Book Review: Wellington's Wars: The Making of a Military Genius


by Huw Davies

New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012. Pp. xvi, 302. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $38.00. ISBN: 0300164173

A look at Wellington’s life and career, stressing his years in India (1797-1805) as vital to his evolution from a rather ordinary officer to a commander, diplomat, and politician of unusual ability. 

Davies (Lecturer, King’s College London) devotes a third of his text to India, which is where Wellington learned generalship in a hard school; he once said that the Battle of Assaye (Sept. 23, 1803) was the most desperate of his career.  It was in India that Wellington learned logistics and diplomacy, both skills essential to his later success in Portugal and Spain.  Davies then takes Wellington to the Pensinsula, where the disastrous diplomatic blunders of his superiors following the Battle of Vimeiro (August 21, 1808), almost cost him his career.  Returnig to the Peninsular in 1809, Wellington spent two years in the defense of Portugal, while turning the country from a feeble victim of Napoleon’s ambition to a military asset, and then carried the war into Spain, a country in near anarchy, from which two years later he would carry the war into invade France.  Naturally, the book ends with Waterloo, oddly the last battle for both Wellington and Napoleon.  During these campaigns Wellington had to contend not only with the French armies, but also the politicians and bureaucrats back home, his Spanish and Portuguese allies, and a sometimes hostile press. 

Offering excellent insights into the shaping of a great captain, Wellington’s Wars will interest any student of generalship or the French Wars.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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