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Victoria's Wars: The Rise of Empire [Illustrated] [Hardcover]

Saul David
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Book Description

4 May 2006
In the early part of Queen Victoria's reign, the British Empire almost quintupled in size. It was well on the way to becoming the greatest empire the world had ever seen. This is the story of how it happened and the people who made it happen. In a fast-moving narrative that ranges from London to the harsh terrain of India, Russia and the Far East, Saul David shows how Britain ruthlessly exploited her position as the world's only superpower to expand her empire. Yet, little of this territorial acquisition was planned or sanctioned by the home government. Instead, it was largely the work of the men on the ground, and to those at home, it really did seem that the empire was acquired in a fit of absence of mind. Saul David creates a vivid portrait of life on the violent fringes of empire, and of the seemingly endless and brutal wars that were fought in the name of trade, civilization and the balance of power.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; illustrated edition edition (4 May 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670911380
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670911387
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 4.8 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 463,007 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Saul David is Professor of War Studies at the University of Buckingham and the author of several critically-acclaimed history books, including The Indian Mutiny: 1857 (shortlisted for the Westminster Medal for Military Literature), Zulu: The Heroism and Tragedy of the Zulu War of 1879 (a Waterstone's Military History Book of the Year) and, most recently, Victoria's Wars: The Rise of Empire.

Saul David also writes acclaimed historical fiction. Zulu Hart, the first in the George Hart series, was a bestseller in 2009, and the sequel, Hart of Empire, will be published in August 2010.

An experienced broadcaster, Saul David has presented and appeared in history programmes for all the major TV channels and is a regular contributor to Radio 4.

Visit Saul's website at

Product Description


'Tremendously exciting, full of local colour and vivid . . . You can smell the sweat and the smoke and the fear' -- TLS

‘A fine book . . . David has an almost Carlylean knack of bringing events to life on the page’ -- Literary Review

‘A splendid narrator . . . the Afghan chapters would make salutary reading for George Bush and Tony Blair’ -- Sunday Telegraph

‘Incisive and acute . . . thorough and occasionally revelatory, [David] always finds a telling phrase, an eye-catching detail or a human story’ -- Sunday Times

‘Splendid . . . a terrific treasure-chest of anecdotes . . . a splendidly brisk, cool and judicious narrator’ -- Daily Telegraph

From the Publisher

Previous praise for Saul David:
‘Riveting. Forget almost everything you thought you knew about the Zulu War. Saul David has provided another fine revisionist account of one of Queen Victoria's short but viscious wars' Andrew Roberts, 'Sunday Telegraph' (on Zulu)
'Thoroughly researched, clearly and honestly presented, this is the best account of the subject I have read' Adam Zamoyski, 'Sunday Times' (on Zulu)
‘A remarkable work by a huge new talent’ William Dalrymple, 'Sunday Times' (on The Indian Mutiny)

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Book Covering Some of Victoria's Wars 25 Mar 2010
By Dr. R. Brandon TOP 1000 REVIEWER
This is an interesting and well written book, but it is not quite what it seems, unless you pay great attention to the sub-title, 'Rise of Empire'. That is to say that the book does not cover by any means Victoria's wars but only those wars that took place prior to the death of Prince Albert on 14th December 1861. This necessarily means that all the wars involving Africa, including the Zulu War of 1879 and the Boer War of 1899, are excluded.
The main campaigns that are covered by this book are the Afghan Wars, the later Indian wars of conquest and the Indian Mutiny of 1857, the wars in Burma and Siam, and the Crimean and Opium Wars. The Crimean War of 1854 to 56 is particularly well dealt with and I do not think that I have read a clearer account of how the disastrous Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaklava came to take place.
The author explains the background to the various campaigns very well. These are dealt with in chronological order. He describes the reasons for the action taken, and also keeps us well acquainted with the political pressures on the ministers of the time and the frequent changes of government. Having established the background the author then expertly sketches in the characteristics of the leading figures on both sides and often gives us detailed and graphic descriptions of the key moments in the battles or assaults.
David regularly relates the relationship of the various prime ministers and their foreign policy to the views of Victoria and Albert, Albert being no mere cipher in this field.
The book is well constructed and contains some interesting illustrations, line maps and a useful timeline of events.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars from Kabul to Peking 11 May 2013
Good description of the various fresh & frolicky wars that Britain fought between Victoria's coronation and the death of her husband Albert, i.e. from the late 1830s to 1861. The wars range from the little-known war in Burmah to the epic Crimean war, and from the disastrous retreat from Kabul to the highly succesful (but somewhat nasty as it degenerated into the burning of the summer palace) campaign to Peking in the third Opium war. I found the book well written, it gives appropriate attention to weapons technology (this period covers the evolution from the 'brown bess' musket to the rifled Enfield muzzle-loader) while also digressing on political events on the home front & the private life of the royals. Recommended.
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32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Victoria's Wars: The Rise of Empire 5 Jun 2006
A thoroughly engrossing and enjoyable retelling of military history during the first part of Queen Victoria's reign up to the death of Prince Albert. The original aspect of this volume however the way in which Saul David has intertwined political and royal events with the succession of "minor" wars including the retreat from Kabul, the Indian Mutiny and the Crimean War.

Beautifully written a darn good yarn for all armchair soldiers and historians
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Overview of Early Victorian Wars 27 Mar 2008
I read many years ago that there was not a day during Queen Victoria's reign when there was not a war going on somewhere involving British forces. Saul David does a great job of describing a number of the early 'small wars' (plus the Crimean War which probably could not be described as a 'small war'), during the period running up to the death of Prince Albert. That is the only 'gotcha' - do not expect this book to cover any wars beyond the date of his death, such as the Zulu War and the Sudan War.
Nonetheless, it's a small 'gotcha' as this is a very well written story. The campaigns are well-described, but Mr David goes further in that he intertwines the descriptions of the military campaigns with a study of the political scene both at home and abroad and a good view of Victoria and Albert as Queen and Consort. He uses, in particular, the Queen's diaries and letters to really bring the era to life which provide a fascinating insight into a Queen who quickly developed a mature and professional political sense. Mr David also provides more than mere descriptions of the military aspects of the campaigns, but gives a good analysis of each scenario from a political and military point of view.
The result is a very readable history book which provides on overview of the wars of the period and the politics surrounding them. It is a great starter book which should naturally lead the reader onto more detailed accounts of the many campaigns fought around the world during the 19th Century. Highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing, exciting history 23 Sep 2014
By Mark
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is a thoroughly engrossing account of British imperial warfare & politics during the reign of Queen Victoria. It is packed with detail & contemporary accounts, & portraits of eccentric & heroic personalities; yet is written in an easy-to-read & free-flowing style. The strategic overviews & blow-by-blow tactical details of battles are sandwiched between the political context & manoeuvres of those in power. Victoria's reign serves as a unifying backdrop, but she is little more than an observer, albeit one with a dear love & concern for her military forces, a monarch who likes to make her feelings known. This is very much a book about military & political power play during the heyday of the British Empire, not about monarchy. It does not shy away from the brutalities of the era, be they foreign or British-inflicted, yet this book still captures a sense of adventure, glory & pride that was felt at the time. The book also includes numerous pages of b/w maps, paintings & sketches of the events, which further enhance the experience.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Published 26 days ago by GRAHAM mason
5.0 out of 5 stars Victoria's Wars by David Soul
As part of my research into my family's history, where a great deal of it was spent in the army at this time, David Soul's book has been invaluable. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Andrew Styles
5.0 out of 5 stars very good so far.
You ve got to be an History fan. Just fine. I recommand it.
Published 1 month ago by Lindi.
5.0 out of 5 stars A useful and very readable book
Recently I have started to become interested in Victorian military and social history but would have to admit that my knowledge is somewhat lacking. Read more
Published 1 month ago by pj baldock
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Another fine history by Saul David
Published 2 months ago by gingivae+
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and entertaining
Covering the wars during the Victoria&Albert period, it gives an interesting insight of the monarch's views. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars Almost royalist propaganda.
Really overplays Victorias role and underplays other influences like the East India company, which was probably the biggest thing to make the empire and give the money and impetous... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Falcon
4.0 out of 5 stars Victoria's Wars
Saul David is one of the pre-eminent military historians of our age. His knowledge of the 19th Century conflicts in which England (Britain) was involved is amazing and his grasp of... Read more
Published on 3 May 2012 by Tricky Dickie
5.0 out of 5 stars Book: Victoria's Wars
The book was not new so the description was important - and the state of the book was exactly as described; and is well worth reading.
Published on 17 April 2012 by Itinerant
5.0 out of 5 stars A "little of everything", like an appetizer of conflict stories
As of late, i've been bited by the "historical curiosity" insect. This book came very at hand at introducing to myself the wars fought under Queen Victoria's reign. Read more
Published on 10 April 2011 by El Fanegas
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