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"Which are the Best Books on the Napoleonic Wars?" Topic

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP15 Dec 2017 2:18 p.m. PST

Well… here is a list of some of them…


Any other you recomended?


daler240D Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member15 Dec 2017 5:43 p.m. PST

Swords Around a Throne: Napoleon's Grand Armee by Elting

von Winterfeldt15 Dec 2017 11:37 p.m. PST

Béraud, Stéphane : La Révolution Militaire Napoléonniene, Les Manouvres

and from the same auther, his second volume (out of a planned 4)
Les Batailles

14Bore16 Dec 2017 4:22 a.m. PST

Took 30 years to get Swords Around a Throne and just halfway through but its very good.
David Chandler Campaigns of Napoleon got me started

von Winterfeldt16 Dec 2017 5:52 a.m. PST

Chandler got me started as well, but it pales against Béraud, Swords is more edutainement than anything else

daler240D Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member16 Dec 2017 8:29 a.m. PST

"Swords is more edutainement than anything else"

classic TMP Napoleonics…

Brechtel19816 Dec 2017 9:28 a.m. PST

More like classic TMP nonsense veering to the ridiculous. VW always denigrates anything that is either sympathetic to Napoleon and the Grande Armee and/or by Col Elting. Whether he likes it or not, Col Elting is still the English language authority on the Grande Armee.

From VW's postings over the years, he obviously prefers French general officers, such as Moreau, Bernadotte, and Marmont, who later fought against their former comrades and soldiers or betrayed them, or both.

Brechtel19816 Dec 2017 9:29 a.m. PST

Swords Around a Throne is the definitive organizational study of the Grande Armee. When Col Elting died, he was planning on a Swords II which unfortunately we will never now see.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP16 Dec 2017 9:42 a.m. PST

Good books!.


Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP17 Dec 2017 1:26 a.m. PST

I quite like "edutainment" as a neologism.

Might be much cleverer than first appears. "Swords" provides great enter-tainment and is a great read. von W is questioning its edu-cational value, ie its accuracy.

No, I like "edutainment" but I too would love to have seen the sequel to the book.

Marc at work17 Dec 2017 3:07 a.m. PST

It's a shame how these threads degenerate.

But Swords is a great book. I have not found a better book for conveying the "colour" of the Napoleonic wars. It's blend of facts (red rag to vW and Breton) figures and fun make it a perfect primer to enthuse somebody to the Napoleonic period.

Yes, there are better books out there in terms of accuracy and latest research. But as a primer, it knocks socks off everything else out there.

Of course, once someone is then caught by this book into the period, then and only then can all the other books be introduced.

Now where's the popcorn

von Winterfeldt17 Dec 2017 3:44 a.m. PST

swords lacks all tranperancy and reliable quotes, so what is right and wrong, difficult to impossible to asses, a good read but I wouldn't draw any information without cross checking from it.
A pity that the excellent works about the French army, such as Béraud or Morvan (Le Soldat Impériale) get ignored.

Brechtel19817 Dec 2017 5:54 a.m. PST

Your assessment and derogatory comments on Swords are incorrect.

Interestingly, Morvan is one of Col Elting's references for Swords. So, it isn't ignored.

huevans01117 Dec 2017 6:45 a.m. PST

Depends what you want. I have been into this period for 45 years. At this point, what I enjoy are the "new generation" super detailed campaign and battle studies. I am just re reading John Gill's 3 volume set on the 1809 campaigns and enjoying them all over again.

But this may be a little too much detail for a newcomer to the period.

Marc at work17 Dec 2017 2:01 p.m. PST

Huevans. That's my thought.

daler240D Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member18 Dec 2017 8:04 a.m. PST

Edutainment may be apt, but I think there is a tendency for some here to forget that there are different target audiences for different books. Everything is not an academic publication. I remember once reading a snide comment about David Mccollough's "John Adams" saying that there was "nothing new" here. No Bleeped text Sherlock, but that book introduced more people to early American history than any book in recent memory AND it was very well written for it's target audience.

Le Breton Inactive Member18 Dec 2017 9:40 a.m. PST

I see a reg rag!!!

I love Colonel Elting's works (Swords,but also the Altlas). We are on an Egnlish language forum, right? So ….

Start with Swords, Chandler and the Atlas

Then Goetz for 1805, Gill for 1809, Oman for the Peninsula and the water gets much deeper … if you start liking the detail, the general impartiality and the footnoted historical references, then great for you and I hope you can pick up some French, German, Russian and Spanish. You can mostly stop buying books – the increasingly digitzed archives and 100+ year old staff studies will keep you plenty busy. You can watch out for "red rags" with VW and me.

But if the detail is boring you to tears, and you miss the "good read" pro-French feeling of Swords, you can try the Paul Britten Austin 1812 trilogy (which manages to cover 1812 while barely noting that Russians were somehow invloved – albeit, it is overtly stated to be about the French experience) and Lahoussaye's 1815 (which I do think someone translated at least parts of into English) and see what Waterloo would have been like had you essentially no idea that the British, their Allies or the Prussians actually fielded troops there on purpose, instead of by acident.

And then for some plain hero worship's the is also Anatomy of Glory (hint : it is not about the British or Russians) – which reads almost as admiringly in English as it does in French.

I am really endorsing examples the "fact- or footnote- challenged" stuff about the French that gets translated into English. They are really great books. And lots of people really want to relax and enjoy, as opposed to chasing "red rags".

Haitiansoldier Inactive Member19 Dec 2017 8:35 a.m. PST

The best ones on specific campaigns would be The Slaves Who Defeated Napoleon, Napoleon in Egypt, and Cornwell's Waterloo.

HappyHussar Supporting Member of TMP19 Dec 2017 10:00 a.m. PST

Ok – the person starting this thread didn't need character attacks just book titles. Here are my offerings:

Anything by John Gill to include his three volume set of books about the 1809 campaign. Also his "With Eagles to Glory" book about the Confed. of the Rhine armies that fought with Napoleon against Austria in 1809.

James Arnold's two volume set on the 1807 campaign "Crisis in the Snows" being the first volume.

Stephen Summerfield's books on the Prussian army from Pratzen Press. Full of a lot of good images to use for painting Prussian miniatures.

I can list lots more but that works for now.

Osterreicher Inactive Member19 Dec 2017 2:45 p.m. PST

For the book Herr von Winterfeldt recommended:

"La révolution militaire napoléonienne" (volume 2: Les Batailles)
by Stéphane Béraud

is pretty hard to find, but I located it on the publisher's site:


The first volume is available on French Amazon:



Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP20 Dec 2017 11:01 a.m. PST

Many thanks!!!


Osage2017 Inactive Member01 Jan 2018 5:20 p.m. PST

#1 "Swords Around a Throne" – Colonel Elting

But I also like Gill, Zamoyski, Adkin, and Arnold.

rmcaras Supporting Member of TMP03 Jan 2018 3:20 p.m. PST

classic…what is his operational definition of "best"?

Your criteria may differ.

Digby Green Inactive Member04 Jan 2018 1:03 a.m. PST

Yes to me a list of best books is impossible?
Best introductory book?
Best uniform book?
Best detailed history of the Napoleonic wars
Best detailed book of every campaign and battle?
Best book on tactics.
Best book on artillery?

Brechtel19804 Jan 2018 6:00 a.m. PST

I would think the 'best' books are to personal taste. That being said, the 'best' are the most credible and best sourced.

And there will always be divided opinions to that criteria.

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