Book recommendation: Wellington: The Years of the Sword by Elizabeth Harman Pakenham, Countess of Longford
Since this excellent book runs to almost 500 pages, it is for those with a serious interest in military history or historical biography. It is both well-written and well-researched, with great photos. (Of paintings of course.) I knew only that Wellington’s peninsular campaign was a success, but not about individual battles. This book remedied that. And thought I knew a great deal about Waterloo, I discovered many new facets. It covers not only Wellington’s character, and his battles, but the complex political situation he had to deal with, the problems created by his brothers, and the need for reforms in the British army, starting with the way officers were selected. He was the indispensable man; Neither Waterloo nor many of the battles in Spain and Portugal could have been won by anyone else. His tactical brilliance was only matched by his ability to inspire troops to exceed all expectations. My only quibble is that the Countess often uses French phrases without translation, never supposing I guess that it would be read by members of the “lower orders” like myself who were deficient in the language. But this is only a slight distraction. I highly recommend this book.