First Empire: The International Magazine for the Napoleonic Enthusiast, Historian and Gamer
Bridgnorth, UK: First Empire Ltd., bimonthly. ISSN#0969 0689 £3.25
First Empire, edited by Dave Watkins, has been in publication for a number of years and recently celebrated its 50th issue. It is printed on glossy stock, well laid-out, averaging about 40 pages an issue, with a generous mix of color and black & white photography. There are often diagrams, maps and illustrations accompanying each article, and it is a handsome effort overall. The subject matter agrees with its declaration of being for the "enthusiast, historian and gamer," and the articles are in large part on military subjects, covering individuals, battles and campaigns in some detail. All include sources, some being footnoted and others offering lists for further reading. There have been some gaming articles, but they are fewer in number, at least in recent issues. There are rarely articles on naval, political or other non-military aspects of the period.
The scholarship is very good, and comes for the most part from dedicated amateur historians, whose work is largely derived from printed primary and secondary English-language sources. On occasion, articles are presented from authors of recently published books, usually having to do with some aspect of their current work. First Empire also offers a good deal of insight about the topography that armies contended over with abundant photography, much of it in color. Many articles, such as Geert van Uythoven's 3-part piece on the Dutch During The Revolutionary Wars also detail events little covered elsewhere.
The Napoleonic Newsdesk, edited by Paul Chamberlain, is a regular feature, which lists upcoming events around the world including, new book releases, television offerings, re-enactments, tours and conventions. Ian Barstow has also authored a long-running series on the Fighting Marshals, each issue highlighting one of the 26 French leaders. In addition, First Empire usually offers a first-hand report on re-enactments from around the world, supported with photography showing the present-day locale and dress of the participants. There are also Reader's Reviews, where honest and occasionally harsh appraisals greet new works. Lastly, a lively but infrequent letters column, Dispatches, offers many of the hobby's luminaries the opportunity to debate the finer points of history.
In conclusion, First Empire is the result of the hard work and devotion of a number of individuals who donate their time and effort to writing and reporting on their interests, travels, and studies. They do not appear to be paid for their efforts, but we are all rewarded by their fine work.
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Reviewed by Max Sewell, FINS
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