69 of 75 people found the following review helpful
An epic project marred by careless authorship,
This review is from: The War of Wars: The Epic Struggle Between Britain and France: 1789-1815: The Great European Conflict, 1793-1815 (Paperback)
I own a number of books by Robert Harvey and have enjoyed them all so I was quite excited by this book that offered a condensed, concise and updated version of this period in history. Harvey's style of writing is always light, breezy and well paced with the author being able to unravel complex topics and present them in a simple, easy to understand manner. The layout of the book is a key strength of this work with short sharp chapters that allows the reader to make progress in convenient time. The selection of illustrations and plates, whilst not immaginative per se, adequately compliment the work. It is clear that Harvey thoroughly understands the navel aspect of these wars very well, and heaps praise upon Cochrane especially (not surprising since Harvey wrote a biography on Cochrane). Another refreshing aspect of this history is Harvey's opinions of the key players; Pitt, Grenville, Napoleon, Nelson etc etc, who are re-assessed and come through the wash very differently from the majority of works extant.
Unfortunately this is where the positives end. When the work began to encounter the Peninsular campaigns, mistakes of an unforgivable nature began to creep into the work. A couple of examples will illustrate, General Sir David Baird becomes Barnard in one chapter and Barclay in the very next; Wellington was never nearly drowned off the coast of Egypt, a ship he was going to board on its way to the Red Sea was lost with all hands (something very different); Lord Mornington became Lord Wellesley after the storming of Serinapatam in 1799, when this same person tried to bring down the Percival government a decade or so later, Wellesley is referred to as Mornington again; King Joseph of Spain's cheif of staff was Marshall Jourdan, never Junot, according to Harvey; Napoleon and Tsar Alexanber met on a barge on the river Tikrit, the very same place as Saddam Hussein's birthplace! And the list goes on!! These errors had me questioning the narrative that preceeded it, how many errors of fact and of history went before? What is clear is that Harvey (or the publishers) failed to perform any quality control and as a result the work overall comes across as rushed and sloppy. And for 25 pounds puchase price (from Waterstones not Amazon unfortunately), the money could easily have been spent on a better quality work such as a second hand copy of Bryant's seminal trilogy on this period!
Recommendation: Buy at your peril!