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Wellington: A Personal History Hardcover – August 19, 1997


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (August 19, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0201632322
  • ISBN-13: 978-0201632323
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,462,347 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The Iron Duke (1769-1852), Napoleon's greatest antagonist, finally ended his global ambitions at the battle of Waterloo in 1815. British historian Christopher Hibbert cogently chronicles Wellington's achievements as a military strategist and Tory prime minister, but his probing biography is even more notable for its shrewd and subtle assessment of the duke's layered personality. Famous for his sardonic wit and towering temper, an indifferent husband and severe father, forbiddingly aloof yet capable of enormous charm, Wellington the private man is as fascinating as the public one in this smoothly written, solidly researched account.

From Kirkus Reviews

The prolific Hibbert (Nelson: A Personal History, 1994, etc.) offers a lively if unsurprising portrait of a contentious hero. Arthur Wellesley, later to become the duke of Wellington, took to the trade of soldiering with alacrity, rising to prominence during his long, careful campaign against Napoleon's forces in Spain, and becoming enshrined as a national hero for his victory against the emperor himself at Waterloo. He then chose to plunge into politics, eventually becoming prime minister, in 1827. For several decades Wellington, alternately irascible and charming, arrogant and solicitous, and almost always imperious, dominated the national scene. Hibbert covers Wellington's campaigns with speed and clarity but plunges with enthusiasm into Wellington's years at the center of British politics. It's likely that most readers do not need to know quite so much as they are told here about the nasty particulars of political life in the 1820s and '30s in England. Still, Hibbert does a deft job of marshaling facts and anecdotes. A useful introduction to a complex, powerful figure. (b&w illustrations, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A. Woodley on December 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
Wellington, I think, is not an easy man to pin down in a biography, and quite a few people have tried to do so in the past. I think Hibbert makes a pretty good stab at this very difficult subject and the worst that could be said about his book is that it is the most recent of the Wellington biographies.
Why is Wellington such a difficult subject? Mostly because he had a long and very active career which spanned a broad range of activities. From rather dreamy and unfocused youth, to extremely focussed, and successful war hero, then finally as politician. Yet underlying this was a man of great contradiction. He had an innate sense of nobility and duty which led him to marry a woman he had not seen for nearly eleven years - yet he treated her appallingly during their marriage. His contradictory nature is also very evident in his career - he hated the very activity in which he made his name, war.
I think Hibbert does a reasonable attempt at coming to grips with Wellington's nature and its contradictions - but I often think the personal side of Wellington - most especially his appalling treatment of his wife and family, are often left unsatisfactorily explained. Probably for three reasons in Hibbert's case - firstly -There is not enough room in 400 pages to fit in everything with sufficient explanation, secondly - there are easier, more public and interesting things to dwell on, and finally I suppose mostly because it would come into the realm of speculation too much. There is little documentary evidence apart from gossip, some letters between Wellington and her, and of course Wellington's infamously indiscreet confessions to Mrs Abuthnot which were later published in her diaries.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Cody Carlson VINE VOICE on May 31, 2000
Format: Paperback
'Wellington: A Personal History,' is a wonderful look at the hero of Waterloo. While at times the narrative tends to quickly move over some points in the Duke's life that could do with a bit more analyzation, (the Duke's Indian and Spanish campaigns,) and perhaps relies a little too heavily on reporting court gossip of the time, 'Wellington' nevertheless is a wonderful introduction to the Duke's life written in an entertaining and easy to read style. Where Hibbert's work really succeeds is in it's portrait of the Duke in his years after Waterloo. The look into the Duke as Prime Minister and confedential advisor to George IV, William IV, and Queen Victoria never fail to hold interest and passages reguarding Wellington with his family and children in general are extremly illuminating. The Duke of Wellngton was indeed one of Britain's greatest figures and Hibbert's biography will testify with a great voice to the truth of that.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Charles Reilly on May 1, 2001
Format: Paperback
Author Christopher Hibbert concentrates on the personal aspects of Wellington's career, such as his relationships with family and close friends, and skirts over any lengthy analyses of the Duke's many campaigns. The Battle of Waterloo, for instance, is covered in only a few pages and the entire Peninsula War is given short shrift. Wellington's later years as a Tory politician, however, and his subsequent fall from grace with the populace is presented in detail and makes for quite an interesting read. Portraits of Wellington's brothers and other associates are also abundant in this volume and I was surprised as to how many I've never seen before. Hibbert himself is not totally enamored with his subject and portrays him as a very reticent and reserved aristocrat with little tolerance for fools and even less sympathy for the common folk. In this regard, I don't believe Hibbert has been able to lift the mask of command off Wellington and given us the definite look into his character. Wellington was certainly a man of many contradictions and Hibbert merely presents one side of him---the cold and aloof one. Still it's a worthy book with some scattered information not found in other sources. For the best read on this man, it's probably better for one to start with Elizabeth Longford's "Wellington: Years of the Sword". Hibbert's biography would certainly be a most interesting companion piece alongside it.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By James Gallen VINE VOICE on January 6, 2003
Format: Paperback
I have always thought of the Duke of Wellington as the Hero of Waterloo, but little else. In "Wellington, A Personal History" I learned that he was much more.
This book is, as the title indicates, a personal history of the man, rather than a history of his times. The reader learns little of the details of Waterloo, nor does he learn much about the impact of his career on the wider world.
Wellington's story is an interesting one. Born the younger son of lower nobility, his dukedom was earned, rather than inherited. His career was diverse. He fought for the Crown in India before his first encounter with Napoleon's armies in Portugal and Spain during the Peninsular War. The possibility of service in America during the American Revolution was mentioned, but did not occur. The glory which he won at Waterloo was merely a stepping stone to higher service.
After the banishment of Napoleon, Wellington entered the diplomatic service in France. This, coupled with his membership in the House of Lords, led to service as Foreign Minister and Prime Minister, among many other appointments. In office, Wellington was, generally, a supporter of privilege and order. Despite his dominant conservatism, Wellington was flexible enough to adjust to prevailing necessities. Although initially opposed to Catholic Emancipation, he supported Emancipation after concluding that the defeat of Emancipation would have led to more social unrest than the issue was worth. He then not only had to persuade opinion among the Lords and Commons, but also had to overcome the strong opposition of the King in order to get Emancipation passed. This is of particular interest to me, as family legend has it that we are descendants of Daniel O'Connell, whose election to the House of Commons forced the issue.
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