Wellington The Path to Victory 1769-1814 Rory Muir

Publication date:
10 Mar 2015
Yale University Press
744 pages: 210 x 140mm
32 pp. illus.; maps; plans
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A landmark contribution to understanding the real man behind the heroic legend inspired by the triumph at Waterloo

The Duke of Wellington was not just Britain’s greatest soldier, although his seismic struggles as leader of the Allied forces against Napoleon in the Peninsular War deservedly became the stuff of British national legend. Wellington was much more: a man of vision beyond purely military matters, a politically astute thinker, and a canny diplomat as well as lover, husband, and friend. Rory Muir’s masterful new biography, the first of a two-volume set, is the fruit of a lifetime’s research and discovery into Wellington and his times. The author brings Wellington into much sharper focus than ever before, addressing his masterstrokes and mistakes in equal measure.
Muir looks at all aspects of Wellington’s career, from his unpromising youth through his remarkable successes in India and his role as junior minister in charge of Ireland, to his controversial military campaigns. With dramatic descriptions of major battles and how they might have turned out differently, the author underscores the magnitude of Wellington’s achievements. The biography is the first to address the major significance of Wellington’s political connections and shrewdness, and to set his career within the wider history of British politics and the war against Napoleon. The volume also revises Wellington’s reputation for being cold and aloof, showing instead a man of far more complex and interesting character.

Rory Muir is visiting research fellow, University of Adelaide. His previously published books include a highly praised study of Wellington’s great triumph at Salamanca and the edited letters of Alexander Gordon, Wellington’s confidential aide-de-camp. He lives in Australia.

"Muir's painstaking recital of facts and descriptions of battles will delight military buffs."—Lawrence James, The Times

"The first major Life of Wellington since Elizabeth Longford's work of 1969-72, Rory Muir's biography is matched by an extensive commentary online (at www.lifeofwellington.co.uk). Muir comes to his task after long research on the wars against Napoleon, from both political and military perspectives . . . giv[ing] us an exceptional insight into the struggle, the changes that were necessary to sustain British forces, and the impact made by determined and ambitious individuals."—Chris Woolgar, Times Literary Supplement

"Mr. Muir provides an authoritative view . . . an important book."—Max Hastings, The Wall Street Journal

"The Wellington biography for our time."—Gary Sheffield, BBC History Magazine

"[E]xtensively researched and anchored in fact, [Muir] gives an invaluable picture of the duke in his early years that will be unfamiliar to many who know only of his military exploits. Muir has researched his subject for 30 years and it shows . . . [The] second volume – to judge by his first – cannot come soon enough . . ."—Simon Heffer, New Statesman

"It's an important book and an enjoyable read . . . Muir's examination is thorough enough that many small myths about Wellington perish. Entire generations of questionable anecdotes are swept away."—John Brewster, Napoleon Historical Society Newsletter

"Muir’s mastery of his subject is certain to make the second volume of Wellington’s life an equally fascinating read."—Jules Stewart, Military History

"I strongly recommend Wellington: The Path to Victory to all readers who desire a persuasive and fascinating military-political analysis of the first forty-five years of one of history's greatest captains. Well done, Professor Muir!"—John T. Kuehn, Michigan War Studies Review

"Overall, Wellington: The Path to Victory, 1769-1814 is an outstanding achievement. It is the definitive biography of Wellington, and fully realises the dedication that Rory Muir has shown to his subject and his exceptional grasp of the sources."—Kevin Linch, Reviews in History

"It looks set to become the authoritative account of Wellington’s life."—Good Book Guide

"There have been many biographies and histories written about the Iron Duke but none have been quite so detailed and precise as Rory … exceptionally detailed but manages to stay highly readable throughout and serves as probably the most comprehensive guide to Wellington's early years ever published."—History of War

Won Second place in the 2014 International Napoleonic Society book award

"A biography of Wellington that far outclasses all its numerous competitors and will be enjoyed by specialists and general readers alike: truly a splendid achievement."—Charles Esdaile, author of Napoleon's Wars: An International History, 1803-1815

"This deeply researched and brilliantly written book supersedes all previous work on the subject. A masterpiece."—Tim Blanning, author of The Pursuit of Glory: Europe, 1648-1815