Friday, 19 June 2015

A Little Heresy

Lady Butler 'The 28th Regt at Quatre Bras"
It's a poor admission to make this week, but I've never really been very interested in the military (as opposed to naval) aspects of the Napoleonic wars.

Lady Butler 'Scotland For Ever!'
Of course as someone interested in British military history (and also in ceremonial), I do have a basic knowledge of the wars.  But for some reason, my military interest starts in the late Victorian period.

Some of this is down to biography.

My relationship with 'history' is a bit of a paradox.  Despite everything that has happened since, I don't have any school qualifications in History.  Fed up of being asked to 'imagine life as a Tudor' I dropped it as a subject aged 14*.  As a result, most of my historical knowledge is self-taught and the result of passing interests.  

*I basically needed my History to be taught in a more old-fashioned way.

A well-worn Waterloo Medal

At about the same time as dropping History, I was devouring the works of C S Forrester and started an interest in British campaign medals.  Perhaps that is what shaped the scope of my military knowledge as the first 'proper' campaign medals weren't issued until the 1830s.  that doesn't really explain it though - the exception was the Waterloo Medal and medals were issued retrospectively for the Napoleonic Wars.  In addition, one of my first contacts in the medal collecting world was the late Tony Mullen - now recognised as the expert on the medals of the Napoleonic Wars.

Then in a twist my degree re-introduced my to formal study of history*.  In my final year I did a course on Church and State in the Modern World, which started with the French Revolution a Masters on C19th church history followed as did a professional archival qualification.

*It also introduced me to The Wife, an archeologist and medieval historian.

Why all this personal history?  I don't know (this blog is stream of consciousness if nothing else!)  I think I'm trying to explain why, despite everyone thinking I'm an historian, I don't consider myself one.  And therefor justify my ignorance!  Or to put it another way, why at one time I could speak at length about Napoleon's relationship with Pius VII or Wellington's views on Catholic Emancipation, I would struggle to name more than a handful of their battles.

This week's anniversaries of Napoleon's defeat provide all the excuse I might need to fill the holes in my knowledge.  That and having five crates of books on the Napoleonic Wars in my spare bedroom!

I shall report back...


  1. Strangely it was the emphasis on a rather dry, old-school approach to history that put me of studying it at O-Level or higher when I was at school. My knowledge, and interest, has come later, mostly through wargaming.

    1. Ah, but I'm a rather dry, old-fashioned kinda guy ;)

  2. My interest in military history came from my father, an architect, rather than any formal study, except for the Roman invasion of Britain at junior school. I did do History A level but found every subject I had to study for this completely without interest (don't ever speak to me about the Italian Wars!).

    My concern today is that children do not, as I did, learn the history of Britain in chronological order at school, so have little idea of whether the Wars of the Roses came before or after the English Civil War.

    My wife has no idea about history at all and hadn't even heard of the English Civil War when I mentioned it recently!

    So as self taught you probably know far more than most!

  3. No interest in the military history of the Napoleonic wars?

    Egad! A blot on your otherwise stainless escutcheon Sir.


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