For the Hero before Waterloo

Those interested in European history will find much to please them in Rory Muir‘s masterful biography of one of the most famous figures in British history, Wellington: The Path to Victory, 1769-1814. Arguably the greatest of all British generals, the Duke of Wellington went on to be a leading figure in British politics and twice served as Prime Minister.

Wellington made his name in India as a relatively junior officer, then led British and allied armies to victory in Portugal and Spain in a succession of campaigns, overcoming not only an aggressive and battle-hardened enemy, but also opposition at home and the scepticism of many of his senior subordinates. Under his care the British army reached a peak of efficiency in 1813, when it was the finest fighting force for its size in the world, and his victories in the Peninsula played a crucial part in the defeat and exile of Napoleon in 1814. The crowning glory of Waterloo followed in 1815, putting a final end to Napoleon’s career after his return from Elba. Wellington’s triumph raised Britain’s international prestige to unprecedented heights, giving her a unique place among the Great Powers, which she retained for the rest of the nineteenth century.

Wellington, Rory Muir

But Wellington was more than just a military man, and Muir devotes much space to detailing the non-military aspects of his life as well. He presents Wellington as a politically astute thinker, canny diplomat as well as lover, husband, and friend.

The product of a lifetime’s research, the biography is meticulous and thorough; as David Crane wrote in a review for The Spectator, “there seems nothing that Muir does not know about Wellington and no phase of the career from Dublin Castle to Maratha politics where he is not at home.” From his unpromising youth through his remarkable successes in India and his role as junior minister in charge of Ireland, to his controversial military campaigns, Wellington‘s achievements are incisively and evenhandedly described. And the best part about gifting this book to your favorite history buff? It’s the first of two volumes—so that’s one less future Christmas present that you need to worry about.

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