Among the many treasured volumes in my library are memoirs and biographies, which so often give wonderful insights into the individuals who strode the Napoleonic-era stage. I particularly enjoy hearing actual ‘voices’ from the past, they can really transport you back in time. Here are four recent titles that will appeal to all those drawn to this fascinating period in history.
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The Late Lord, the Life of John Pitt by Jacqueline Reiter
The Second Earl of Chatham is one of the most enigmatic and overlooked figures of early nineteenth century British history. The elder brother of Pitt the Younger, he has long been consigned to history as ‘the late Lord Chatham’, the lazy commander-in-chief of the 1809 Walcheren expedition, whose inactivity and incompetence turned what should have been an easy victory into a disaster. Chatham’s poor reputation obscures a fascinating and complex man. This biography peels away the myths.
A Soldier for Napoleon by John H Gill
The letters and diaries of Lieutenant Franz Joseph Hausmann are here placed in the context of the military events of the period by renowned historian John Gill. This book is an important, authoritative addition to the many new works on the Napoleonic Wars that modern scholarship is bringing to light.
In the Words of Napoleon by R M Johnston
This engrossing compilation acts as a diary or journal, encompassing the whole of the emperor’s life. Napoleon’s words – as recorded on a particular day – are set down as ‘entries’, and these offer a unique glimpse into the major events of the Napoleonic period. The diary reveals Napoleon’s thoughts and actions as his life unfolded and throws light on his attitudes to war, politics and the many varied personalities who surrounded – or opposed – him
Fighting Napoleon by Gareth Glover
Britain’s struggle against Napoleon ranged across the continents, and the extensive operations of the Royal Navy and the British Army in the Mediterranean was a key battleground in this prolonged war of attrition. Even when Napoleon considered himself the master of Europe, he was unable to control the Mediterranean. These lively and entertaining memoirs provide an intriguing counterpoint to Wellington’s better-known operations in the Iberian Peninsula.