Saturday 19 May 2012

Review: Napoleonic Lives

The latest in Pen and Sword's relatively new How Your Ancestors Lived series is entitled Napoleonic Lives: Researching the British Soldiers of the Napoleonic Wars, by Carole Divall.

The introduction neatly starts off with the aims of the French army - to export revolution under Napoloeon Bonaparte - and the attempts of European sovereigns, and in particular the British, to retaliate through the first 'Great War' from 1792-1815. From the failure of the 'Grand Old Duke of York' in the Netherlands to the various encounters of the Peninsular Wars, the scene is quickly set. A short basics guide for researchers follows on military research for the period, essentially introducing the types of military holdings available at the National Archives and repositories such as the National Army Museum at Chelsea, followed by a timeline outlining key events in the long campaign.

Then the fun begins. A series of eleven chapters looks at the stories of various service personnel engaged within different theatres of war, on a case study by case study approach. Their stories are told in a straightforward narrative, with the end of each chapter appended with a section on how that story was researched. Following the tale of Samuel Rockcliffe, a soldier with the 69th Regiment of Foot who served as a marine on the Agamemnon in 1793, and who soon saw action at Corsica, we learn what could be researched and what could not - in Rockcliffe's case, there being a problem with missing material for the 69th from 1785 to 1793. Each subsequent chapter then takes us deeper and deeper into the war, to Egypt, the Iberian Peninsula and beyond.

Well illustrated with black and white images throughout, and with a useful Further Reading list to conclude, this is as much a serialised action adventure from history as it is a serious genealogical research aid.

(With thanks to Pen and Sword)


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