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Titan: The Art of British Power in the Age of Revolution and Napoleon, by William R. Nester

Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2016. Pp. xx, 404. Illus., maps, tables, notes, biblio., index. $34.95. ISBN: 0806152052.

How Britannia Prevailed

Prof. Nester (emeritus Nebraska-Kearney), has written widely in war and diplomacy, and in this volume follows up his 2001 Napoleon and the Art of Diplomacy with a look at how Britain developed, directed, and wielded its power during the protracted the French Wars of 1792-1815.

This is not just about “hard” power, that is the Royal Navy and, as time went on, the British Army, but also about Britain’s arguably more important “soft” power, in the form of policy, diplomacy, finance, and even special operations. Neither a diplomatic history of the wars nor a military one, the reader will find much of both between its covers. But the reader will also learn a great deal about British domestic politics and how they shaped policy and strategy.

Nester gives us profiles of the many persons, some still famous and others long forgotten, who helped influence policy, not always for the best, such as Pitt the Younger, Castlereagh, and many other ministers, George III and the Prince Regent, admirals and generals such as Nelson, Wellington, Beresford, and St. Vincent, as well as many less successful ones, and many other people as well, and we get shorter glimpses of some of the crowned heads of Europe, their ministers, and their generals, some of whom were barely qualified to run a shop, while others were surprisingly able.

One of the most interesting parts of the book is the discussion of finance as a tool of war and diplomacy that runs through the whole of it, so we gain an understanding of how the British managed to never run out of money, despite expending sums that even seem staggering, and also how those pounds bought allies and armies that led to the final fall of Napoleon.

Although dealing with events now more than two centuries in the past, and perhaps too harsh on the “scum of the earth” who supposedly filled the ranks of the British Army, Titan is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in national policy and grand strategy and British diplomatic history.

Note: Titan is also available in several e-formats.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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