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Book Review: The Dictionary
of the Napoleonic Wars

Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars, by David Chandler
1999, Wordsworth Editions Ltd. (Originally published 1979)

There are literally hundreds of thousands of books published about Napoleon and the Napoleonic Wars. This means there is more to be read on the subject than any human can possibly tackle. The flip side of this wealth of information is that it makes practical general reference works like this one.

Chandler is known, of course, for his landmark The Campaigns of Napoleon. This handy reference volume is a nice addition to any library on the subject. While it is showing some age 25 years after it was written, it is nonetheless a solid work. It contains many brief articles on the primary battles, campaigns, personalities, and concepts of the period. It also includes numerous longer essays on larger topics such as the Peninsular War and, of course, Napoelon himself. Most of the entries run just a few paragraphs, and many are accompanied by illustrations or maps. Indeed, many of the maps are drawn from The Campaigns of Napoleon. Here, for example, is one of the shorter entries:

    Castaņos, Francisco Xavier, Duke of Bailen (1756 - 1852). Born in the Spanish province of Biscay, he studied for a military career in Germany and first saw active service against the French in Navarre. In 1808 he forced General Dupont* to surrender at Bailen* - his greatest moment - and five years later played a useful part at Vitoria*. From 1825 he was a member of the Council fo State, and later became President of the Couci of Castille (1853) and tutor to Queen Isabella II of Spain. [p. 80 Note: Asterisks indicate cross references to other entries.]

Longer entries, ranging up to 2 or 3 pages, are reserved for entries such as Austerlitz, Davout, Wellesley, and cavalry. While it will not be the last word on any subject, it will certainly assist a novice in navigating this fascinating period in history.

Review Posted August, 2004

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