I thought it would be better to start a new thread in response by a query by Zack, rather than hijack the Wellington Despatches thread.
If you are sitting comfortably, then I will begin. the background to all this is that Hamilton-Williams (real name David Cromwell) was convicted of obtaining money by deception about thirty years ago, in which Peter Hofschroer was a witness. In 1995, H-W produced 'Waterloo - New Perspectives', claim a lot of new research and intended to be the first of a trilogy.
What followed was best summed up by Bill Gray on TMP in 2008: Martin Walker, in a 2004 article for the magazine Nation Interest summed it up quite well (quote):
In 1994, David Hamilton-Williams, an English historian, published Waterloo: New Perspectives, claiming to have delved in the Dutch, German and Belgian sources (and those nationalities provided the bulk of the Duke's army) to give a much fuller account of the battle, particularly on the Duke's left wing where few British troops were posted. He also claimed that Siborne, running out of money to finance his project, "traduced history" by soliciting funds from his wealthier sources, bending his history to suit the vanity of his more generous donors. Finally, and in defiance of the Duke's grumble that Siborne had given too much credit to General Blucher's Prussians, Hamilton-Williams suggested that Siborne was part of a British "conspiracy" to minimize the Prussian role in the joint victory.
In a series of devastating articles in the Napoleonic journal First Empire (numbers 23, 25 and 26) and in the Journal of Army Historical Research, Hamilton-Williams was accused of unfairly blackening Siborne's achievement and inventing his own sources. Visitors to the Hanoverian archives and to the Siborne archives in the British Library were unable to find some of the more dramatic materials he cited, including the private journal of Major George Baring, who commanded the King's German Legion defenders of the central farm of La Haye Sainte until their ammunition ran out and the farm fell. The late Colonel John Elting, West Point's sage on Napoleonic affairs, called the book an "outright fraud." The German military historian Peter Hofschroer (who really had gone through the Dutch and German archives to produce his 1815: The Waterloo Campaign), when asked to specify what was wrong in Hamilton-Williams's book, replied to one inquirer that "from the first page to the last" it was consumed with error. PH's review is on JSTOR https://www.jstor.org/stable/44229992
In one exchange, H-W put his credibility on the line by giving a specific ref in the Supplementary Despatches that the Allied line of comms ran through Mons. I happened to be off to the British Library a few days later – in fact, it was an 1817 letter from the British Foreign Secretary telling W to get out of occupied Paris as the natives were getting restless. As it was in isolation in his letter, it confirmed to me instantly the crux of Peter's arguments about H-W making citations up.
About this time, H-W's second book came out. I wrote a lengthy review in Age of Nap magazine taking the second book to bits. The AoN publisher received a letter from H-W's lawyers threatening libel. Paddy Griffiths wrote another review – on the surface it seemed to placate HW, but was brilliant when you read between the lines.
That letter had also threatened me, but they did not write to me directly. I was sent a copy by AoN and promptly rang his lawyer to tell him that I would see them in court. They never pursued it of course. However, more importantly, H-W's letter laid claim to being a Baronet (hereditary Sir title) complete with arms and claims to various degrees. It turned out that using this and taking up the Bonapartist fantasies had ingratiated him with Weider and he was head of the INS in Europe complete with all these titles. A few checks showed that he did not posses the title or degrees.
The arms were perhaps the most amusing – the quarters used a specific Williams symbol, which belonged to a baronet in North Wales. I contacted him and he told me that he had already been aware that a separate complaint had been made to the House of Lords Baronetage committee about H-W and this "baronetcy". The Baronet was a lifelong chum of the Marquis of Anglesey, who had also been contacted by H-W/Cromwell, and the Baronet told me that the Marquis had had "a sense of humour failure". (military expression for getting rather irate).
Word had also come through that H-W had ordered a load of books from a well-known specialist in the US, Boney Books, but denied ever receiving them. Peter and I put our suspicions to the police, who raided his home – and found the books. As he coughed instantly, the police gave him a caution and the books were returned to the seller. Todd Fisher and the then Nap Society of America had also invited H-W over, but had growing suspicions and I was able to give them the key info to cancel the invitation.
The publishers of H-W's books were also seeing a lot of this and cancelled his contract. The label Arms & Armour (then owned by Cassell) was axed soon after to end the embarrassment of the hype surrounding his books. The third book was never published.
Some say a lot of that is ad hominem, but the key question was honesty, so it was relevant.
I reviewed his second book in Age of Napoleon 17 in spring 1995. This was another potboiler claiming new info and demanding that subjects be viewed from "new perspectives". It was long on claims and short on evidence, but backed supposedly by "citations" from Germanic works, which I knew he had not looked at and then came the claim that material came from the Central Austrian Archives in Vienna. It does not exist!
My first comment was about bibliographies and McDonnell's maxim that they are aimed at persuading "the non-suspecting reader that the author is a monument of erudition and labouriousness" – 336 bookslisted with the usual Germanic list, but problems with basic German, plus 7 European archives. The footnotes revealed a rather smaller selection, but included documents from Moscow (actually from a recent English book). 9 German works and otherwise, only UK and French materials. The latter were actually all that was used. I wrote: "Such bibliographies are becoming more prevalent in 'new writing' and the publishers, Arms & Armour are regrettably in danger of bringing themselves into disrepute by publishing such misleading claims". The key chapter is Waterloo and as mentioned above, in this case we have 18 of 31 chapter citations for his own first dodgy book.
In fact, the narrative came from recent English language works from the last 30 years or rather Bonapartist works translated into English, but even some worthwhile English language works had gone uncited despite being listed. A heap of citations from Austrian archives were actually simply lifted from Rothenberg.
Then we get the anti-x rant: x was supposedly in the conspiracy to bring Nap down. Metternich's memoirs were cited once, but there was no sign in the bibliography of the 6 accessible biogs of the man. This is key information if you are discussing the diplomacy behind the last years of N's power. Metternich's influence is huge then and in its results, but all this is dismissed as transitory – the same is said of many other Allied personalities. That is just rubbish and displays a complete ignorance of central European politics.
Correspondence between UK and France was of course in the diplomatic language of the time, namely French, which H-W lacked the capacity to read as there is no citation of it anywhere, despite claims to visited many UK and French archives. The citations to N's correspondence can be traced back to Chandler or translations of Houssaye and the like. The assessment of the diplomatic manoeuvres essentially is UK material only as seen through recent secondary sources.
When it came to the secondary material, there was no critical assessment – it reads like Cronin's "I use what I like and reject what I don't". That is the central deceit – this could be a general work on 1813-21 from a Uk perspective, but we are bombarded with claims to new research, new facts and new interpretations. He tried to puff up irrelevancies like correspondence with Otto von Habsburg on the origin of the dynastic name instead of reading up on Marmont's role in April 1814 or anything about Metternich. The book is just filled with Nap's own claims about betrayal and a bigging-up of the central man, without any consideration of his ever having suffered a setback pre-1813 or the downside of N's rule. All the usual stuff about betrayals and conspiracies rather than trying to see how each party acted in their own best interests as they saw them. Their "conspiracy" is "proved" by plans for the postwar settlement – much like Yalta, I suppose!
H-W is one of these people, who litters his work with emotive words rather than material evidence, all designed to mislead the reader, such that his own claims are "proof" and his own limited evidence is "conclusive" – repeat a lie enough times and people will believe it.
Then came a lot of legalese nonsense about Habeas Corpus, which he clearly did not understand, before he dived into sucking up to Weider by naming Montholon as the guilty man at the start of the chapter and then reproducing Weider before claiming to have uncovered "conclusive evidence to corroborate" Weider, which is just nonsense again since conclusive and corroborative evidence are different things – that "evidence" actually being a string of assumptions. I ended by saying that it was "bias and hype dressed up as evidence" and that of the book were read widely, the stock of public misinformation would soar. The problems with this book and its underlying dishonesty are different from Waterloo, but still a structure of lies, half-truths and invention.
C’est très vrai. Natürlich. или не могу использовать гугл переводчик
Yogi Berra, I believe
Holy Napoleon Series Forum! It's like deja-vu all over again.
I know Hamilton-Williams posted a sort of justification on the TMP forum some time ago. I don’t know what name he’s currently using so he may or may not be on here already. I’d be interested in asking Scott if he has any plans to reprint/update his Armies at Waterloo book. I’ve never heard of Mr Derselbe posting anything and I doubt Hofschroer is getting any Internet access rights these days.
David, thank you for this critical comments. In the old forum I published an comment on the "material" errors on Bowden's 1813, which led to a rather intensive discussion (in 2012) ...
Best regards, Thomas
Wow, the Hamilton-Williams one seems to be a scandal almost of A.D. Harvey-escque proportions. I can understand now why you say consign it to the scrap heap.
Of course Peter Hofschroer has his own controversies, which are even worse in nature, but don't affect the quality of his work. Knowing whether to cite his work on ethical grounds is a difficult question.
Much of the Bowden situation seems much less severe than the H-W situation. Lifting references from other works is something that obviously has a long history, and is responsible for perpetuating many of the myths. In fact we've discussed very recently here the issues surrounding taking another historian's word as gospel, and how that leads to poorly substantiated claims being accepted as fact. The bottom line becomes that if you don't go right back to the originals yourself, you really shouldn't cite something. The Herr Deselbe thing sounds like a bit of an own goal. How was something like that not picked up at peer review though? Its not as though publishers just blindly accept book manuscripts. Nonetheless, it sounds like there is some good value to the work, but that there are issues that people need to be aware of, rather than it being one to simply avoid.
All of this said, I wonder how prevalent a problem this is - I have been told in confidence of the work of deeply respected Napoleonic experts who have claimed to cite original material, but in truth are at best paraphrases, or poor quality translations.
I thought I should write something separately on Bowden to avoid any confusion. This was a shame really as he did a lot of original work on the Grande Armee and was the first to provide good evidence of the French army actually being the larger at Austerlitz. His failure was again amidst the bibliography and footnotes to give a false representation of his work on the Allies. Much of the Allied material was lifted (with permission, I understand) from Duffy's Austerlitz, but this was not made clear in the book. In the covernote, there were claims to have used the Austrian and Russian archives.
The bibliography includes a large number of German and Russian books, but the giveaway was the alphabetical listing of the prolific German author, Herr Derselbe - it means ditto or the same in a German bibliography. Most of the footnotes were made to look like the original Feldakten in the Kriegsarchiv, when they were lifted from Duffy, as there were a couple of copied errors. He listed Gallina's 1872 work on the Austrian army under its English translated title, which is how it is listed in Rothenberg: Napoleon's Great Adversary, but it was never published in translation. There are quite a few Rothenberg citations that he lifted too.
Bowden also added his own opinion to factual material and added the footnote afterwards, so it looked like the footnote justified his opinion. In one case, he claimed that IR7 at Haslach formed up with its four battalions one in front of another - to stop the Poles running away with a footnote. IR7 was a Moravian regiment, which only had two Polish companies (out of 16) and Poles fought bravely for the Austrians throughout the wars. Alfred Umhey had translated a small book on Ulm by Willbold (odd for someone, who claims to read the Feldakten!), which Bowden lifted way over copyright levels and then proceeded to slate the author.
Over at First Empire magazine, John Cook and others looked over the Russian material and it was worse. In addition to footnotes actually drawn from recent English works and a list of Russian books, the footnotes did not say anything remotely related to Bowden's claims.A work by Baron Stein was particularly abused. John's Amazon reviews covers quite a lot https://www.amazon.co.uk/Napoleon-Austerlitz-Armies-Napoleonic-Research/dp/0962665576