The unabridged, downloadable audiobook edition of Saul David's comprehensive history, All the King's Men: The British Soldier from the Restoration to Waterloo, read by the actor Sean Barrett. "The British soldier," wrote a Prussian officer who served with Wellington, "is vigorous, well fed, by nature highly brave and intrepid, trained to the most vigorous discipline, and admirably well-armed...
These circumstances explain how this army ... has never yet been defeated in the field." From the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 to the Downfall of Napoleon in 1815, Britain won a series of major wars against France that enabled her to lay the foundations of a global empire. By Waterloo, she was the paramount maritime and industrial power in the world, and would remain so for much of the nineteenth century.
This is the story of that extraordinary century and a half of martial success and the people who made it possible: the soldier-kings William III and the first two Georges; the generals Marlborough, Wolfe, Moore and Wellington; and the ordinary British redcoats who - despite harsh service conditions that included low pay, poor housing, inadequate food and brutal discipline - rarely let their commanders down in battles as far afield as Blenheim, Plassey, Quebec and Waterloo.
"Filled with swashbuckling derring-do, the reek of blood and gunpowder, combined with shrewd analysis of power, war and psychology." (Simon Sebag Montefiore)
"Those wishing to immerse themselves in this golden age of British military success will relish David's fine piece of history." (Sunday Times)
"At a time when the Army is facing cutbacks while being expected to fight distant, unpopular wars on a shoestring, David's book could not be more topical." (Nigel Jones, Sunday Telegraph)
"A big meaty, satisfying and thought-provoking book, a real achievement." (Patrick Bishop)
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The British general from the bits Saul David likes
This is a highly recommended book if you want to learn about the British Army between the Restoration and Waterloo. for covering such a broad topic David goes into great detail more then on might expect making particular studies of the early years of the regular army, Duke of Marlborough, James Wolfe, The American War of Independence, and the Duke of Wellington.
David also clearly tries his hardest to use as many primary sources as possible, especially when such a general history could probably get away only one or two sources per era.
This book is informative and highly recommended, but I suggest it is more meant for people who are not looking an in depth study of every event in the century and a half covered.
Saul David makes a few little mistakes here and there, nothing major but if you know them they are particularly jarring (for example referring to a French rifle bullet at Waterloo).
This is a personal issue but David seems pretty determined to 'prove' Marlborough was a superior commander to Wellington, as such the former has his faults glossed over while Wellington gets pulled over the coals and is accused of being over cautious or to much of a risk taker depending on the battle.
The level of detail is sporadic for example when talking about the American war of independence every campaign until Saratoga gets decent detail and then David declares that's the point the war was lost and fighting continued for a few years after, with almost no further information.
The last problem is the use of the word 'major' to make generalisations, winning every major battle or war is repeated constantly and makes much of the book come off as just the parts of history that Saul David likes.
Sean Barrett's narration is good if a little monotonous but really comes alive when he adopts an accent for primary sources so I really can't complain, and on its own I would have given narration 4 stars but the editing drags it down to three. Words that had to be re recorded for whatever reason are jammed into sentences and it really makes the listening experience jarring because Barrett sounds like he is reading the reinserted word as a quote, for the sake of a clearer production they should have asked Barrett to re read the entire sentence that then just part of it.
This would never be a film but it did make me want to watch Waterloo again
Despite my nit picks this is still a good book.
Well rounded and interesting.
- Aaron Forward