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"Waterloo: The Truth at Last Why Napoleon Lost the" Topic

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP23 Dec 2017 9:47 p.m. PST

…Great Battle

"During October 2016 Paul Dawson visited French archives in Paris to continue his research surrounding the events of the Napoleonic Wars. Some of the material he examined had never been accessed by researchers or historians before, the files involved having been sealed in 1816\. These seals remained unbroken until Paul was given permission to break them to read the contents. Forget what you have read about the battle on the Mont St Jean on 18 June 1815; it did not happen that way. The start of the battle was delayed because of the state of the ground not so. Marshal Ney destroyed the French cavalry in his reckless charges against the Allied infantry squares wrong. The stubborn defence of Hougoumont, the key to Wellington s victory, where a plucky little garrison of British Guards held the farmhouse against the overwhelming force of Jerome Bonaparte s division and the rest of II Corps not true. Did the Union Brigade really destroy d Erlon s Corps, did the Scots Greys actually attack a massed French battery, did La Haie Sainte hold out until late in the afternoon? All these and many more of the accepted stories concerning the battle are analysed through accounts (some 200 in all) previously unpublished, mainly derived through French sources, with startling conclusions. Most significantly of all is the revelation of exactly how, and why, Napoleon was defeated. Waterloo, The Truth at Last demonstrates, through details never made available to the general public before, how so much of what we think we know about the battle simply did not occur in the manner or to the degree previously believed. This book has been described as a game changer , and is certain to generate enormous interest, and will alter our previously-held perceptions forever"
Main page

Anyone have any comments about this book?
Thanks in advance for your guidance.


JARROVIAN Supporting Member of TMP24 Dec 2017 1:37 a.m. PST

Not published yet

BalinBalan Inactive Member24 Dec 2017 1:39 a.m. PST

The author is also an historical tailor specialising in replica period clothing. … So, is this going to be another stitch-up?

Munster24 Dec 2017 1:54 a.m. PST

Paul L. Dawson is a historian and horseman, and holds a degree of Master of Arts by research in History from the University of Leeds. He has written over 20 books ranging from equine nutrition, training of the war horse in the regency era, as well as on local history subjects concerning the city of his birth, Wakefield West Yorkshire. He is a Unitarian, and holds the post of Director of Music at Westgate Chapel, where he also is a service leader.

from link

he's not that bad, but I would be interested in an expert review before I bought it or spent time reading it and considering the input.

Duc de Brouilly24 Dec 2017 2:56 a.m. PST

His book on the French cavalry was good, though would really have benefited from some decent proof-reading/editing.

I'm usually quite sceptical about these 'revelatory' studies (and the title certainly puts me off) but this one is based on research in the French archives, so I'm adding it to my book list for next year.

Brechtel19824 Dec 2017 3:44 a.m. PST

I'm skeptical of any book that is supposed to be history with the word 'truth' in it. Truth is in the eye of the beholder and may or may not be accurate. And someone's 'truth' may not be based on assembled facts.

That being said, I haven't read it and probably won't as I have some of Dawson's books in my library.

As I have said in the past, there are excellent new books on Waterloo such as Andrew Field's four studies on the battles and the campaign, and John Hussey's two-volume study on the campaign and battles.

Brechtel19824 Dec 2017 3:47 a.m. PST

Forget what you have read about the battle on the Mont St Jean on 18 June 1815; it did not happen that way.

Incredible. Too much hyperbole for my taste.

MaggieC7024 Dec 2017 5:14 a.m. PST

I remain intensely skeptical regarding the claim about the allegedly "sealed" archival documents. Given the number of scholars working at Vincennes--and I spent close to two solid months there myself--I don't see those guardians of the documents suddenly breaking the seals for someone of Dawson's limited qualifications. And given the number of French historians in just the last two or three decades who have dealt, more or less, with either Napoleon in general or Waterloo in particular, I would expect they would have first dibs on any allegedly "sealed" material.

It will be interesting to see how these documents appear in the book's citations.

Who is supposedly publishing this--Pen & sword, Front ALine, or is it another one of Leslie Street's barnyard publishing efforts?

Duc de Brouilly24 Dec 2017 6:03 a.m. PST

A healthy scepticism is always the right starting point but undiscovered treasures do still turn up from time to time at Vincennes. Just thinking of the Kleber Ordonnance cloth samples that were found there a few years ago; that really was an amazing find. And they seem to have lain undiscovered despite years of the research in the archives by likes of Rousselot and Rigo.

BillyNM24 Dec 2017 7:31 a.m. PST

All the 'so-called' beliefs about Waterloo that we're promised revelations on have all been knocked before. Is he just going to reinforce current scholarship about the battle or is he proposing something different to anything proposed before? I won't be buying sight unseen unless we're given something more about what he has found that's new rather than demolishing known fallacies.

Brechtel19824 Dec 2017 8:37 a.m. PST

The blurb that Armand posted as the OP sounds like a strawman argument above all else.

wrgmr124 Dec 2017 9:22 a.m. PST

If all the returning officers and men who spoke with Sgt. Major Cotton at his pub shortly after had bad memories, I somehow think the story would change. Probably not.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP24 Dec 2017 12:07 p.m. PST

After the Ney and Grouchy books I do hope that the proofreading is indeed better in his next literary output.

I have several times, now, deplored book titles of this sensationalist nonsense ilk, but been advised that the publishers tend to dictate such….and it is actually the fault of the readership, for demanding such. Maybe…..

I look forward to the "startling conclusions" to be drwan

Brechtel19824 Dec 2017 12:18 p.m. PST

The overwhelming desire to provide something 'new' is almost an obsession in some areas.

And it isn't a good thing.

MaggieC7024 Dec 2017 1:17 p.m. PST

I have yet to read one of these "National Inquirer/Daily Mail" type books claiming to provide The Truth about any aspect of the Napoleonic era from any point of view. The most blatant examples have been the rather fevered pipe dreams of tin-hat-wearing amateurs lacking the appropriate academic credentials or, in the alternative, claiming credentials they don't possess. The vaunted trilogy on Waterloo by John Franklin, the alleged Soult "treachery" posited by Stephen Beckett, and now this proposed nonsense by Dawson seem to be the worst examples.

And judging from Dawson's selfies on horseback, I feel sincerely sorry for his horse.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP24 Dec 2017 2:28 p.m. PST



USAFpilot24 Dec 2017 4:08 p.m. PST

If what we know of Waterloo is not true, why? For what reason would battle reports be untrue. With thousands of first hand witnesses, how could the truth of the battle be misrepresented for the last 200 years.

Sorry, sounds like a lot of hype to sell a book.

dibble Supporting Member of TMP25 Dec 2017 6:34 a.m. PST

The hype is the publishers.

Dawsons books are always very well researched. He also lists all his sources at the bottom of each page. Another good thing about Dawson, is that he is pretty neutral but isn't shy in knocking myths down when need be in his 'Au Pas de Charge' and 'Charge the Guns'; even when it comes to writing about his beloved Grenadiers a Cheval in 'Napoleon's Gods'.

Though they are not the best quality, Dawson at least tries to show contemporary, and rarely seen illustrations as much as possible in all his books.

Don't knock his works until you have read them.

I can live with the poor editing and odd typo, just as long as I know what he's on about, which is everything. He brings evidence, which he does by the bucket-load.

Erwin Muilwijk's tomes (though translated from the Dutch) is hard to read at times but I can understand that OK so I'm sure that people here would have no trouble reading Dawson's tomes.

Paul :)

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP25 Dec 2017 9:49 a.m. PST

I'm with Dibble…

Give him a chance….


Lapsang Inactive Member29 Dec 2017 4:02 a.m. PST

How can it be 'The Truth at last'? Surely Mr Dawson's previous book on Napoleon and Grouchy (subtitled' The Last Great Waterloo Mystery Unravelled') ought to have that honour…

von Winterfeldt29 Dec 2017 6:07 a.m. PST

some people here try hard to victimize Mr. Dawson, I share the sentiments of dibble, well said.

MaggieC7029 Dec 2017 7:16 a.m. PST

I would suggest that "some people here" don't have to try very hard to maintain a healthy skepticism regarding the over-reaching claims about unsealed documents and The Truth at Last.

I would also say that I don't see anyone, myself included, "victimizing" anyone.

The rule is quite simple: put a book out there in the marketplace, and folks who choose to buy it have every right to comment on it, positively or not. In the case of this Waterloo book, which has indeed not yet been published, it has nevertheless been publicized to an extent, to include a rather amusingly fulsome and extended blurb. I feel perfectly justified to comment on that, and I have done.

Brechtel19829 Dec 2017 8:52 a.m. PST

Agree completely.

I don't see any 'victimization' here. That is merely a pejorative comment made to people with whom the author of that comment disagrees.

dibble Supporting Member of TMP29 Dec 2017 4:53 p.m. PST

But regardless, you still shouldn't knock the book until you have read it….

Paul :)

von Winterfeldt29 Dec 2017 11:24 p.m. PST

exactly – moreover some people have an axe to grind with Dawson because he has more knowledge, like on French artillery and how to conduct research – as well as to give quotes – compared to self styled experts – consequently he gets victimized as Dave Hollins in the past.

Hagman Inactive Member30 Dec 2017 1:25 p.m. PST

Waterloo is a town in Belgium – not true. There were some French people involved – wrong. A load of sensationalist tosh – really very likely.

dibble Supporting Member of TMP30 Dec 2017 5:05 p.m. PST


A load of sensationalist tosh really very likely.

Seeing as Dawson has published other tomes about Waterloo, can you point me to the tosh he wrote in those?

Paul :)

Digby Green Inactive Member30 Dec 2017 8:08 p.m. PST

I have both of Paul's Books on the cavalry at Waterloo, and his books on Ney and Grouchy.
I get very disappointed when forum members are so critical of authors who take the time and energy to write the books we all need.
I have just about every modern book published on Waterloo, and most of the great classics Siborne, Ropes, Beck, Housayye etc etc.
If at my age I had half the achievements of Paul I would be very proud, historian(qualified) author of many books, ren-eactor, horseman and musician
Sure the publishers notes for the books are exaggerated, but who wrote them Paul or the publishers. They are trying to sell books and need a new angle to do so.
I only just realised the Ney and Grouchy books do not have maps after reading this thread (dur). That is a major omisision. And no orders of Battle either. I have heard other authors bemoan the fact that publishers left these "details" out to save space!

Digby Green Inactive Member30 Dec 2017 8:23 p.m. PST

More on Paul Dawson and his books.
Sure, he may be a little over weight, but in a world where one third of us are obese, and one third overweight and only one third normal this is not a huge crime.
I myself would like my tummy to be a bit smaller but I consider myself normal weight.
In his cavalry books, he tends to get lost sometimes, thinking he is writing his never published books on the French Army at Waterloo. Writing chapters on the Imperial Guard's attack etc in a book on cavalry! His English is sometimes a little hard t understand and some sentences need re-reading
In his Ney and Grouchy books, I would like to have seen a few pages on their rise in the French army and their performance in battles and on campaign, especially as they were both chosen to lead several army corps.
I do like the way Paul has researched the casualties some units incurred to illustrate their part in the battles. I myself started a project on this way back in the 1990's after getting Scott Bowden's book on Waterloo armies.
He also has published many previously unpublished letters from lower officers and men in his books.
I do look forward to his third volume on Waterloo, but I am not expecting any major revalations, but some more unpublished letters etc.

Digby Green Inactive Member30 Dec 2017 8:28 p.m. PST

Pen And Sword, the publishers say that it will be published on January 18th 2018. Although my guess will be mid-Aril (Book Depository)

Brechtel19801 Jan 2018 6:34 a.m. PST

I have five of the Dawson books. Suffice it to say that I won't be buying the new ones.

John Hussey and Andrew Field have done excellent work on Waterloo, and I don't see that work being surpassed in the near-future.

4th Cuirassier15 Jan 2018 9:57 a.m. PST

I'm all for someone rooting in the archives as long as they don't get over-excited with the significance of what they've found. Just because nobody's read some unit's war diary since 1815 doesn't mean it has anything to say that's valuable. It could equally well mean it was tossed aside as worthless 200 years ago by others in a good position to know.

If we came across Ziethen's laughable 1839 memoir today, in which he claims to have advanced to Waterloo without orders and then defeated the Old Guard, and if this appeared to be a new source, how seriously would we take it?

The habit of digging up old and long-discredited accounts (I'm looking at you Hofschroer), and asserting that their lies, misrepresentations and flat-out misunderstandings are somehow new and correct, has retarded our understanding of Waterloo in particular by about 100 to 150 years.

The two writing today who get it exactly right are Andrew Field and John Hussey. The latter's dissection of Prussian ineptitude and of mHofschroer's fanboi idiocy is particularly delicious.

MaggieC7015 Jan 2018 1:42 p.m. PST

That was part of my original post. Trained historians, those with terminal degrees, and a thorough grounding in historiography and the particular period they study are the ones who can skillfully separate the wheat from the chaff, even previously "unknown" and "unused" chaff.

Solid British historians, for example, would not parade into French archives with a specific preconceived notion about Waterloo, looking for the slightest scrap of archival material they could wave around and screech, "Look what I found! This proves X, at last!"

Solid French and American historians would not fall prey to such failures, either.

And I stand by my original assertion that the more-or-less public "unsealing" of archival documents never seen/used/cited before in the History of the Whole Freaking World for an amateur historian who was not even French is quite a stretch.

So I'm going to rely on those of you who will actually purchase and read this Tell-All Book to let the rest of us know exactly what these specific sources might be.

I don't do Waterloo--we never made it past 1809…

138SquadronRAF Supporting Member of TMP16 Jan 2018 10:31 a.m. PST

John Hussey and Andrew Field have done excellent work on Waterloo, and I don't see that work being surpassed in the near-future.

I'm with Kevin on this one.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP17 Jan 2018 8:10 a.m. PST

just finished the last of Field's four books (brilliant on what I had thought a "dull" subject). Today (laid low with the lurgy) well into the first of Hussey's two volume work on 1815.

I have no idea how 100% accurate Hussey might be and he does offer opinions and arguments that all may not approve (esp if anti Boney). However his writing style is superb and his account of the politics of C of Vienna and then the positioning of the Allied forces to oppose the returned Emperor (which he argues he still was…) is fascinating. ….. and that cannot be easy!

Unlike Maggie C I am prepared to read beyond Waterloo however. I will read anything of worth on Charleroi, Ligny, Quatre Bras, Wavre….my tastes are quite diverse.

britishbulldog19 Jan 2018 12:34 p.m. PST

I am with Tango01 and dibble on this one and will keep an open mind ubtil I have read it. I have put the book on my list of things to read.

dibble Supporting Member of TMP20 Jan 2018 5:40 a.m. PST

I got a notification from Amazon yesterday afternoon.

"Paul L. Dawson "Waterloo: the Truth at Last: Why Napoleon Lost the Great Battle"
Estimated arrival date: February 06 2018"

I can't wait….

Paul :)

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP20 Jan 2018 7:59 a.m. PST

Well the "lurgy" got worse but still gave me more time to read further into Hussey's First Volume. It is the best read on 1815 in ages. A whole chapter on provisioning the Prussians, while in the Netherlands hardly sounds gripping, but it is quite fascinating. A really gifted writer

A break in reading, when I called into my local casualty and asked a mate to check me out. Ureteric stone and a blown kidney. I knew it was painful. GA yesterday within hours of admission. Amazing what lasers can do but I leave you to work out how they got to the calculus. Feel great now except they want me to drink litres and litres per day.

The snag then is regular voiding of what I have consumed. You know those stories about what happens, the next morning, to the unwise young soldier who dallies with the professional ladies of the night? I can now sympathise

Gazzola21 Jan 2018 4:15 p.m. PST


And here's me feeling sorry for myself after suffering the flu for the last two weeks!

Glad it has all turned out well. And on the positive side, if you can call it that, being ill sometimes offers you the opportunity to catch with all that reading. In my case, in between coughing and sneezing. Didn't dare risk doing any painting though. One mistimed cough…

Brechtel19821 Jan 2018 4:20 p.m. PST

Take care of yourself, Deadhead…

MaggieC7022 Jan 2018 6:33 a.m. PST

Please rest, take your meds, and drink. Can beer or lager substitute occasionally for water?

MaggieC7022 Jan 2018 6:33 a.m. PST

Please rest, take your meds, and drink. Can beer or lager substitute occasionally for water?

MaggieC7022 Jan 2018 6:33 a.m. PST

Please rest, take your meds, and drink. Can beer or lager substitute occasionally for water? Not so bad, that way.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP22 Jan 2018 8:01 a.m. PST

Cheers all! It has given me time to plough through Hussey's First Volume and I cannot recommend that highly enough. Superb read, however familiar one is with the era of 1815.

I just know I will buy Dawson's next book and may have been unduly harsh. Ney at QB really did not set the context for Ney's plight, that led to his unfortunate performance over the whole 100 Days. He just turns up at QB and fights a battle.

Grouchy and Napoleon I have praised for its excellent analysis of what (or how little) Grouchy knew at any particular time and its clear explanation that, if Grouchy was to have played any part in saving Napoleon's right flank, the opportunity had long passed by 18th June. The "debouche" repeated on every single page, indeed most paragraphs, you can only appreciate by reading it. There are bizarre translation in both books and the lack of maps is a disaster.

The fun comes Wednesday am. My mate the urologist tells me that stent running up to my kidney is "easily" removed by tugging on the string provided. You can guess the rest and the route of extraction….that is when I will want something a bit stronger than a beer!

and @dibble, when will you tell us about the sword and its origins?

TMP link

dibble Supporting Member of TMP22 Jan 2018 12:24 p.m. PST

Glad to hear that you are recovering from being poorly and having to drinking all that water must be so much fun. All the same, get well soon mate!

That sword belonged to none other than the famous Cavalie Mercer. It's still in the family together with a fine sepia portrait of him. The officers sword was the one he carried during the Waterloo campaign.


Paul :)

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP22 Jan 2018 1:22 p.m. PST

Mercer! Would never have got that. How odd never seen before and, with any provenance whatsoever, grossly undervalued by the experts. What a find……..

Gazzola23 Jan 2018 12:10 p.m. PST

Digby Green

I find it hard to resist new titles, no matter who the author is. However, while looking for what people have mentioned about titles I have yet to obtain, you mentioned in your posts that Dawson's Grouchy and Ney books do not contain maps or even Orders of Battle? If so, that sounds like a major step backwards in research and material offered for the reader/purchaser. I am sure the author would have the final say on what should or should not be included in his work, since it is, after all, his reputation on the line, and, considering I already own a few slim titles that do not contain OOB's, I feel reluctant to consider purchasing further incomplete titles. Was there any mention of the missing information being included in a later title?

AussieAndy Supporting Member of TMP23 Jan 2018 3:31 p.m. PST

Hope that you are feeling better Deadhead. I can cope with kidney stones (with the help of lots of morphine), it's the smart arse nurses that enjoy telling you that this is the closest you will come to experiencing childbirth who get on my nerves. I have to point out that my wife had epidurals both times and didn't feel a thing. Beware the infected kidney stone. Last year, I had a stone without even realising it. Nearly died from septicaemia. If you're not sure, see a (good) doctor.

Digby Green Inactive Member09 Feb 2018 2:00 p.m. PST

My copy just arrived here in NZ.
Thanks Book Depository. They had some advance copies.

Having only just opened it, my first thoughts are that's it big – 545 pages. and aside from a 10 page preamble and ten pages on the rout to Paris its all on the battle Waterloo.

There are many charts of casualties, which follows on from Paul's style in his Ney and Grouchy books, and some personal research I started doing in the 1990's based on Scott Bowden's Waterloo Armies book. Ie trying to marry up what the writers were saying about an action, and then units involved with their casualties.

Now as its Saturday here and raining, so I may be able to start reading it. (Or as I usually do, skip from chapter to chapter)

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