Book Review: An Illustrated Introduction to the Battle of Waterloo by Mark Simner.


Paperback: 96 pages
Publisher: Amberley Publishing (15 May 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1445646668
ISBN-13: 978-1445646664

It’s probably fair to say that not everyone wants to read a full 300 odd pages about the Battle of Waterloo. Instead some people might just wish something to let them decide wether they want to dig deeper.
Given the large libraries of books dedicated to the battle, short books on the subject aren’t all that easy to find, less still ones that are worth reading. Happily this one is.

Mark Simner has written a very nice, compact illustrated introduction to the battle, which will tell you all you might wish to know in a manageable space and without drowning the reader in weighty facts. The images are nicely chosen, with some that even experienced Waterloo enthusiasts might not have seen before. Especially one depicting the attack on Hougoumont.
Despite the limited space, the author is experienced with fitting in the right details into a clear narrative of events.

Much Like in Adkin’s Waterloo Companion, interspersed into the main course of the book are text blocks that illustrate certain parts of the story. There is a feel of trying to create a small companion to the battle, which indeed it would serve well as, even for those who just wish a quick reference.¬†There is included a short guide to further reading and interesting websites at the end, and at the beginning there is an interesting introduction within an introduction, outlining the battle in 10 minutes. Much of the first 3 chapters or so concentrate of Napoleon, the French Revolution, and the Napoleonic Wars. I notice that both the careers of the allied commanders are represented by one of the text blocks, thus Napoleon appears much more formed to the mind of a reader than his enemies, but this is likely because the French Emperor is the crux of the matter for a book as small as this.

The rest of the book follows a traditional summary of the battle, IE it breaks it into phases, the lead in to the battle is briefly covered, Ligny, Quatre Bras and Wavre are mentioned as bookends and in my opinion it is a very nice piece of work.
As a military history that covers many sides of the story I should think it perfect for a traveller to pop into a rucksack or haversack along with Andrew Roberts’ slim campaign overview, and Andrew Forrest’s fine analysis of the legacy of the battle for Oxford. All in all there is much to recommend this book for newcomer and veteran alike and will be a fine companion for anyone interested in the battle.


Book Review: A Short History of the Peninsular War by Mark Simner.

Format: Kindle Edition
File Size: 3752 KB
Print Length: 86 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: Mark Simner; 1 edition (22 Sept. 2015)

I should probably preface this by saying I have E-known Mark Simner for some years now. The supposed drawback of this is that I might lose some objectivity, however having exchanged many messages with him over the web I feel this allows me to assure perspective readers of this new author’s dedication to his subject in a way I could not with someone else.

Strange as it seems the Peninsular War is becoming a niche subject. It is a field of enquiry dominated by ex soldiers, a handful of dedicated historians and professors of British military history or Hispanic studies and those devoted fans of Bernard Cornwell’s books and of course the Sean Bean series.

When casting around for some kind of introduction therefore readers are left with a stark choice, in that there has not been a readable summary history of the war written since Roger Parkinson’s 1973 contribution to The British at War series and Michael Glover’s concise history in 1974. Mark Simner’s new book has taken a step in the right direction to redress the balance.

It is a short, concise, smartly illustrated little book with an encyclopaedic feel to it. Each chapter covers about a year or so of the war. At the end of each chapter there are small biographies of key players, and at the finish is a small bibliography and a guide to battlefields, I think one could easily dip in and out of it at will. This book would be perfect for those who want to read history but excuse themselves because they have no time to delve into 300 pages as it could easily be read in a few hours. It would be extremely useful to younger readers or those completely uninitiated to the Peninsular War because of its relative simplicity, yet fine presentation of the important facts. For instance the most impressive feature is probably its blending of Portuguese and Spanish effort into the standard narrative, which could just as easily have been a summary of Wellington’s battles. So even for the veteran enthusiast there is likely to be something new to discover.