enjoyed the scene setting. This part was done well. However, once the book moved on to the battle itself it almost felt as though the writer had become rather bored with his subject. The actual account of the battle was short and lacking in any real narrative drive. I wanted to smell the smoke and hear the guns, but this section was quiet and certainly carried no whiff of gunpowder.
In all then, the actual battle itself suffers in this book and since the book is about...well, the battle, it fails in its central purpose.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Concise Study of the Famous Battle April 24, 2012
By Paul
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Professor Jeremy Black provides a short and interesting account of one of the most famous battles of Western civilization.

Black is renowned for his study of the evolution of technology in warfare, but this battle in 1815 was one more so of close quarters coupled with often times poor visibility (tremendous smoke from weaponry)and poor communications in attempting to maneuver large numbers of troops.

Napoleon was certainly not at his best. His idea was to deal with Wellington first in defeating his forces, and then turning on the Prussians under Blucher. Weather was a factor as rain the night before made it difficult for the French to maneuver cavalry into attack positions as well as artillery, and when the artillery was used the rounds often sank into mud rather than bouncing into ranks of soldiers. Wellington, was always on the field and was brilliant in positioning his infantry in the center on the reverse slope (just behind the crest of the ridge). Wellington also had a great advantage in a strong defensive position, with a short battle line.
Napoleon, attempting to allow the ground to dry did not open the battle until late in the morning and did a poor job of using cavalry and infantry in assualts. His element of surprise was gone, and while he had the more experienced soldiers, the coalition under Wellington held when needed and thus the outcome.

The British far right was held by the Chateau of Hougoumont, where a much smaller British force held out all day, against numerous assualts, and the far left was held by another similar position.

Toward the end of the day, the British formed squares and thwarted the attempts of the French cavalry to dislodge them. A horse will not charge into a line of bayonets, so this is a test of will.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Very Biased.
THe book is very biased against french, It is not possible to read this book to derive a good unbiased perspective of events from reading this book. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Arun
2.0 out of 5 stars Badly Done
This is a pretty bad military history book. Not a single map, not a single illustration and not that well written either. A real rip-off of a book. Sloppily and lazily done. Read more
Published 9 months ago by MechPebbles
2.0 out of 5 stars No maps? Not a single map?!?
The book is an odd one, and I wouldn't recommend it as anyone's first Waterloo book. And the lack of any map is all but criminal. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Robert Burnham
4.0 out of 5 stars fairly good account
A fairly good account that gets the story told well enough, completely enough, but is somewhat lacking in the element of excitement
Published on August 2, 2011 by George Aubrey
4.0 out of 5 stars A Bit of Perspective...
Experienced British military historian Jeremy Black takes a slightly unusual approach to the subject of "The Battle of Waterloo. Read more
Published on July 27, 2011 by D.S.Thurlow
2.0 out of 5 stars That was close
Boy, that was close. Thank you lord Wellington from saving us all from that mean old Napoleon. Funny thing, the British were always saving the world from one or another nasty... Read more
Published on August 3, 2010 by Henry Charles
4.0 out of 5 stars yet another WATERLOO book!
This new book covers the broad political background leading up to the battle, and the situation that followed, as much as the battle itself. Read more
Published on April 15, 2010 by JACQUE
4.0 out of 5 stars scholarly
Jeremy Black has written a well researched review of the Battle of Waterloo and the events leading up to it. Read more
Published on March 27, 2010 by Roberta Turner
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