Tuesday, August 06, 2013

A beginner's bibliography of the Napoleonic Wars

While at RWA in Atlanta last month, I gave a talk titled "Beyond Trafalgar and Waterloo: Your Hero's Military History." at the Beau Monde Regency Special Interest Chapter's mini-conference. My goal was to help writers go beyond the most obvious battles and tropes when writing a military hero. (Or heroine! One of these days I'm going to finish that manuscript with a young lady disguised as a boy in the navy.) In my handouts I included a list of what I think are some of the best sources for writers who'd like to write a Napoleonic-era military or naval hero but don't know where to begin.

It occurred to me that interest in such a list might go beyond the thirty or so people who were in the room that day, so here it is. This isn't even remotely intended as a comprehensive bibliography--just a good jumping-off point if you're a writer who'd like to add more richness to your military hero's backstory or a reader who enjoys romances with military heroes or books and movies like the Sharpe series and wants to learn more about the reality behind your favorite heroes. (Note that several of these books are out-of-print and sufficiently expensive that I've only included their buy links so you'll have all the info you need to track them down via interlibrary loan.)

Adkin, Mark. The Sharpe Companion: A Detailed Historicaland Military Guide to Bernard Cornwell’s Bestselling Series of Sharpe Novels. Designed as companion pieces for the Sharpe series, this book and the one above contain a wealth of detail about the lives and campaigns of British soldiers of the era.

Barbero, Alessandro. The Battle: A New History ofWaterloo. A page-turner of an introduction to the battle.

Brett-James, Antony. Life in Wellington’s Army. A book about every aspect of a soldier’s life but battle, this is a wonderful source for understanding how your hero would’ve lived while on campaign.

Burnham, Robert & Ron McGuigan. The British Armyagainst Napoleon: Facts, Lists, and Trivia 1805-1815. Something of an encyclopedia of the British army, full of useful details such as soldiers’ and officers’ pay, cost of commissions, rations, punishments for various offenses, casualty figures, etc.

Crumplin, Michael. Men of Steel: Surgery in theNapoleonic Wars. Want to write a surgeon hero, or have your hero wounded and in need of surgical care? This book is for you.

Elting, John. Swords Around a Throne: Napoleon’s Grande Armée. Focused on the French, but it manages to be both encyclopedic and fascinating about what made an army of the era tick.

Foulkes, Nick. Dancing into Battle: A Social History of theBattle of Waterloo. Worthwhile for romance writers for its focus on the social and cultural milieu.

Haythornthwaite, Philip. Nelson’s Navy. A short, well-illustrated introduction to naval life.

Lieven, D.C.B. Russia Against Napoleon: The True Story ofthe Campaigns of War and Peace. Not directly relevant to an author focused on British characters, but a fascinating and thought-provoking view of all the major powers involved in the wars.

Longford, Elizabeth. Wellington: The Years of theSword. My favorite of the many Wellington biographies I’ve read.

Michael O’Meara Books Ltd. Ships’ Miscellany: A Guide tothe Royal Navy of Jack Aubrey. A good introductory source on the ships of the era and the life of a sailor.

Morgan, Matthew. Wellington’s Victories: A Guide to Sharpe’sArmy 1797-1815. Yes, another guide for readers of a fiction series, but they tend to make extremely useful and readable introductions.

Park, S.J. and G.F. Nafziger. The British Military: ItsSystem and Organization 1803-1815. Bernard Cornwell pointed me to this one when I met him at the Surrey Writers’ Conference a few years back. It tells you where every regiment was during the time frame covered—invaluable in finding a regimental home for your hero.

Whipple, A.B.C.  Fighting Sail. It’s a Time-Life book—which means it’s fairly detailed and full of illustrations, and it doesn’t expect you to come into the book with an expert’s knowledge. Focuses almost exclusively on Nelson’s life and campaigns.


Judith said...

Thank you for this, Susanna! There were some on here I didn't know about.

Ella Quinn - Romance Novelist said...

Great resources. I tweeted!!

Shelley Munro said...

What an awesome list of resources. Thanks for sharing.

Gerald said...

Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

Your article is very well done, a good read.

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