Thursday 13 September 2018

Book Review: Napoleon's Campaign of 1812 - Hilaire Belloc

Hmm? I almost rated this book three bicornes, mostly because it's on a subject I love, but also because it was an easy and relatively enjoyable read. But on reflection, I've decided it's less than ok/alright, and gone with just two.

Belloc's prose style hasn't aged well, his contemporary, George Orwell, describing it as 'tiresome'. Certainly it's somewhat florid and overblown. Also Belloc's credentials as a historian are highly questionable. He seems to simply rehash the most well known stories of this campaign, with no great depth of understanding. This is, therefore, a retelling of an oft-told tale that's low on scholarship, data and evidence-based research, and high on rhetoric and unsupported opinion.

Should we be surprised by this, given that Belloc was a staunch Catholic, who attributes the growth of capitalism in the west not to the rise of science and industry, but the dissolution of the monasteries? And for whom, according to one of his own provocatively titled essays, 'Science Is The Enemy Of Truth'? Belloc the man seems fascinating, inspiring even, for his multifarious interests and writings. But Belloc the historian? I'm not convinced!

Still, if like me, you're fascinated by this subject, this might still just be worth reading.


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