Top critical review
22 people found this helpful
Very good, but too much anecdote too little insight. TYPOS!
on 31 January 2002
I thought this was an excellent source book on the subject, pulling together a huge amount of anecdote, mostly taken from first hand diary entries, memoirs, or correspondence, from soldiers across the period - from the Marlburian wars to the first Boer war. Interestingly, there is almost SO MUCH original anecdotal material included, that I found myself craving a rather greater proportion of commentary, insight, and interpretation from the author, rather than hurtling from one diary extract to another throughout. Curiously, the main focus is on the period 1750 to 1860 - curious, because the book would have been that much richer, I felt, by including a greater spread of earlier and later material relating, for instance, to the redcoats of the early C18th and later C19th. Actually, the focus on the Peninsular Wars and the Crimea becomes a little oppressive after a while, and whilst the 100 Days, the American Revolution, the Indian Mutiny, and a tiny bit of the Seven Years War also get an amount of coverage, there are several other significant conflicts of the era which do not get a look in. Presumably this is simply owing to the proportion of diary material available from the particular conflicts which seem to provide so much of the focus of the book. I also felt the positioning of the book slightly disingenuous - it is set up very much as 'the view from the common footslogger' but actually, an awful lot of the content (fully 50% I would estimate) revolves around the officer class. Perhaps this is not altogether surprising, given the relative literacy of the officer class and the non-commissioned classes in the era, but it is not quite the expectation the book initially sets up.
I am bound to make one other criticism, which may or seem trivial to some, but I found pretty annoying, although it almost certainly reflects no discredit on the author himself. He has been badly served in the production quality of this book. It looks good, has a beautiful set of colour and black and white plates, and is pleasingly substantial in the hand - but it is absolutely riddled with elementary typos, spelling mistakes, incorrect words, and related gaffes. In a work of high quality historical writing, retailing at a not unreasonable, but still tidy £20, it's a great shame that more care was not taken in the preparation of the finished product, which gives every appearance of having been rushed.
Overall though, pretty good. I would certainly recommend it, although the clumsy typography really irritated me!