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"Peter Hofschroer and David Hamilton Williams" Topic


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1,923 hits since 13 Jun 2017
©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
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Navy Fower Wun Seven13 Jun 2017 5:43 p.m. PST

About 10 years ago there were a series of threads about these two authors, with illustrious authors such as Dave Hollins and Kevin Kiley weighing in. DHW was accused of being a fraud, making up sources. It seemed to me that his main offence was in beating PH to the punch in publishing a revisionist history about Waterloo, you know the gist – The real victors were the Prussians, Brits weren;t really there, etc&etc. The threads only really muddied the waters..

Why bring all of this up now? Well I am having to housekeep my bookshelves to make way for Hussey's volumes on Waterloo, and felt ready to skip either my PH or DHW volumes. At first DHW was losing when it seemed correct that he had a criminal conviction for obtaining money by deception…But his work is damn readable!
PH on the other hand I disliked for his OTT and bordering on irrational hatred of Wellington..

Then I discovered that PH himself is now a convicted felon, having been sentenced to 30 months for kiddie porn: link

I thought that quite ironic!

Both their works are going in the recycle bin!

Hafen von Schlockenberg Supporting Member of TMP13 Jun 2017 5:56 p.m. PST

Why not sell them?

Just a thought.

AussieAndy Supporting Member of TMP13 Jun 2017 6:21 p.m. PST

Up to you, but not sure that the criminal convictions of authors is a logical reason for dumping their books. If it is, then I get rid of the kiddie porn guy's books first. PH had some interesting things to say about the German role at Waterloo, but, of course, he undermined his own arguments by giving everyone else none of the credit.

Dave Jackson Supporting Member of TMP13 Jun 2017 6:35 p.m. PST

I agree with AussieAndy. Don't be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Yes, they are to a degree losers, and DHW really had it out for Siborne and some others. And their practices, but his waterloo book has a lot of good details and is well written. Wrt PH, ok, child porn, evil…..but, stick to his books and there is some very excellent info from the Prussians that has never seen the light of day and wouldn't have it it weren't for him. Revile him yes, but…..that work has merit.

Digby Green13 Jun 2017 7:23 p.m. PST

Its a tricky one.
As an older guy I hate pedophiles, and yet I still love Billy Idol's songs. (up loud on the stereo)
Its sad what DHW did, but most of us have done things that we now regret.
I have all the books written by the 2 mentioned authors and I would not sell or give them away, as they all have much to contribute.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP13 Jun 2017 7:56 p.m. PST

I have them, but don't use them for reference or study. There is much better material from excellent scholars that are both much more readable and more credible.

Navy Fower Wun Seven13 Jun 2017 9:09 p.m. PST

Yes agreed Brechtel. I appreciate everyone else's points, but I enter my library to relax, and the mudsligning and now history of those two has turned me off a little, and I need the space for the massive Hussey tome – and that's just vol 1!

Oliver Schmidt13 Jun 2017 10:27 p.m. PST

You are going to buy a book based upon the experiences and writings of a lot of people who were killing a lot of other people, and shudder at these two books because their authors were stealing or watching porn ?

However, if you feel bad thinking about these two authors, just sell off both works ;-)

I haven't read DHW, but the author making up sources doesn't seem to be a good recommendation for a book on history.

As for PH, in his two volumes on the campaign he translated a lot of excerpts from German primary sources into English, for the first time. If you are deeply interested in the Prussian army during the campaign, but don't speak German, you don't have any alternative than reading these two volumes, besides (as far as I can judge) the books of John Franklin and Eberhard Kaulbach. As PH first quotes the sources and then bases his arguments on them, you can agree with his conclusions or – better – make up your own mind.

Lord Hill13 Jun 2017 11:02 p.m. PST

Billy Idol?

Navy Fower Wun Seven14 Jun 2017 1:26 a.m. PST

You are going to buy a book based upon the experiences and writings of a lot of people who were killing a lot of other people, and shudder at these two books because their authors were stealing or watching porn ?

Yes – my background is one in which convicted criminals can no longer be considered reliable – particularly when they themselves have pointed the finger! Funnily enought one's personal honour is considered very important in the business of 'killing a lot of other people'…

Whirlwind14 Jun 2017 3:10 a.m. PST

As for PH, in his two volumes on the campaign he translated a lot of excerpts from German primary sources into English, for the first time. If you are deeply interested in the Prussian army during the campaign, but don't speak German, you don't have any alternative than reading these two volumes, besides (as far as I can judge) the books of John Franklin and Eberhard Kaulbach. As PH first quotes the sources and then bases his arguments on them, you can agree with his conclusions or – better – make up your own mind

Quite. I'd go so far as to say if you don't read German, then you are going to have to rely on one of the few people who has translated the stuff into English. Obviously you can still get rid of them if the author being a criminal bothers you, but then you know you are going to a: miss stuff and b: be prey to anglophone or francophone bias.

dibble14 Jun 2017 3:20 a.m. PST

I don't like either author but with Hofschroer, as remarked upon above, at least you can dip into his books and have a look at the Prussian accounts. I read David Hamilton Williams book when it first came out, and that's it, Read, put it up in my loft, forgot about it, retrieved it, put it on a book shelf, had a clear out of tomes I didn't care much for and gave it to (Along with other books)the local Salvation Army charity shop. I can't just throw books away!

Paul :)

Whirlwind14 Jun 2017 3:25 a.m. PST

I don't think there is anything crucial you are going to miss in DHW's work. The stuff is "out there" anyway, so you can make up your own mind whether the contribution of the British cavalry was undervalued, or whatever.

basileus6614 Jun 2017 3:34 a.m. PST

Problem to reject either's books based upon their felon status is that the pesky ad hominem argument is not very useful.

Marc at work14 Jun 2017 3:57 a.m. PST

Gary Glitter maybe. Not sure about Billy Idol

Mind you – wasn't one of the Rolling Stones involved with a 13 year old Mandy Smith. Different times for Bill Wyman…

Me. I found both books good at the time

4th Cuirassier14 Jun 2017 4:11 a.m. PST

The trouble with either is, how do you know whether what they claim a record says actually does say that?

Unless you've read it yourself you've only got their word for it, and their word is not reliable. Hofschroer's judgement is clearly unreliable. If the nature of his defence at his trial doesn't persuade you of this, Hussey's forensic dissection of his various claims, their hoary provenance and their lack of substance will.

Hussey's book is not blood and thunder popular history with battle narratives. It's all about who wrote what to whom and when did they do so. The Prussians – and Gneisenau in particular – come out of it looking very bad indeed. 1.6mph typical courier speed, for example…

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP14 Jun 2017 5:38 a.m. PST

I always wondered, given Hofschroer's obvious anti Wellington bias, just how reliable his translations were.
As for his felon status, that in itself doesn't necessarily affect his reliability. It just gives us another thing to consider.
An analogy might be Bill Cosby's current trial. Does it make his early comedy albums less funny?

4th Cuirassier14 Jun 2017 6:02 a.m. PST

Both show the danger of going back to sources and assuming them to be impeccable because they relate the story you want told.

Hussey shows haw the claims unearthed from the archives of 200 years ago were debunked 100 years ago, and remain thus even though recent writers have revived only the claim knowing little of the debunking.

In this forum we have a thread debating how good the grenadiers a cheval really were. Based on contemporary accounts, they were both invincible and poltroons. It's whose accounts you find plausible given your other data points and how they all cohere.

Hussey is very coherent. Really in a league of his own.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP14 Jun 2017 6:51 a.m. PST

An interesting comparison can be made on the translation and editing of Clausewitz's study of the 1815 campaign.

There are two versions of the memoir. The first was translated and edited by Christopher Bassford, Daniel Moran, and Gregory Pedlow. The book is entitled On Waterloo: Clausewitz, Wellington, and the Campaign of 1815.

The second was edited and translated by Hofschroer and is entitled On Wellington: A Critique of Waterloo.

One of the interesting discrepancies in the books, and I have read them both and have them in my library, is that the chapters don't match up numerically.

I prefer the first volume and can use that as a reference. A second 'discrepancy' is the difference in the titles.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP14 Jun 2017 7:09 a.m. PST

I do believe that the character of an author is important.

For example, anything by Jomini should be taken with a very large salt pill. He was a renegade, a deserter, and a shameless self-promoter who failed as a corps chief of staff and twice as a military governor. He also claimed to have done things that he had no part in, such as the planning of the bridges on the Berezina in 1812. He did assist Ney in 1813 in ruining one of Napoleon's best planned battles at Bautzen.

Napoleon's comment on his desertion is as telling as it is blunt: ''Jomini, chief of staff to [Ney] has deserted…He is not worth much as a soldier; however, as a writer, he has gotten hold of some sound ideas on war.'-Napoleon to his archchancellor in Paris, 16 August 1813.

I won't use Jomini or the other two mentioned in any research that I do. I'll get source material that I need, regardless of language, and do the research myself. It it not only better that way, but much more rewarding.

Oliver Schmidt14 Jun 2017 7:11 a.m. PST

As for Clausewitz's "1815": In the first printed edition of 1835, chapter 44 immediately followed chapter 42. In the second editon of 1862, this error was repeated, only the third edition of 1905 renamed chapters 44-58 to 43-57.

The original titles of Clausewitz' study are: "Der Feldzug von 1815 in Frankreich" (the campaign of 1815 in France: 1835 and 1862 editions) and "Strategische Übersicht des Feldzuges von 1815" (strategical overview of the campaign of 1815: 1906 edition)

The original manuscript for this book was published in 1990 by Werner Hahlweg. It has the title "Strategische Übersicht des Feldzuges von 1815", on the cover page it is written "Feldzug von 1815". Also the manuscript has chapter 44 following chapter 42, in the middle of a page, so it is definitely an error and not a missing sheet.

Digby Green14 Jun 2017 10:56 a.m. PST

Oops,
I'm very sorry with my mentioning of Billy Idol. (I hope it could be removed by a mod)
I meant to say Gary Glitter, and I'll add to that Rolf Harris, a very talented entertainer.

bruntonboy14 Jun 2017 11:34 a.m. PST

Can't say I am bothered in the slightest by what an author has got up to- I am reading his work and judging his historical arguments his private life isn't really an influence. After all that Julius Caesar was a very nasty chap committing what we would now describe as war crimes against the poor Gauls so maybe I should not read his works either. Actually I have read and enjoyed both of the mentioned authors works and they have some merits and some debits- just like the vast majority of historical writing really.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP In the TMP Dawghouse14 Jun 2017 11:52 a.m. PST

popcorn

Lambert Supporting Member of TMP14 Jun 2017 12:19 p.m. PST

Agree that PH has made a valuable contribution to the study of Waterloo and that shouldn't be discarded because he may be a nasty individual in his private life. Same goes for entertainers, Rock'n'roll Part II is still a good track.

11th ACR14 Jun 2017 12:33 p.m. PST

picture

138SquadronRAF Supporting Member of TMP14 Jun 2017 12:48 p.m. PST

Ah, we can talk about Mad Hoffy and say his name 3 times without risk of him appearing now.

I found his works on Waterloo provocative and made me reassess prior assumptions. I haven't gone back and double checked his sources. He did strike me as the type who could manufacture or misquote from a manuscript to prove his point.

He's Osprey works on the Prussian army are useful and I find them a great basic painting guide.

I can't comment on DHW because I've never read his works.

4th Cuirassier14 Jun 2017 2:08 p.m. PST

@ Lambert

The suggestion is not that he be discarded because he's nasty. It's that his analysis be discarded because he's deranged and his translations etc disregarded because he has been shown to manipulate and misrepresent what they say.

How do we know any source actually says what Hofschroer says it says?

Oliver Schmidt14 Jun 2017 2:17 p.m. PST

How do we know any source actually says what Hofschroer says it says?
Basically we should trust a historian, unless he is proven to twist the historical "facts" (e.g. inventing sources as DHW is said to have done). Otherwise, there is no point in reading a historian's book.

If you give me an example where you are in doubt whether a source has been manipulated by PH or not, I can check whether he quoted/translated correctly.

Provided you trust me, of course ;-)

Rod MacArthur14 Jun 2017 2:52 p.m. PST

I have DHW's book on Waterloo and PH's trilogy on Waterloo, plus several other of PH's books.

I have not re-read DHW's book very much, but do remember that he failed to understand basic British drill for changing from column of route into a line (perhaps a minor matter but his description of the arrival of the 3rd Division at Quatre Bras is flawed in this respect). He was also very inaccurate in his unfair criticism of Sibourne.

I have met PH at a number of Napoleonic book fairs several years ago. I was interested in KGL and Hanoverian military history, whilst he was mainly interested in Prussian military history. We have also chatted about Napoleonic matters online. I always thought that he overstated the German perspective, and his theories about Wellington deliberately deceiving Blucher seemed wrong to me. However I did think that his books were a welcome counterbalance to the many anglocentric histories. If one can put aside PH's personal life, and I accept that some may not wish to do so, then I think that his books are still an excellent source for German military history.

Rod

basileus6615 Jun 2017 2:24 p.m. PST

I know that there is a measure of trust between historian and reader, in regard that the quotes of the sources are accurate. That Hofschroer enjoyed child pornography, while disturbing and disgusting, is immaterial regarding his historical works. More worrisome is his almost sick anti-Wellington's obsession. That is what made me doubt his analysis.

I know how easy is to manipulate a source. You don't even need to lie or misquote it. It is enough to select the passages that support your hypothesis, and ignore the opposite evidence. Theoretically, a peer review should correct this type of "historical malpractice" before publication. However, most non-academic books are not subjected to those standards of professionalism… and even many academic books fail too!

It is highly suspicious when an author doesn't present contrary evidence. Good historians presents both contrary and supportive evidence and then proceeds to explain why she believes her interpretation is, possibly, more according with reality than the opposite. Historians that are too sure of their interpretation are, in my mind, highly suspicious, either of deliberate hiding evidence that doesn't fit their interpretation, or of simple lack of skill as a researcher.

History, or more exaclty, interpretation of history, is about nuances, contradictions, plausible explanations rather than certainties. Hofschroer showed himself to be a bit too eager to prove that Wellington was an overrated general that wasn't smashed at Waterloo by the genius of Napoleon only because the bravery and timely appearance of the Prussians. While it is true that many popular histories about Waterloo written in English are exceedingly cavalier in their treatment of Prussian participation in the battle, I believe that Hofschroer threw the proverbial baby with the water.

That is why I don't trust Hofschroer's books, not for his paedophilia.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP15 Jun 2017 2:35 p.m. PST

Excellent posting, Bas-very well done.

Edwulf15 Jun 2017 3:30 p.m. PST

Never read DHWs book. No comment on that.

PH though I have some of his books on the Prussian army and still have many articles he had written for various war gaming magazines in the 80s and 90s. I had long been put off buying more of his books from his poor attitude that I witnessed here. Far before his collection of child porn was known about. His manner here was very unstable. His deliberate misuse of sources had been exposed on here several times. So while I refused to buy any of his shady later writings I still use his less opiniated Prussian army guides. Knowing that by buying more of his stuff I'd be providing financial support for a potential kiddy fiddler is another nail in his coffin.

Three Armies Supporting Member of TMP15 Jun 2017 4:34 p.m. PST

I wonder if modern DJ's should stop buying double decks because Jimmy Saville invented them ……

Edwulf15 Jun 2017 10:45 p.m. PST

He's dead.
When he was alive did he profit from people using them? Did using them ffubd his lifestyle?

PHs work was tarnished long before his pederast nature was exposed. Tarnished by his crackpot style here and having been exposed as dishonest in his use of sources.

Navy Fower Wun Seven16 Jun 2017 1:20 a.m. PST

For those who are bothered by my throwing out these four volumes, quite rightly, please be reassured that I have now found a good home for them with a local wargamer – and yes he is aware of their author's pecadilloes!

(Without passing judgement on their crimes, presumably both have now done their time and should be allowed to move on, the dishonesty involved in their commission does to my mind remove that implicit trust relationship between a reader and historian about sources…)

Whirlwind16 Jun 2017 2:10 a.m. PST

Genuine question: When (and where) was PH dishonest about his sources? I think I must have missed that bit.

Edwulf16 Jun 2017 3:03 a.m. PST

I'd have to trawl through masses of threads to find them. But it was on here. Back in the days when we had German speakers, Russians … Shane, Dave Hollins and the rest.
But I believe he was basically shown to cut quotes to suit his argument and leave out evidence that disproved his agenda.

4th Cuirassier16 Jun 2017 5:25 a.m. PST

@ Whirlwind

There are several issues on which he was exposed. One was that he claimed there had been a meeting at Tirlemont in the weeks before Ligny at which it was agreed Wellington would support the Prussians; another was that Wellington knew at 9am on 15th June of the attack and did nothing; another was that he lied to his allies about his intentions. All have been debunked, and were debunked before Hofschroer ever set pen to paper, in sources he had read.

John Hussey showed that the meeting at Tirlemont didn't discuss tactical moves according to the contemporaneous notes of anyone – British or Prussian – who was there.

The claim that Wellington knew of the attack at 9am was one made by the Prussians 150 years ago, but debunked as nonsense by a German historian 100 years ago. Hofschroer knew it had been debunked, revived the claim anyway, but quoted said historian selectively to imply he had supported rather than debunked it. He also conflated entries from I Corps' diary with potty excerpts from Ziethen's later memoirs.

The claim that Wellington betrayed his allies is undermined by the facts that the note he wrote on the 16th of his expected dispositions was in Blucher's hands for no more than 90 minutes before he met them in person and updated them, and by the fact that Gneisenau concealed from Wellington the true degree of Prussian dispersal at that point. He hoped thereby to make the defeat of Napoleon a Prussian triumph for political advantage, a goal we now see he did not easily give up.

My own reluctance to buy or rely on anything written by Hofschroer is not because he's a convicted paedophile. It's because he is completely bonkers. If you read the court reports of his defence, or any of the claims he has been making for years about the case of Grandma B, it is enough to call his judgement severely into question.

Somebody mentioned Jimmy Savile upthread. So did Hofschroer, in his defence testimony, when he

…claimed he was the victim of a conspiracy between a fellow military historian who won defamatory damages in a court case against him, the judge in that case and a Duke; and that he had evidence of senior people linked to North Yorkshire Police engaging in al fresco sex with Jimmy Savile on the North York Moors.

He also

alleged he was the victim of serial harassment by police and social services and that they have refused to investigate his complaints against them

and

contacted his [nephew's] employer, alleging he was a pervert, a fraudster and a criminal.

link

If I read a book by Kevin Kiley, or Philip Haythornthwaite, or Mark Adkin, or Andrew Field, I may disagree with what they say, I may even spot an error somewhere. But I can be confident that they have a reason and a cite behind whatever they wrote. It may be me or my interpretation that's at fault, but if not then they would all politely debate, defend or concede the point. Only Hofschroer would take to the internet under a series of sockpuppet IDs and tell me I'm insane. Or, as he did his nephew, contact a critic's employer and allege they are a sex criminal.

I'd hold exactly the same view of him if he had fiddled his tax rather than with kids. It's not the offences that undermine his analysis, it's the evidence we have of what his judgement is like. And we've had that for years. Some may argue that he has made a useful contribution but in my view, by recycling ancient debunked nonsense as gospel, he has significantly retarded our understanding of the period.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP16 Jun 2017 6:27 a.m. PST

Excellent posting, 4th C-very well done.

dibble16 Jun 2017 10:15 a.m. PST

Brechtel

Excellent posting, 4th C-very well done.

I agree. An excellent posting. Same goes for basileus66.

Paul :)

138SquadronRAF Supporting Member of TMP16 Jun 2017 11:30 a.m. PST

We've had a good discussion here gentlemen. This is what the Napoleonic Boards should be.

Thank you all. I've really appreciated the comments of Basilleus & 4thC.

If PH had been here I dread to think of the state of the thread.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP16 Jun 2017 5:02 p.m. PST

Now that it has been mentioned above, I remember that Hof was banned here on tmp for Conduct Unbecoming. grin
But he kept coming back as sock puppets to troll any discussions about Waterloo.

Navy Fower Wun Seven17 Jun 2017 1:47 a.m. PST

He did indeed – he questioned my sanity for having the temerity to suggest that Wellington's Waterloo Despatch counts as a primary source – apparently I was completely cuckoo for suggesting such a daft idea!

Edwulf17 Jun 2017 3:57 a.m. PST

His stock response to any challenge …. "you must be insane" ….. "you have mental problems".

Clearly the guy had a lot of deep mental problems himself.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP17 Jun 2017 4:13 a.m. PST

It's called 'projecting' I think.

Navy,

Could you email me at home? My address is Boulart198@yahoo.com

John Miller17 Jun 2017 4:30 p.m. PST

I bought his Waterloo books when they first came out because I thought he might have some interesting new insights. I guess the good thing for me personally is that now I am a lot more careful about my Napoleonic book purchases, his legal issues not withstanding. John Miller

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