Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies, and Three Battles

Written by Bernard Cornwell
Review by Lucille Cormier

Bernard Cornwell’s Waterloo is an eminently readable chronicle of this legendary battle. It may be a surprise to readers that Waterloo was not exactly the much-touted English trouncing of an obnoxious French gadfly – but rather three hard-fought battles waged by a coalition of English, Dutch, and Belgian forces under the Duke of Wellington and a Prussian army led by General Gerhard Blücher against France’s Armée du Nord under the emperor, Napoléon – the first two in which the French were victorious. But history was made in the third decisive battle that ended in French defeat. All told, some 69,000 French, 67,000 coalition, and 48,000 Prussian soldiers took part in this epic campaign.

The author fully captures the scope, ferocity, and confusion of the three battles. The narrative is filled with excerpts from diaries, reports, and letters home from ordinary officers and soldiers. A selection of over 200 colored reproductions of maps, portraits, and paintings further enhances the story.

Waterloo is an excellent, fairly told history. The data are well documented and the author’s judgments, I thought, were well-substantiated. All in all, the book is a worthwhile addition to Waterloo scholarship, a wonderful introduction for beginners, and a great read for all who love a great adventure story.