Reviews: Reference Books

Napoleonic Wars: The Essential Bibliography

Schneid, Frederick C. Napoleonic Wars: The Essential Bibliography. Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, 2013.  121 p. Paperback. ISBN# 9781597972093. $14.95.

Napoleonic Wars: The Essential Bibliography

The Napoleonic era attracted the vast attention of many participants and by-standers even when it was still in full motion, and had captivated the world ever since.  Today, few would dispute the claim that there still exists in L’Épopée Napoléonienne a certain mystique – an irresistible combination of glamour, panache, and color, which is equally dear to the academics and buffs alike, writing and researching on its various aspects. To a great extent, this particular era is memorable because of the charisma of its major leader, whose true success, especially during the first period of 1804-1809, partly belongs to the proper assembly and management of a constellation of talents – in administration, jurisprudence, education and, of course, in the art of war.         

Being trained by Gunther E. Rothenberg, a renowned military writer and educator at Purdue, Frederick C. Schneid of High Point University represents, perhaps, the last cohort of traditional “operation military historians” writing on the Napoleonic wars.  Author’s record is quite impressive and includes presidentship of the Consortium on the Revolutionary era (2004) and numerous books and articles, including his particular interest in Napoleonic kingdom of Italy and questions on conscription.  His vivid and persuasive writing style – well known to many Napoleonic scholars and students – is firmly supported by the deep knowledge, understanding and analysis of primary sources of the period, as well. From this point of view, Schneid’s Napoleonic Wars, written for the Essential Bibliography series, is a valuable contribution to the existing bibliographies assembled on one of the most colorful periods of European history.

The book’s goal is to “focus specifically on the military history of the Napoleonic Wars” (x), and to examine “the changing nature of Napoleonic historiography in the English-speaking world” (6).  To achieve this task, Schneid places his bibliographical material in six chapters, dealing with the origins of Napoleonic warfare, the Napoleonic wars, the campaigns, satellites and minor states, and armies of the Napoleonic era, respectively.  Further, a special chapter is dedicated to a transatlantic history and involvement of Britain and Spain in the Peninsular War (1807-14), not being traditionally associated with the Napoleonic wars because Napoléon himself spent only few months there, from October 1808 to January 1809.             

Schneid sets off his narrative by tracing the origin of the Napoleonic warfare from classical works of the nineteenth and primarily the early twentieth century’s military writers – Charles Oman, Ramsay Phipps, F. Loraine Petre and the others – to the modern scholarship.  Throughout many pages he often salutes to David G. Chandler, Gunther E. Rothenberg and John R. Elting – a triumvirate of prominent historians who built the foundation for Napoleonic studies on both sides of the Atlantic in 1960-1980s.  The new generation of “Napoleonic” scholars, including the often-mentioned Michael Leggiere, Alexander Mikaberidze and Schneid himself, produced new array of research, however often limited to specific campaigns or selected battles and thus designed more for the service academies rather than general college audience.  Needless to note that “traditional” Napoleonic scholarship effectively shifts its focus away from strategic operations, battles, or statistical analysis of fighting forces.  The bitter experience of the military conflicts of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries has compelled current historians to reexamine warfare as a broader social and cultural phenomenon (as in, e.g., Thomas Cardoza’s Intrepid Women, 2010, or Michael Hughes work on soldiers’ motivation in Forging the Grande Armée, 2012), rather than to concentrate on siege of fortresses or counting number of captured enemy’s flags and battle losses.  Therefore, a new student of Napoleonic wars is often left to rely, as before, on works which, in most cases, “based on the same printed primary sources” (49), for modern publications only in few instances represent original research based on newly analyzed archival documents (e.g., Rafe Blaufarb, The French Army, 2002) or translated and published previously unknown memoires and histories.

The author concurs with the general notion that “Napoleon was not an originator but an innovator of forms of war” developed before him (10, 64).  To that extend, one of the interesting part in Schneid’s book is his discourse on “Napoleonic genius” – from Rothenberg’s acceptance of it (Art of Warfare, 1976), to Owen Connelly’s notion of luck (Blundering to Glory, 1987) and Charles Esdaile’s view of the broader nature of the wars and Napoleon’s opportunism (The Wars of Napoleon, 1995), (30-33).  Often, throughout different chapters, cited books appear repetitive, which is an inseparable part of any bibliographical essay of this sort, but this is done at the expense of important primary and secondary sources available in English, which Schneid omitted.  Their number is too numerous to be listed in passim; so, some selected titles are provided in a short addendum at the end of the review in a hope that this effort will serve as a small contribution to a further composition of this sort.                                         

In his book Schneid primarily consults works from the academic circle of which he is a proud and distinguished member himself.  This precluded the author to look outside of the traditional scholarship, which grows tremendously in our age of electronic technologies and social network.  One of such sources that merit attention is the Napoleonic-series web site.  Established at the beginning of 2000s, this site is dedicated to Napoleonic history and consists, up to-date, of over 12,000 articles, maps, illustrations, reviews, photographs, and charts submitted by professionals, students and aficionados from all over the world, who write exclusively on the Napoleonic topics and translate into English rare primary sources. The younger generation of students of Napoleonic history most definitely will find here answers for many of their questions along with an opportunity to participate in the live discussion forum. 

As Schneid properly asserts, practically all English-language works which deals with Napoleonic armies or Napoléon’s campaigns in Central Europe of the past and present rest on the French sources – archival, memoirist, epistolary, narrative and the like (26-27).  And this comes to no surprise – history is written by the victors and straightened by the legend in search for admiration from its direct participants; furthermore, the French was a titular language for all educated elite during the long nineteenth century.  But today, here is a desperate need for a multi-linguistically organized cooperation, which would lift previous taboos and grant researchers an archival access, especially for those subjects where history doesn’t seem to be complacent.  Another need is for international collaboration between universities and centers, which might involve graduate students and provide them with innovative and practically applicable research projects.  Unfortunately, many of the distinctive Napoleonic scholars from the United States – Schneid himself including – hadn’t the opportunity to attend the International Napoleonic Congress, which was held in Moscow in summer 2012 and had a special round table discussion on modern Napoleonic historiography.  

Thus, Napoleonic Wars is an excellent platform and starting point for any serious beginner of the Napoleonic era, who will find in this bibliographical work general information to pursue one’s specific interest in military history – be it origins or course of the Napoleonic warfare, history of big and small European states and armies, or specifics of the Peninsular war – to a more advanced level of research and expertise.   

A Short Addendum to Frederick C. Schneid’s Napoleonic Wars: The Essential Bibliography:

The Origins of Napoleonic Warfare

Deutsch, C. Harold.  The Genesis of Napoleonic Imperialism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1938).

Grainger, D. John.  The Amiens truce: Britain and Bonaparte, 1801-1803.  (Rochester, New York: Boydell Press, 2004).

Simms, Brendan.  The struggle for mastery in Germany, 1779-1850 (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998).

The Napoleonic Wars/The Campaigns

Arnold, James R. Napoleon Conquers Austria: The 1809 Campaign for Vienna (Westport: Praeger Publishers, 1995).

Bowden, Scott.  Napoleon's Grande Armée of 1813 (Combined Publishing, 1990).

______. Napoleon and Austerlitz (Chicago: The Emperor's Press, 1997)

Goltz, Colmar Freiherr von der. Jena to Eylau, the Disgrace and the Redemption of the Old-Prussian Army; a Study in Military History (New York: E. P. Dutton and Company; London: K. Paul, Trench & Co. Ltd., 1913); reprinted by Demi-Solde Press, 1999.

Markham, David J.  Imperial Glory: Bulletins of Napoleon’s Grande Armée 1805-1814London: Greenhill Books, 2003).

Mikhailovsky-Danilevsky, Alexander, Lt. Gen. (1789-1848). Austerlitz: a Russian Account of the 1805 Campaign, transl. from French by G.F. Nafziger (Nafziger Collection, 1999).

Müller, W., Lieutenant of the king’s German engineers.  Operations and battles of the Austrian and French armies in the year 1809 (London, 1810).

Peuchet, Jacques.  Campaigns of the Armies of France, in Prussia, Saxony, and Poland…, translated by Samuel Mackay (Boston: Farrand, Mallory & Co., 1808).

Stutterheim, Karl Freiherr, von (1770-1811), Major-general of the Austrian army.  A Detailed Account of the Battle of Austerlitz, transl. from the French by Major Pine Coffin (London, 1807).                         

Thoral, Marie-Cécile.  From Valmy to Waterloo: France at War, 1792-1815, transl. by Godfrey Rogers (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).                      

Vachée , Jean B.-M.-E., Colonel. Napoleon at Work (A. and C. Black, 1914), translation from the original French, Napoléon en Campagne (Paris et Nancy, 1913).

Satellites and minor states 

Grab, Alexander.  Napoleon and the transformation of Europe.  (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003).

Mikhailovsky-Danilevsky, Alexander, Lt. Gen. (1789-1848). Russo-Swedish War of 1808-1809, in 2 vols.  Transl. and annotated by Alexander Mikaberidze and Eman M. Vovsi (Nafziger Collection, 2000, 2011). 

Stuart Wolf.  Napoleon's Integration of Europe (London: Routledge, 1991).

Whitcomb, A. Edward. Napoleon’s diplomatic service (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1979).

Armies of the Napoleonic Wars

Nafziger, George F. Imperial Bayonets: Tactics of the Napoleonic Battery, Battalion and Brigade as Found in Contemporary Regulations (London: Greenhill Books, 1996).                                                                                                                                          

Partridge, Richard and Michael Oliver.  The French Army and Her Allies (Constable & Robinson, 2002).

_______.  Napoleonic Army handbook: the British Army and her allies (Constable & Robinson, 1999).

Smith, Digby G. The Napoleonic Wars Data Book: Actions and Losses in Personnel, Colours, Standards and Artillery, 1792–1815 (London: Greenhill, 1998).

_______.  Armies of 1812: The Grand Armeé and the Armies of Austria, Prussia, Russia and Turkey (Staplehurst: Spellmount, 2002); reprinted in 2007.

Wilson, Sir Robert (1777-1849). Brief remarks on the Character and Composition of the Russian Army, and a Sketch of the Campaigns in Poland in the Years 1806 and 1807 (London, Printed by C. Roworth, 1810); reprinted as Campaigns in Poland (Worley Publications, 2000).

Zhmodikov, Alexander & Yuri Zhmodikov. Tactics of the Russian Army in the Napoleonic Wars, 2 vols. (Nafziger Collection, 2003).

Zarzeczny, Matthew D.  Meteors That Enlighten the Earth: Napoleon and the Cult of Great Men (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013).


Reviewed by Eman Vovsi

Placed on the Napoleon Series: May 2014


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