Monday, July 12, 2010

Current Reading

My recent reading - some of these will get fuller reviews in the course of time, but I've been busy and not had much time to write my blog.

Rifles by Mark Urban is a history of the 95th Rifles in Wellington's army fighting in the Peninsular War and at Waterloo. It is heavily based on the many accounts that came out of the unit and features descriptions of the soldiers' life in the unit and the rifle's part in various actions including the major battles at Bussaco and Waterloo and more minor ones that only involved the Light Division.

Urban concludes by discussing the growth of wider consciousness of the part that the Rifles and the Light Division played in the Napoleonic Wars for Britain leading to such things as Bernard Cornwell's hugely popular Sharpe series of novels. There is also a discussion of the impact on military thought and tactics from the Rifle's methods of fighting and the success of the British army against Napoleon's forces.

Mud, Blood and Poppycock is a revisionist history of the First World War, aiming to challenge the popular myths of how the war was fought in British culture. Corrigan's approach is quite technical in terms of using statistical analysis to disprove false perceptions like the numbers of casualties being massive and creating a lost generation. He does acknowledge the effect of the 'Pals Battalions' in leading to localised pockets where heavy losses did occur and that have heavily influenced the common perception of the war.

One book that I'm surprised he doesn't mention or list in his bibliography is Paul Fussell's The Great War and Modern Memory, which was one of the first titles that I know of that did address the topic. Fussell is mainly an analysis of the copious literature of the First World war and the way this shaped the popular view.

I've still not finished Corrigan yet so I will probably return to discuss the subject of perceptions of World War One in a later post.

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