I recently picked up David Buttery's Waterloo Battlefield Guide published by Pen&Sword earlier this year. Waterloo and the surrounding area is well worth a visit for anyone interested in history and especially the military buff, and with the 200th anniversary of the battle due in 2015, I suspect that many more people will be heading over to that part of Belgium. Up until now, there has not been a good and readily portable guide to the history and the monuments and sites today. In the past I have tended to go with photocopies of maps taken from various books - one of my favourites is Mark Adkin's Waterloo Companion, but anyone familiar with this tome will understand that it is not the sort of thing you want to lug around, especially on a rainy day. The Waterloo Battlefield guide is a neat little hardback, readily portable in a backpack and should probably fit in a decent sized coat pocket, although I would be inclined to take off the dust-jacket to keep that in good condition. It reminds me of the trusty Handbook to the Roman Wall, which I have blogged about in the past as the ideal aid to a visit.
Obviously this is intended as a guidebook and so is not really the sort of thing you sit down and read from cover to cover in one sitting, although I have found myself following big chunks, curious about how particular topics are presented. There is a narrative, which briefly gives the background, and then in more detail the events of the campaign. This is done well, and I think would be easy to follow even if you begin with no real knowledge of the military aspect of things. The details of Waterloo remain highly controversial, as evidence is re-assessed and new material discovered. This is not a book about such controversies - otherwise it would be five or six times longer and still might not reach firm conclusions - so although you could say that a fair few incidents were more complicated, the description here is always sensible. More importantly it is structured to tie in with descriptions of personalities, themes, and most importantly the landscape, buildings, museums, and memorials there today. Sometimes the history of the latter is almost as interesting as the people or event commemorated - perhaps especially in the case of the many French monuments. This is an on-going story in itself, as nations and groups decide to present the past in different ways. The whole text along with the many illustrations, photographs and maps are well integrated, the historical narrative tying in nicely with the visible remains. The battle itself is also kept within the context of the wider events of the campaign, and it is good to see plenty of attention going to Ligny/Fleurus, Quatre Bras, and especially Wavre - the latter traditionally tended to receive less attention in British accounts. This is a nice addition to the enthusiast's library and the perfect companion to a visit. I shall certainly take it with me next time I go, as there are quite a few viewpoints and details I have not seen before - and enough reminders of things I have seen to make me wistful and eager to return.
Once again, apologies for the lack of updates, but life has been very busy. The manuscript for AUGUSTUS went in last week so that is a great relief. It is scheduled for release in July 2014.
Over the coming weeks I hope to post more often, but in the meantime here is a link to a recording of the lecture I gave in New York back in April NYMAS talk on Roman Warfare. If that does not work, then go to nymas and follow the link to their podcasts.