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4.4 out of 5 stars26
4.4 out of 5 stars
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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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on 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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on 23 September 2014
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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on 27 March 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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on 5 June 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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on 3 May 2012
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 detail impressive. This book covers Victoria's reign from her accession in 1837 to the death of Albert in 1861 and combines detail from his others covering the Indian Mutiny and other conflicts. No doubt the following book covering the remainder of Victoria's reign will include details from his excellent history of the Zulu wars and others.
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on 23 March 2015
Saul David has written a good book about the wars that took place in the first part of Victoria's reign (up to the death of the Prince Consort, Albert). He has taken an approach of looking at these conflicts not just frm a military point of view but also a political point of view, which makes this a stronger book then it could have been otherwise. During this period we get wars in Afghanistan, the Punjab, China, Russia, Burma and then the Indian Mutiny which scarred the British consciousness with regards to India and the Indians. We end the novel with the death of Prince Albert and the affect it had on Victoria, the monarchy and British foreign policy, arguing that his death had a profound impact and lessened the monarchy in England into a ceremonial role, where before they still had impact on the government.

The book follows a chronological order, written as a narrative history tha also uses exerts of letters and notes from some of the participants, which help to illuminate and add flavor to key moments and help to make the wars become more real to us. This is a good book, but the tittle is very misleading, the ater half of the reign could have been looked at to give the title a sense of completness.
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on 6 September 2014
Recently I have started to become interested in Victorian military and social history but would have to admit that my knowledge is somewhat lacking. This book doesn't deal with every war or battle because there are too many and it does not go beyond the death of Albert; it does have references to the political scene and the attitudes of Queen Victoria in a useful, but thankfully not in a heavy, way. A well researched and written book to which I will refer to in the future.
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on 20 September 2014
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. Not only did I learn more about the period, the narrative flowed as told by a natural story teller.
The book a very well written and compelling read.
Anyone who is studying this period should read this book and anyone who wants to know more about the life and conditions of the army would also benefit from it.
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on 19 October 2015
A little bit disappointing. Well researched in places, but noticeable where either editing cut down or research was carried out because certain parts of battles were skipped over, when others were drilled into at depth.

Not a great insight offered or opinion from the author, nor enough information in places for the reader to draw their own.

In general, a nice starter but does not do what it says it does.
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