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May 19, 2008

A perfect present for a military buff: The Waterloo Companion - Mark Adkin

Posted by Jeremy Black

The Waterloo Companion
by Mark Adkin
London: Aurum Press, 2001
Hardback, 45

Billed as "the complete guide to history's most famous land battle", this is indeed an impressive work. It has gaps, notably the subsequent history of the battle, not least contrasting British, French and Prussian views, and the comparison of the battle with conflict elsewhere in the world, but this well-illustrated book covers a mass of material.

It is divided into ten sections: The Campaign; Orders of Battle; Command and Control; The Battlefield; The Infantry; The Cavalry; The Artillery; Other Arms and Services; The Highlands; and Myths and Controversies. The book is not footnoted but draws on an impressive knowledge of a wide range of sources.

The account is thematic rather than chronological, and there is no blow by blow description, but the information necessary to assemble a chronological account can be found in the book. Waterloo's capacity to fascinate remains. If it does not have the grip on the modern British imagination comparable to the Somme it is easy to appreciate why the situation was very different during the Victorian age. The maps in Adkin's book are especially impressive. A perfect present for a military buff.

Jeremy Black is Professor of History, University of Exeter. He is the author - amongst much else - of The Slave Trade, A Short History of Britain, The Holocaust, and The Curse of History.

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