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The Battle: A new history of the Battle of Waterloo [Hardcover]

Alessandro Barbero , John Cullen
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)

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Book Description

9 Jun 2005
On the afternoon of 1 March, 1815, a fleet of ships dropped anchor off the southeast coast of France. After ten months in exile on the island of Elba, the Emperor Napoleon had returned to reclaim his throne. European chancelleries responded by immediately preparing for war. Only one year earlier, four great powers - England, Austria, Russia and Prussia - had combined to defeat Napoleon and now, these four countries made a pledge to invade France from all sides. Napoleon's only recourse was to rearm, and he quickly marshalled his forces: mobilized the National Guard, began mass production of muskets and bought or confiscated all available horses. On the Allied side, by the end of spring, only the Duke of Wellington's troops and the Prussian army, under the command of Field Marshal Blucher, were prepared. The Emperor knew that by attacking the two armies separately, his Armee du Nord stood a good chance of winning. He planned a surprise strike, to destroy the first army he encountered before the other could intervene. Maintaining complete secrecy over his tactics, he manoeuvred the Armee du Nord close to the Belgian border and at dawn on 15 June, sent the first cavalry patrols over into enemy territory, followed immediately by columns of infantry. Thus begins The Battle, a thrilling new account of the great Battle of Waterloo, which survivors from all sides deemed, in the words of an English officer 'a terrible fight for a terrible stake: freedom or slavery to Europe.'

Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books (9 Jun 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843543095
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843543091
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 590,277 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"'This is not just the best book on Waterloo I've read, it's also one of the most original and stimulating works of military history I've come across in years. *****' Simon Shaw, Mail On Sunday 'A thoroughly readable, exciting account of a great clash of arms... Brilliant.' Mark Adkin, author of The Waterloo Companion 'Perhaps the most readable and original account for many years.' John Childs, Professor of History, University of Leeds 'Alessandro Barbero's new book deserves to be read by anyone with an interest in warfare.' Dr Gary Sheffield, King's College London" --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Alessandro Barbero teaches Medieval Studies at the Universita del Piemonte Orientale. He is the author of a number of novels and works of history. In 1996, his novel A beautiful life and the altruism of a gentleman called Mr Pyle was awarded the Strega Prize, Italy's most prestigious literary award.

Customer Reviews

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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
This book quite frankly deserves its 5 stars just for the translation job. At no point do you ever feel you're reading something that's been written in a different language and translated. It takes real skill to do this so well and so unobtrusively, so full marks to John Cullen for his work here - it's a pleasure to read.

There are some very, very trivial mis-steps, perhaps. Various British units are described as 'fusiliers', when in fact the units concerned are elite rifle-armed troops. This, I conjecture, may be a mistranslation from or a misuse in the original. It is the very easiest and most excusable of mistakes to make. The same word could be appropriated by different armies and made to mean something different in each, and 'fusilier' was. There were indeed "Royal Fusiliers" in the British army, but despite the title they didn't carry rifles. Confusingly, there were also fusiliers in the French and Prussian armies too, which were respectively bog-standard line and light infantry, also not armed with is not surprising small errors like this creep in, but they do not detract from the result.

The structure is pleasing. Instead of chunky chapters dealing with a whole phase of the battle, the author breaks things down into much shorter episodes, so that the advance, repulse, countercharge and flight of d'Erlon's corps covers several chapters in succession, for example.

I only found one authorial error, relating to a friendly-fire incident, but otherwise Sr Barbero seemed to this reviewer to have his facts straight and in the right order.

Refreshingly free of nationalistic bias, this is both a very good readable starter account of the battle, but is also good if you have already read many others and want to focus on the events, rather than the later arguments about them.

A well-earned five stars by author and translator.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Military History as an Action Novel! 29 July 2009
This is certainly a well written book and a decent translation, although you'll have to forgive the odd discrepancy - the term 'Fusilier' is frequently used instead of 'infantry'.

As a primer, it doesn't have enough detailed maps, but you should be able to get by with the ones included. However, the author does give clear explanations of the arms and their roles and is quite explicit as to the location of various formations during the battle.

I didn't detect any significant bias - all nations were given a fair summary, which is a change from the now fashionable attempts to prove that the very few British troops who actually made it in time for the game were drunk, incompetent or cowardly and they were all Irish anyway. The German and Netherlands units aren't all hard done by, the Prussians aren't infallible supermen and the French aren't all Hollywood heroes making a last stand.

If you're a history buff and familiar with the battle or you're just curious, this is a very good read. It's not a seminal study and doesn't claim to be, but it does give a decent account of the battle and interesting insights into the main characters.

If you're thinking of buying it, do so: it's an entertaining read.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars review 13 Sep 2009
Product The Battle book by Alessandro Barbero

Excellent move by move description of the battle which included what a French column was and its advantages and disadvantages, same for British line and difference between 2 deep and 4 deep line and why. Easily understood by layman. Same goes for other 'technical' points. Details here and there of personal experiences kept my interest, author is anything but dry. As always I would ideally like bigger maps with more detail, but again I did not buy a specialist 40 book.

Sent on time, excellent condition, full marks.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A definitive account of the Battle of Waterloo 24 Jun 2009
This is an excellent and detailed account of the day of the Battle of Waterloo from all perspectives. That the author is Italian means he views the subject matter unencumbered by any nationalistic views or bias.

This is one of those books (like Shelby Foote's description of Gettysburg and Niall Barr writing about El Alamein) that people will read and then fully understand the battle and the experiences that those there went through. I very much hope that there will be more such books from this author.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Super Read 15 Nov 2005
By A Customer
This book is instructive as well as entertaining. The English edition is quite readable and as far as the translation is concerned all I can say is that I noticed no clunkers. I find the description of how the combatants conducted themselves as interesting as the command decisions. I never realized what a dog fight it was and how vicious the participants were.
Nothing is perfect and this edition has some weaknesses in my opinion. For one thing, there are insufficient maps. I was unable to find the important village of Plancenoit on the battle maps. This village is named in at least two chapter titles. More than that it would have been helpful to have maps of the battle area as it is discussed. The battle maps provided are just not in enough detail in my opinion.
The other thing I would have liked in this book is a list of the important commanders and their general role. I spent a lot of time trying to identify who was who, but then this is my first book on this great battle.
All in all this is a fine book and I am enjoying it immensely.
I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the battle, the Napoleonic wars or the history of the 1800's.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Readable, exciting, overview of the battle.
Published 1 month ago by Adrian Head-Rapson
5.0 out of 5 stars An impressive piece of Work
If the Italians had taken part in the battle i could have understood why an italian historian decided to write a book on this in such detail. But maybe thats why it is a good book. Read more
Published 5 months ago by MOF
5.0 out of 5 stars A "Must Read"!
Easy read, to the point but simultaneously with a lot of "behind the curtains" things in it. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Vaggelis Miliarakis
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, informative and fun read
I pumped through this book during half term in 6 days, and really enjoyed it. When I first saw the book I was surprised that an author could even write a 450 page book on one event... Read more
Published 6 months ago by A. Arslanagic-wakefield
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent history
Historical accounts of battles can be very dull and hard to read. This one is the opposite. Well written with short chapters it is a good and easy read. Read more
Published 7 months ago by KD
4.0 out of 5 stars Very descriptive.
Very descriptive and very readable book covering the Battle of Waterloo. Enables the reader to very easily follow the course of the battle.
Published 9 months ago by Speedygee
4.0 out of 5 stars Good informative account of the battle
It seemed well researched and well written. I could have done with more maps. However I have a much clearer idea of what went on than I did before.
Published 11 months ago by Mark Christian Pitman
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific detail
A superb read that puts you in there with the poor souls that fought it. A truly definitive spectacular, researched, resourced and constructed to convince you of the authenticity... Read more
Published 12 months ago by JOHN
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb
A calm, logical and well researched account of the period before, during and after the battle. The book is especially impressive in giving a view of the various armies, the... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Zigerastica
5.0 out of 5 stars Superlative
Barberos' The Battle
Thank goodness for this book. At one point Barbero mentions that there are some 31,000 web sites on the battle of which 26,000 are in English. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Musetti Gianon
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