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© 2019 by Zack White and the NapoleonicWars.net team.

January 15, 2019

In April 2019, I will have the privilege of speaking for the third time at the 7th Wellington Congress at the University of Southampton. As a taster of what is to come, and an update on a topic which continues to fascinate me, take a look at the abstract for my paper below.

The Curious Case of Badajoz: The aftermath of British sieges in the Peninsular War

Attention on the aftermath of the British sieges of the Peninsular War has generally focused upon explaining why the British troops plundered and maltreated the civilian inhabitants of towns which essentially belonged to their Spanish ally. In the process, however, an important question about these episodes remains unanswered, namely what, if anything, was done about this behaviour in o...

September 24, 2018

Spoiler Alert. Warning: This post contains detailed descriptions of parts of ITV’s Vanity Fair Episode 5 focusing on the Battle of Waterloo.

There was considerable excitement on social media as ITV’s hit show Vanity Fair tackled the Battle of Waterloo. A lot was made of the efforts that had gone into ensuring that the depiction was realistic. The extras had apparently gone through rigorous bootcamps to move and march like Napoleonic soldiers, and great attention had been paid to the accuracy of the uniforms. The effect was visually impressive – the drill was crisp, and it would have taken an eagle-eyed attention to detail to identify problems with these elements

The issues instead lay in the fundamentals – places where the drama had been...

September 22, 2018

Hougoumont, The Battlefield of Waterloo

Hougoumont sits 1.2km from the Butte de Lion down an atmospheric sunken lane (though not the lane that existed down to Waterloo). It is possibly the most evocative site on the battlefield.

Considering that just a few years ago the place was a crumbling ruin, the restoration work carried out by Project Hougoumont is spectacular. The barn has been rebuilt, the walls strengthened, and a new gate hung at the site where McDonnell and his men famously closed the gate to cut off the French who had gained access to the courtyard. A fitting and visually impressive memorial to this event, (depicting men in the act of closing the gate) stands opposite it.

Very little of the old chateau itself remains. Only the...

September 20, 2018

This post is based on notes made during my recent visit to the Waterloo battlefields. Amongst my notes were a series of reflections on the various museums dedicated to the events of the Waterloo campaign. This post represents a synthesis on the most well known of those museums: Memorial 1815.

The Memorial 1815 Museum, The Battlefield of Waterloo

This museum was not what I expected. An entirely new underground complex was built for the bi-centenary (discovering in the process the skeleton of a Hanoverian soldier buried alone). For those with little knowledge of the Napoleonic era, the museum is extremely effective at setting Waterloo in context (both historically and in terms of legacy). To a large extent, this centres around an audio gui...

September 19, 2018

This post was written on the final morning of my recent 4 day tour of the battlefields of the Waterloo campaign, as I reflected on the enormity of what unfolded in the landscape around me.

Friday 7th September 2018. Dawn.

The Battlefield of Waterloo

It is a grey dawn.

As I sit beside Picton’s memorial, by the Mont St Jean crossroads, a thin grey mist envelopes the landscape. Plancenoit and Papelotte are vague smudges of grey and white, barely discernible in the distance.

It is cold. Behind me, the Brussels highway bustles with activity, but is a different sound to the one that filled this place at dawn on the 18th June 1815. It is a mechanical sound, of motors  and hurrying traffic, not the organic one of crackling fires, and muttered conve...

July 16, 2018

There has been controversy recently in the world of military history.

A well-known, and respected, commentator on military history (who I won’t name out of courtesy) has remarked that military history is being colonised by young researchers who have no experience of conflict.

It is easy for young researchers to be annoyed at what is essentially a deeply patronising slur against their collective intelligence and competence. Truth be told though, being upset by such a remark is as unhelpful as the comment itself.

The suggestion is, of course, deeply flawed. The implication is that only those who have experienced military training, and served in the armed forces, have the necessary qualifications to comment on military history. By extension...

May 31, 2018

I seem to be doing this a lot at the moment – thinking about organising conferences, that is. In the last 9 months I’ve worked on the organising committee for the GradNet 2018 conference, in Southampton, the ‘War and Peace in the Age of Napoleon’ Conference (scheduled for September 2019), the ‘Wellington Congress (April 2019), the ‘Southampton Centre for Nineteenth Century Research’ conference on regionalism (September 2018), and have been asked to lead the team organising the ‘New Research in Military History’ conference (November 2018).

As a result, I’m pretty ‘conferenced out’, but in the process I’ve picked up a few tricks of the trade. Here’s a crash course in conference construction:

1.      What’s the point? – It sounds harsh, but...

April 3, 2018

It has been disturbing in recent months to witness the outpouring of instances of sexual assault which women (and of course men in some cases) have suffered from in silence in recent times. It shatters our belief that we live in more civilised times.

As my recent research is showing, this is nothing new.

In a previous post (The Curious Case of Badajoz Part 1), I mentioned the outbreak of plunder and rape which following the capture of the Spanish town by the British in 1812. In my research, I have tried to set the moral issue to one side. No-one can suggest that the events which the citizens of Badajoz suffered were anything less than morally reprehensible. However, whilst historians have tried to explain why the aftermath unfolded in th...

April 3, 2018

Over the last few months, I have been working hard on a fresh project to set up an interdisciplinary academic journal on the 19th Century. There is still a long way to go before Volume 1 of Romance, Revolution and Reform (RRR) is published, but the experience has taught me a lot about how journals actually work behind the scenes. Below I offer some tips for anyone else who wants to go about setting up a journal:

1)     Why would someone publish with you?

This is a vital question that has to be answered before you try to set up a journal. Think of it like a business proposition: What is your ‘USP’? Why would someone start publishing their work with you rather than one of the ‘well established journals? What competition is t...

March 1, 2018

The historical element of the blog has faded away over recent months as I’ve begun to post advice to budding researchers. Over the next few weeks, the reports on my latest research on military discipline, are coming back with a bang, starting with an update on my findings about civilian and military courts in the Napoleonic Wars.

The basic point that I want to make is simple – the two systems were very closely intertwined. This may sound like an obvious, or unsurprising discovery, but in truth is quite revealing. You have to bear in mind that there was no such thing as a formal set of clearly state military laws. The Articles of War gave a rough outline of the sorts of things that were forbidden, but did not give a clear indication of w...

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Zack White

PhD History Researcher and Teacher


Zack is PhD History student and Masters Graduate, working at the University of Southampton.

His experience as a successful and respected secondary school history teacher has made him a passionate advocate of making the past accessible and engaging to the public.

Zack's special area of expertise is the Peninsular War (1808-14), and he is particularly enthusiastic about impact of war on both soldiers and civilians. He is currently writing his first book on Discipline and Punishment of soldiers during the Napoleonic Wars.

Find out more about Zack's work by exploring his blog, and clicking the 'ABOUT' link.


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