Thursday, May 27, 2010

Book Review - Napoleon's Men

This blog seems to be devoted more to literary reviews rather than wargaming, at the moment.

I've just come out the other end of a week off with a nasty virus. Probably just the common cold, but in my wife's view a severe case of the man-flu! Anyway, 4 days off work and no painting just proves how sick I was!

In that time I finished my latest book, pictured (ISBN 13: 9781852855307). Having read a lot of books about grand campaigns and the high officers in charge and the great political machinations involved, this was a complete u-turn. Using the letters of ordinary soldiers on campaign, as distinct from memoirs written years or decades later, the author builds a picture of the upheaval caused to French society by the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Young men who had not expected to travel beyond the nearest market town in their lifetime found themselves slapped in uniform and sent off to the extremities of Europe to fight in wars in which they had little say or understanding beyond the propaganda fed to them by the officers. The stress of being away from home and family and the ever present threat of death in a far away land by bullet or disease was alleviated in a great way by being able to write to and receive letters from home.

What I hadn't considered before reading this book was the explosion in letter writing caused by these wars; If you never left your community, there really wasn't a need to write. With the sudden wrenching from home and hearth of a generation of young men conscripted, who, by dint of revolutionary education, could read and write better than any other generation, there was a sudden flowering of letter writing.

Previous armies had been populated by foreign mercenaries or the dregs of society who neither had the inclination or the ability to write. The new nation in arms, however, was a cross section of society who never considered themselves to be professional soldiers and for whom home still had a almost unbearable hold. Senior officers realised early on that writing could alleviate the homesickness , stress and depression which in those days was called mal du pays and encouraged writing. Fascinating reading.

I also received in the mail my latest goodies; the Mediterranean farm, dead figures and spare heads for conversions and the next volume of the adventures of Capitaine Margont. Stay tuned for more reviews and figures. My 92nd Highlanders have also been finished, but I haven't taken any happy snaps yet, either.

1 comment:

  1. Literary reviews are quite interesting, too, I see no problem!

    Thanks for the review, sounds like a book I'll have to read.


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