Fighting Napoleon at Home (Hardback)
The Real Story of a Nation at War With Itself
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From the sun-baked sierras of Spain, through the stormy waters off Cape Trafalgar to the muddy and bloody fields of Waterloo, Britain’s soldiers and sailors were notching up victories which set the country on the path to becoming the greatest power on the planet. We like to imagine the country was unified against a common enemy, France, and the Tyrant of Europe – Napoleon. Yet if we scratch the surface, we find a nation not just at war with France but with itself.
The great successes of Wellington and Nelson, and the glamour of Regency London, cover over the cracks of a divided society, of riots across the industrial north and widespread political opposition. Huge swathes of the country hated the war, booed and hissed at soldiers and ‘lobbed turds’ at the Scots Greys in Halifax. There were repeated ‘Peace Petitions’ which sought to stop the war – and even to prevent the British Army fighting at Waterloo.
Armed Associations of gentlemen volunteers and Local Militias led the call to close down the debate on social and democratic reform, while on the other hand thousands of English reformers heeded the call from France and hundreds actually headed to France, with many thousands more believing that the time had come, when its young men were needed to fight for King and Country, for reform.
The burgeoning middle class had no vote in parliament; rapidly expanding industrial towns and cities had no MPs, yet small villages – pocket boroughs – often had two. The burden of taxation fell on those least able to afford it; enclosure of common land; corn laws; restrictions on the freedom of expression; the endless killing, all fed into an undercurrent of political dissent that was ideologically opposed to the loyalist cause. It was a battle for the very sole of Britain.
For the first time, the shocking reality of life in Britain, during what is often portrayed as being its greatest era, is told through diaries, letters, and newspaper comments. Fighting Napoleon at Home is a startling portrayal of the society from which the soldiers and sailors were drawn and exactly what it was they were fighting to defend. It will become essential reading for anyone attempting to understand why Britain’s aristocracy had to stop Napoleon at any cost and suppress the dangerous ideals of liberté, égalité, fraternité.
Dawson makes an interesting and useful contribution to the history of this important period.Beating Tsundoku
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Book of the MonthWargames Illustrated – Issue 423, March 2023
Not since 1066 – at least in popular myth – has an enemy force set foot on British soil. The Declaration of War with Revolutionary France in 1793 changed all that. In Ireland, the desire for home rule led Irish republicans to seek support from France and like-minded radicals in England. The scene was set for the most dangerous period in British history since William the Conqueror. Irish dreams of independence, and of Revolutionary France’s goal of securing her borders against the monarchies of Europe, coalesced. What better way of keeping Britain out of a war if her troops were tied down…By Paul L. Dawson
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