by Rory Muir
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015. Pp. xiv, 714.
Illus., maps, appends., notes, biblio., index. $40.00. ISBN: 0300187866
Wellington’s Transition from Soldier to Statesman
Muir, author of the impressive 2013 tome Wellington: The Path to Victory 1769-1814 follows that look at Wellington the soldier with this equally detailed look at the Iron Duke’s later life, which was largely devoted to politics and diplomacy.
Muir opens with the period of false peace that ended with Napoleon’s “Hundred Days.” His concise account of the campaign of Waterloo is very good, and gives adequate and appropriate coverage of the French and the Prussians, while pointing out the right and wrong decisions that everyone made during the battle. Muir follows with an unusually detailed treatment of the two-year Allied occupation of France and the politics involved in its termination, a matter historians almost always dismiss with a paragraph or two.
Thereafter, Muir delves into Wellington’s peacetime career, during which he was variously Commander-in-Chief of the British Army, and delved deeply into politics and diplomacy, serving in the Parliament and the cabinet, with two short terms as prime minister.
Muir credits Wellington, a staunch Tory, with being a practical politician. The Duke supported Catholic and Jewish Emancipation, although opposing the Reform Act, despite favoring some other reforms.
This is an excellent sequel to Muir’s first volume, and particularly valuable for those interested in British domestic politics in the decades following the French Wars, arguably supplementing, rather than supplanting Lady Longford's Wellington: Pillar of State.