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"Sibourne as a source" Topic

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dogtail12 Jan 2020 8:16 p.m. PST

Is he considered as a reliable source or is he considered pro/anti Wellington?

nsolomon9912 Jan 2020 8:54 p.m. PST

This will become quite a controversial thread I suspect …

IMHO he could only really be considered a source for the British point of view at best. He sought out the written contributions from British Officers who were present on the field but as time progressed and he needed money to sustain his activities he became increasingly selective about what was published (and emphasised) in order to solicit funds. Turning your witnesses into patrons is a fraught strategy where truth is the objective.

There are however Prussian, Dutch-Belgian and a range of other allied points of view plus of course the French point of view on Waterloo. Not sure you can really ignore 3/4 of the people who actually fought the battle and be considered a reliable source in today's world.

Thankfully the modern/current approach is to leverage a wide range of sources from all sides and drive at a balanced perspective on events.

I'll duck for cover now …..

dogtail12 Jan 2020 10:00 p.m. PST

If he is only offering facts known by the british side and does not use prussian or french sources, I would not consider him bias, just subjective or one-sided. His conclusing then might not be as sound as we wish for, but my concern is only if he would omit facts to put Wellington in a bad or good light.

42flanker13 Jan 2020 1:02 a.m. PST

I think it is fair to say, Siborne did not set out to create a definitive multi-perspective Euro-account of the battle of Waterloo.

Rather his intention, initially at least, was to gather as as wide a range of accounts from officers serving in the British contingent at Waterloo to provide a record of the great event for posterity.

If we consider the state of British Military and Regimental history in that period of the C19th, e.g. Stewart's 'Sketches of the Highlanders' or Cannon's 'Historical Records of the Army' series, Siborne's method of first gathering as much first-hand information as possible was a positive step.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP13 Jan 2020 3:44 a.m. PST

Siborne collected accounts from Prussians too.

von Winterfeldt13 Jan 2020 5:34 a.m. PST

it is a good source, but has as already pointed out its limits, in case of an up to date "Siborne" I would suggest the Waterloo Archive by Gareth Glover

Dave Jackson14 Jan 2020 9:20 a.m. PST

Ducks & covers….

Handlebarbleep14 Jan 2020 9:01 p.m. PST

Siborne was originally gathering evidence for his meticulously constructed models, and that is what his data gathering was initially for. His history grew out of the narratives he wrote to accompany the model.

He was also writing whilst most of the senior participants were still alive and he himself remained a serving officer. The conventions of the time were that people were very protective of their honour, duels were becoming less common but were not unknown! As a result, any criticism is very circumspect. Some have accused him of being paid to favour certain officers, but objective examination of the evidence do not seem to bear this out.

Most serious students will go beyond his work to the primary source material, currently held in the British Library. This are available in more accessible format, thanks to his son "Waterloo Letters". Siborne did receive letters in German from many KGL officers and one or two Prussians. However, it is unknown how much German he read. These letters have been made available by Gareth Glover as his "Letters from Waterloo". Gareth has gone on to unearth further British and German primary sources in his Waterloo Archive series of books.

He made some errors, for example we now think that Bijlandt's brigade was withdrawn to the ridge before D'Erlon's assault. However most Anglophone authors since have largely followed the broad sweep of his narrative to some extent or another.

Like many works written in the 19th Century, you have to remember that standards of historical enquiry were lower, and national bias and prejudice was considered normal. The litery style was also quite florid and verbose, so it;s heavy going in parts. As long as you read him with all that in mind, it's actually remarkably good.

However, I'd consult more modern works, such as those by Glover, Dawson or Hussey for more objective views. To take a broader view from other nation's material I'd recommend Muilwijk, Franklin and Field.

Just a personal view, of course, but I don't think any serious Waterloo enthusiasts bookshelf is complete without it.

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