Britain and the Defeat of Napoleon, 1807-1815


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Rory Muir

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This account of the final years of Britain's long war against Revolutionary and Napoleonic France places the conflict in a new—and wholly modern—perspective. Rory Muir looks beyond the purely military aspects of the struggle to show how the entire British nation played a part in the victory. His book provides a total assessment of how politicians, the press, the crown, civilians, soldiers, and commanders together defeated France.

Beginning in 1807 when all of continental Europe was under Napoleon's sway, the author traces the course of the war through the Spanish uprising of 1808, the campaigns of the Duke of Wellington and Sir John Moore in Portugal and Spain, and the crossing of the Pyrenees by the British army, to the invasion of southern France and the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. Muir sets Britain's military operations on the Iberian Peninsula within the context of the wider European conflict, and he examines how diplomatic, financial, military, and political considerations combined to shape policy and priorities. Just as political factors influenced strategic military decisions, Muir contends, fluctuations of the war affected British political decisions.

The book is based on a comprehensive investigation of primary and secondary sources, and on a thorough examination of the vast archives left by the Duke of Wellington. Muir offers vivid new insights on the personalities of Canning, Castlereagh, Perceval, Lord Wellesley, Wellington, and the Prince Regent, along with fresh information on the financial background of Britain's campaign. This vigorous narrative account will appeal to general readers and enthusiasts of the Napoleonic era, as well as academics with an interest in early nineteenth-century British political or military history.

Rory Muir was formerly a visiting fellow at the University of Southampton.

A selection of the History Book Club

"For those who want a solid background of politics, economics and strategy—supported by impeccable reference notes . . . this is the necessary briefing, balanced and well reasoned."—Tom Pocock, Literary Review

"The book contains some delightful anecdotes."—Malcolm Rutherford, Financial Times

"An incisive and compelling account of the final years of Britain's long war against Revolutionary and Napoleonic France. Muir delves beyond the well-trodden military histories to reveal how the whole of Britain was mobilised in the struggle for victory. Politicians, Press, Monarchy, civilians and soldiers are all part of this-detailed quilt, which is sewn together to provide a rare and stimulating historical account of this turbulent period."—Yorkshire Post

"This is a fine and valuable book that will continue to be of essential use to scholars of the period for a considerable time into the future. A copy belongs in every academic library in the United States."—Eric A. Arnold Jr., History: Reviews of New Books

"This first-rate study, written primarily from the British point of view, is packed full of information about the role played by the British cabinet in their struggle against Napoleonic France. Based primarily upon manuscript collections scattered throughout England, this volume is concerned with the men who formulated and implemented Britain's Grand Strategy against Napoleon. . . . The author has produced a valuable study and accomplished the task that he laid out for himself. He has admirably illustrated that England's extraordinary success against Napoleon was based, to a large degree, on the courage, commitment, judgment, and perseverance of the cabinet members."—Donald D. Horward, Military History

"A lively narrative and a clear understanding of the subject, make this book immensely readable, as well as being a useful addition to early nineteenth-century debate."—Keith Barrett, Archives

"An intelligent and thoughtful account of the latter part of the Napoleonic War from the British perspective."—John Derry, History Today

"The most comprehensive single-volume survey of the entire last decade of Britain's struggle against Napoleon. . . . Muir's book therefore is informative for not only the historian, but it is an interesting study in the perennial questions of war and diplomacy as well."—J. Michael Robertson, Virginia Quarterly Review

"Muir presents his account in a style worthy of the great narrative historians and, in depicting the British war against Napoleon as a heroic patriotic contest, he reflects not only later idealization but also the view of contemporaries, as most recently elaborated in Linda Colley's Britons: Forging the Nation (1707-1837. . . . This well-researched and felicitously written book will long remain a standard, relatively concise account, superseding the many that have gone before it."—Neville Thompson, International History Review

"British political leaders, diplomats, and generals had played a significant role in the destruction of Napoleonic hegemony and the restoration of a power balance that served Britain's interests. This remarkable reversal of fortune is described in a well researched and fascinating book. Scholars have long focused on British diplomacy, strategy, and military operations, but Muir goes beyond examinations of single aspects of British power to unravel the intertwined complexities of domestic politics, finance, diplomacy, and strategy. Moreover, he reaches a number of remarkable and insightful conclusions. . . . The author has written a balanced and detailed study that will be essential reading for anyone interested in examining Britain's role in the defeat of Napoleon."—Steven T. Ross, Albion

"Based in part on a doctoral dissertation, this is the most detailed modern study we have of Britain's defeat of Napoleon."—H.T. Dickinson, History

‘Muir’s first volume on Wellington is an impressive study remarkable for the quantity of invaluable material it contains… it is with great interest that we look forward to the appearance of the second volume.’—Ian Robertson, Army Historical Research.

Winner of the 1997 First Prize given by the Literary Committee of the International Napoleonic Society
ISBN: 9780300197570
Publication Date: April 17, 1996
480 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
16 b/w illus.

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