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5.0 out of 5 stars Vital New Perspective on Waterloo in English, 17 Feb. 2013
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This review is from: Waterloo: The French Perspective (Hardcover)
This book presents a wide variety of French sources about the Battle of Waterloo, many of them unfamiliar to English speakers before this time. Most of the sources are relatively senior officers but they do include some junior officers and some voices from the ranks.

The focus of the book is very much on the Battle of Waterloo, rather than on the Hundred Days Campaign overall, so although the book does use some pre-Waterloo material, this is mainly to show the overall condition and character of Napoleon's Army. The book really gets into its stride from the point of the eve of Waterloo onwards, moving into greater depth and covering many of the more controversial issues regarding the battle. More-or-less extensive coverage is given to:
The condition of the ground and the initial deployment.
The 'pinning' attack at Hougomont and what went wrong from the French point of view.
Extensive coverage of D'Erlon's attack and the subsequent cavalry charges.
The Prussian arrival and then the attack on Plancenoit
The attack of the Imperial Guard
The French rout

Although there are a couple of key gaps, where French primary sources simply do not seem to exist, there is enough new information to keep anyone interested in the battle going. Frankly, unless one is prepared to do the work in French oneself, this is a 'must buy' item. Helpfully the writing is good too, the author having an engaged, interested tone, always anxious to show where the sources differ from accounts in other languages or from each other, and where on balance he thinks the truth may lie - but only 'on balance'. So if you are interested in how much the condition of the ground affected Napoleon's plans, exactly how far D'Erlon's Corps got before it was defeated, whether any British or Allied squares were broken and all of the other details of the battle, there is plenty to mull over inside.

One really good point is that he makes the point that many of Napoleon's utterances on the day were those of a commander - one trying to get his generals and soldiers to win - not a journalist 'honestly' reporting on his own battle. He was perfectly at liberty to say things he didn't mean when he needed to inspire his men. Similarly, distinction is made between the reliability of many of the other sources and a fair judgement given as to how believeable the author finds them.

I think this book would be best read after tackling a good overview work, such as 'The Battle' The Battle: A New History of the Battle of Waterloo, or Andrew Roberts' 'Waterloo' Waterloo: Napoleon's Last Gamble (Making History)or even Siborne's 'History...' History of the War in France and Belgium in 1815. It works very well in conjunction with Peter Hofschroer's book 1815: The Waterloo Campaign. Volume 2: The German Victoryto aid in presenting a very rounded view of the Waterloo as a whole.

Highly, highly recommended.
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