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Wellington: The Iron Duke
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Wellington: The Iron Duke

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  357 Ratings  ·  29 Reviews
Richard Holmes, highly acclaimed military historian and broadcaster, tells the exhilarating story of Britain’s greatest-ever soldier, the man who posed the most serious threat to Napoleon. The Duke of Wellington’s remarkable life and extraordinary campaigns are recreated with Holmes’ superb skill in this compelling book.

Richard Holmes charts Wellington’s stellar military c
Paperback, 324 pages
Published February 3rd 2003 by HarperCollins (first published 2002)
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Dec 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: napoleon
Aussie Rick got me reading about the Napoleonic Era 2 years ago and it has been a rich vein of history to explore. Really, how many historical figures are known by one name? In Wellington: The Iron Duke we are introduced to the man credited with ending the threat of Napoleon. The book is a companion to the eponymous BBC TV series (available on YouTube!). We follow Wesley/Wellesley/Wellington from his early childhood, to his days in India through his campaigns in the Peninsular War, ending his mi ...more
Jan 31, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: napoleonic-other
Very basic introduction to Wellington; almost a high school book. Not that it was poorly written, but that it was so shallow. Oh, there were the occasional confusions, such as when Holmes quotes Wellington (we might as well call him that consistently; his list of titles takes a full page in the book) describing the siege of Burgos as "the worst scrape that ever I was in." Yet, though the author later dutifully quotes Wellington calling Waterloo as a "close run thing", there's nary a mention of w ...more
Sep 21, 2007 rated it liked it
Finally got around to finishing this last night. A well researched, well written biography of Wellington, someone I knew of only through Joyce studies and the eponymous Beef, as well as a window into the political/military complex of the British Empire at its height. Wellington participated in establishing suzerainty over India, ejected the French from Spain, defeated Napolean at Waterloo, and later, as Prime Minister, brokered Irish voting rights into law. The little details are what make the b ...more
Robert French
Wellington, The Iron Duke provides a brief summation of the life of Wellington. I was probably expecting a lot more, particularly after recently reading John Sugden's two volume biography of Nelson. Although, the book covers all the major periods of Wellington's life, i.e. his early years, time in India, the Peninsular Wars, Waterloo and his later political life, I definitely came away wishing for much more and for a more comprehensive treatment. I also found the structure of the book a bit disc ...more
This is a serviceable biography of Wellington and accomplishes what it sets out to do—be an accessible introduction to Wellington’s life and times. Holmes is certainly an able scholar and researcher, and his prose is very readable. I was occasionally disappointed that he was not more opinionated than he was. He is at his best and most entertaining when he interjects his own voice and delivers some penetrating analysis, often with a clever turn of phrase. This style was of course his trademark in ...more
Aug 13, 2008 rated it liked it
A brief-ish account of Wellington's career. Holmes in a military historian so he tends to be rather more concerned with battle plans than Wellington's political or private life. Nonetheless he writes with a good balance of detail, summary and anecdote, often deferring to more detailed accounts. Occasionally I got a little lost in Holmes terminology (what is the difference between say Light Dragoons and Riflemen) but overall it's an enjoyable read. However Holmes fails to get inside the mind of t ...more
Vishakh Thomas
Aug 29, 2017 rated it liked it
A decent read, covers most of the aspects of the life and career of one of Britain’s best known Generals - undefeated in battle and someone who carved out many of the victories that made Britain the dominant power in the world.
I am not familiar with Holmes’ other works, this seems to be the work of a military historian. The book contains fairly decent descriptions of all the major battles of Wellington’s career. I was particularly interested in the Battle of Assaye where the British IndianArmy (
David P
Jul 11, 2017 rated it liked it
A good overview of his career, covering in just enough detail for the casual reader.
Mar 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
This must be the "Cole Notes" version of his biography. A good read, but basic, hitting the high points.
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1769 – 1852) was a colossus of warfare in the early 19th century. Volumes have been written on his life and exploits, beginning in his time and continuing today. As Holmes notes, the amount of analysis that the Duke's career has been subjected to is probably only rivalled by that of his greatest foe, Napoleon Bonaparte.

Holmes's Wellington - The Iron Duke is a brief and plain-language examination of the Duke's career and life. Richard Holmes, a military
Dale Pearl

3.5 star review

Richard Holmes goes to many efforts to defend criticism of Arthur Wellesley. Not to take anything away from the man but he appears to be more ambitious than to be any sort of military genius. He was indeed more fortunate in war than he was in achieving victory through skill. Arthur Wellesley was not one to give out praise after the facts suggested that they were deserved, in all appearances, it would appear that the "Iron Duke" was a man who would seduce with kindness to your fa
R.M.F Brown
Sep 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
They came at us the same old way, and we beat them back the same old way...

When reviewing any biography, I'm reminded of this Wellington quote, as it equally applies to the art of biography writing. There is a well established template that was laid down in classical times, and very rarely, do authors deviate from this.

That being said, the Iron Duke is a first rate autobiography about Britain's greatest soldier (Marlborough is a very close second) Insightful, anecdotal, and written with Holmes'
Dec 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
A seriously good biography of this British colossus of the 19th century. Dogged campaigner in India and Spain, the General that defeated Napoleon, and controversial statesman - Wellington was a man at the crossroads of history.

"He was born when the country-side dominated the town, industry bowed to agriculture and Britain ruled North America. He was buried amidst the smoke of busy railways and an accomplished industrial revolution, in a nation which ruled the centre of the greatest empire the wo
Mar 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
While some readers hoping for a more complex account of Wellington's life may be somewhat disappointed with this book, I think it is a great starting point for those interested in the life of the 'Iron Duke'. I also recommend watching the documentary alongside this book because they make great components together if you ask me.

Holmes gives an insightful account into the career of Arthur Wellesley exploring not just his victories but also the lessons he had to learn during his experience in the m
Robert Hepple
Nov 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Wellington – The Iron Duke is a 2003 biography written by Richard Holmes in parallel with a television documentary on the same subject. I must have missed the documentary, but I tackled the book with some enthusiasm. The book was excellent – immensely readable and informative and added a great deal to what I had previously learnt about The Iron Duke. Towards the end there was, perhaps, a tendency to include a lot of apocryphal stories about the Duke, but most of the book relied on the known fact ...more
Sep 03, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: military-nf
Clearly a well researched history of Wellington, but it wasn't a griping read: there were several instances when I found myself getting frustrated with the pace. It did, however, give some insightful history into the man behind Wellington an tried to show how earlier experiences shaped him later on. He was clearly a leader who thought carefully about the logistics of warfare and this, the book suggests, is why he was generally more sucessful that his contempories. A real example of "fools talk t ...more
Jan 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
An excellent short sketch of the life and accomplishment of Wellington, a giant in war and politics. A fascinating story, covering the period from the Duke's youth in rural Ireland to his political ascendancy in the industrializing Great Britain of Queen Victoria. In contrast to his contemporary English naval hero, Nelson, as Holmes reflects in his book, Wellington is a man easy to admire, perhaps harder to like.

The book offers excellent descriptions of his major battles, but does not have good
Mar 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A riveting read, well researched and fantastically written, Holmes' passion on his subject really comes across in this short account of Wellington's life. despite this a fair picture of Wellington is presented. both the good and the bad, adding a very human aspect to his character.

I'd highly recommend this to anyone with a basic knowledge of the period looking to learn more about one of its leading men
May 17, 2014 rated it liked it
This book is very efficient read. I had a mild curiosity in the Duke of Wellington and this was the perfect find. Quick biography highlighting the most important events and facts. I discovered why people say this was a "Waterloo moment" (I had a vague understanding) and why British cops are called bobbies. A win win all around.
Oct 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
Excellent so far as it goes. Predictably heavy on the military career (and very well done) but I would have liked a little more emphasis on the man behind the legend. The late Richard Holmes was a great writer though and a fantastic historian.
Katharine Harding
Feb 12, 2014 rated it liked it
What a man! The Duke of Wellington has been a hero of mine for a while, and this book has reinforced that.

An engaging and interesting biography.

I read it in two separate goes - it didn't take six months of slogging away to finish it.
Richard Thomas
Oct 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
A good clear account of Wellington's life from a military perspective and well worth it for that. Holmes writes authoritively on military matters and perhaps it bears reading with Elizabeth Longford's wider biography.
Jeffrey D.
An excellent primer on the Iron Duke. The author resisted the temptation to create a doorstop and gave the reader a solid introductory reader on the military and political aspects of Wellington's life.
Dec 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
interesting biography of the iron duke by the late richard holmes which looks at wellington as the man but more importantly wellington as the miltary general through the campaigns in India, portugal, spain and his major battle of waterloo in 1815
Apr 18, 2007 rated it liked it
To be born in a stable does not make one a horse. Tut tut.
russell barnes
May 12, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, biog
Background Sharpe/Hornblower/Bolithio reading - bloody bastards!
Mar 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: napoleonic-wars
Read for the "Reading Genres" book club's meeting which had the theme of "Biography" held in February 2017
John Mccormick
May 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A quality "potted" version of a great mans life.
Sometimes so exciting and gripping that you almost forget its not fiction.
Sep 16, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, biography
A good overview of the Duke of Wellington's life with the emphasis mostly on his military career. Gives a flavour of his personality but doesn't go into any great detail.
Daniel Morgan Potts
rated it it was amazing
Apr 07, 2016
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.
See this thread for more information.

Richard Holmes was Professor of Military and Security Studies at Cranfield University and the Royal Military College of Science. He was educated at Cambridge, Northern Illinois, and Reading Universities, and carried out his doctoral research on the French army of the Second
More about Richard Holmes...

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