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on 27 December 2006
This is a great general book that I have been waiting months for and it was well worth the wait. I have been fascinated by the this period since I was hooked by the Sharpe novels as a teenager.

This book is packed solid with clear, colourful, detailed illustrations on all the main participants and many of the minor ones: the French, the British (with sections on the KGL, the Brunswickers and the African Corps), the Austrians, the Russians, the Prussians, the USA, Spain, Portugal, the Polish, Italians, Bavarians, Saxons, Danes, Swedes, etc so you can see pretty comprehensive.

I collected the Del Prado Napoleonic cavalry figures a few years ago and a lot of the same illustrations have been included here. So, if you are interested in military history in general and or the Napoleonic period in particular and or military modelling then this is a book for you! It needs 10 stars really! The title says it all - The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Uniforms of the Napoleonic wars. I cant fault it as a general guide.
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on 18 September 2007
An Illustrated Encyclopedia: Uniforms of the Napoleonic Wars by Digby Smith is a very good introductory book on the uniforms and armies of the Napoleonic wars. Although this book is jam-packed with illustrations it tries to be all things to all people and ends up doing not much well, but those few things are very good. But still I came away wanting just that little bit more. A good example is the lack of unit size numbers for nearly all of the countries covered. Actually, I wish Digby had scrapped all the historical, tactical, technological sections and just stuck to uniforms.

Although there are about 250 plates devoted to showing a uniform of an individual unit this actually just scratches the surface. Consider, there are about 30 plates of the units of Great Britain plus another four plates of Kings German Legion and Brunswickers combined, another four to the East and West India companies and seven of other foreign troops who fought under the British. 16 of those plates are used to show British line infantry. Considering the changes in uniform, Scots units, varying Rifle companies and battalions this gives you just enough information to paint most of the British units you might want. This pattern is repeated for all the major combatants.

If you want a cheap introduction to the uniforms of the Napoleonic wars that is jam packed with illustrations then this is the book to get. Although, if you want to start modeling you would probably need more.

The Napoleonic Source Book by Philip J. Haythornthwaite lacks the color plates but has a much better collection of information on uniforms and uniform changes. If you can get a copy, grab it. Plus, he also gives a good idea of the varying sizes of units throughout the era and a whole lot more.

Napoleon's War in Spain: The French Peninsular Campaigns, 1807-1814 by Henry Lachouque et al and Military dress of the Peninsular War, 1808-1814 by Martin Windrow are good examples of campaign centered books that really give you a great understanding of the uniforms of the period without having to resort to Osprey (although, if you wanted to spend that much money, Osprey are great, most being very good but some still vary in quality). Both of these books have less color plates than Digby's book but give a much better view of the uniforms.

And if you want a book on battle tactics of the Napoleonic era then a great place to start is Tactics and the Experience of Battle in the Age of Napoleon by Rory Muir.

One of my favorite books for uniforms, as lopsided as it is, is Hourtoulle's Soldiers and Uniforms of teh Napoleonic Wars. This book uses tableaux instead of Digby's individual soldiers and is therefore able to show many more examples of soldiers within a regiment (plus the backs usually) but not as many individual units overall. Still a fantastic book.
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on 19 January 2009
In buying this book I was looking for a general overview of uniforms of the period, and to be fair the book does deliver this.

There are a few niggles - for example there is no mention of the fact that the lace worn on British infantry uniforms was different for each regiment. It would probably be too much detail for a book of this size to cover the detail of each regiment's lace - but surely it should have been mentioned? Similarly there is no mention of the fact that the belt plates varied from regiment to regiment.

The degree of emphasis given to different countries is also surprising at times - there are four pages on the U.S. army, only one page on the Portuguese army! Naval uniforms are not covered at all.

The main problem though is the poor editing. At times the text is confusing, there are examples of repetition, examples of the text pointing out something in the illustration which isn't in the illustration, and the odd simple editing error turning some sentences into nonsense.

Overall for the price it is a good buy - if the editing is sorted out in any 2nd edition it would be a great buy.
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on 29 August 2009
It is called Uniforms of the Napoleonic Wars yet sixteen pages are devoted to 'Europe in the late-18th century' and each country (France, Britain, Austria, Russia, Prussia) has individual chapters on their respective governments and campaigns, e.g. 'Revolutionary France 1789-96', 'The (Prussian) Catastrophe of 1806' etc. The sixth section is an odds n' sods dumping ground headed 'The USA and Other Nations' and beginning with a full two-page picture of Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans. While the War of 1812 is closely related, it is not the Napoleonic Wars. It seems folly to label this section after the USA, a country whose forces (including militia) in a separate war, never exceeded 35,000 considering Bavaria supplied an annual quota of 30,000 troops to the Grande Army at the height of the actual Napoleonic Wars themselves! The same can be said for other countries, e.g. Portugal, who contributed so much manpower to Wellington's Peninsular army, are merely lumped together with their Iberian neighbours. Paradoxically I did find the American section very interesting as the American army of that era is something-of-a neglected subject. The other countries featured - for those interested - are Denmark and Sweden, Saxony and Westphalia, Wurttemberg, Warsaw and Italy and Naples.

The major nations are spit between their armies differing components, e.g. generals, line infantry and hussars although we only get a brief summery for the smaller nations. One excellent feature is full regimental panels which accompany the text with numbers/title/number/date-raised and facings. While not exhaustingly detailed some of this information is still not the easiest to obtain - at least in English speaking countries - for nations other than Britain and France. It is nice to have it all in one handy volume when switching between different volumes from my shelf. I also liked the British section entitled the 'East and West Indian Regiments and the African Corps'. Information and full-colour plates in regards to Britain colonial troops of this era is, again, not your most frequently seen sort-of-stuff.

The highlights are the uniform plates, which are excellent although too infrequent for a book on uniforms. They detail soldiers in a variety of combat postures. The general look of the book is stunning throughout but many of the plates consist of contemporary prints, battle scenes and maps. This is excellent but is it really warranted in a book about uniforms - we even get an illustration of hogarthian London and James Cooke? The maps, from battles as wide-ranging as Jemappes, Trafalgar and Austerlitz, are a curious feature. What was the criteria for choosing these particular battles? Why Talavera but not Salamanca? They are full-colour and high-quality but their accompanying text reduces them to an absolute irrelevance being far too brief. I can only assume they exist for usage with outside texts. Perhaps this book should have been called an 'Illustrated Companion to the Napoleonic Wars'.

Overall, it seems to be a book pulling in too many different directions and confused in regards to its target audience. Does it desire to be a general, ethnographically orientated, introduction to the Napoleonic era or a book on Napoleonic Uniforms as the title implies? You have a nagging sense that this is a missed opportunity: with all peripheral information removed and replaced with additional uniforms this could have been the definitive one-volume on the subject. As it is, despite looking pretty, it barely scratches the surface.
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on 27 January 2007
For those who do not have the Napoleonic Source Book by Philip J Haythornthwaite, this would be an ideal book to have instead. Although the plates of uniforms are more like good drawings rather than one or two pictures on a page, they are designed with the writing around them. The information is very good and it has great paintings, tables, equipment and accurate uniforms from the time period. The only downside to this, is the poor quality of maps-they are good but no real information. They are static and only give an impression at one part of the battle-like the start of war.
Other than that the information is quite good which gives an introduction with an excellent map and has some information.
The next section then goes into the background history into what lead to the Napoleonic wars giving you the history of Pre-Revolutionary France, the Causes of the Revolution, the Terror, the Directory and finally the Napoleonic rise and fall. There is also a part on the Trafalgar battle with the map at the start of the sea battle and ship positions and the reason for the battle with very good tables of navy strengths of various nations. There is also an interesting section of Life of a Soldier, Uniforms and Badges of Rank and Major Campaigns and Battles (these maps are rather disappointing).
Next you have the history of various countries starting with France which tells of the uniform changes and development and includes each part of the army: infantry, cavalry and the artillery. The gradual information changes of the uniforms are very interesting and are a good reference source.
The French, Austrian and Russian sections are excellent as well as the British role during this period. The rise of the German countries and Prussian sections are also well written. The Section on the USA, Denmark and Sweden, The Grand Duchy of Warsaw along with Spain and Portugal, Italy and Naples make it very alive. The Glossary to finish is an average deal that some will read with interest.
All in all it is a very good, well written piece but if you are only interested in the Napoleonic wars, this will not be so good. It does concentrate too much on the revolution uniforms and plates which, if it had been called Uniforms of the Revolution and Napoleonic Wars would have made it a better accurately described book. None the less with it's background information leading into the Napoleonic period, this is a very good book to read.
Well worth the wait.
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on 14 August 2013
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on 4 October 2015
A slightly disappointing book for the conoscenti who would consider it 'old hat', an interesting reference for people just entering this period. Apart from an all-too-small reference to the Portuguese, its the sheer inaccuracy of the text that made me gnaw my knuckles, and it's obvious the text wasn't proofread properly, if at all, giving me the impression that this was a rushed job, trying to impress, in a market where there is already plenty of reference material. That said, most (not all) the uniforms and equipment are correctly portrayed. A frustratingly flawed tome that could and should have been more precise .
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on 3 January 2011
Great book, excellent illustrations. If you are one of those in the title and you need a Napoleonic Uniform this one. Good Value.
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on 25 October 2011
I saw uniforms of armies that I did not know anything about (like US uniforms). Of course it is just a nice comprehensive illustration.
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on 7 November 2010
Absolutely perfect for my requirements; a superb publication.

What more can one say?
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