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Waterloo: The True Story of Four Days, Three Armies and Three Battles

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  5,947 ratings  ·  641 reviews
‘Some battles change nothing. Waterloo changed almost everything.’

Bestselling author Bernard Cornwell is celebrated for his ability to bring history to life. Here, in his first work of non-fiction, he has written the true story of the epic battle of Waterloo – a momentous turning point in European history – a tale of one campaign, four days and three armies.

He focuses on w
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published September 11th 2014 by William Collins (first published 2014)
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Average rating 4.21  · 
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 ·  5,947 ratings  ·  641 reviews

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Sean Barrs
Oct 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Cornwell does nothing new here. And he even asks himself the essential question: why another book on Waterloo?

His answer is simple: he wants to tell the story himself. There’s no shortage of books written on it, and he has even written a fiction novel centred on it, but he wants to cast his voice out there to examine the facts. Cornwell has previously written only historical fiction, no non-fiction, so I was excited to see him try his hand and something a little bit different. And it’s a terrif
Apr 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was loaned this book a month or so back, by a colleague who knows that I like reading about history.

I’ve actually been to the site of Waterloo. Many years ago I caught a train from Brussels to Braine l’Alleud and walked to the site from there. That was over 30 years ago though, so I don’t recall that much of my visit. I would have also gotten more out of it if I’d read a book like this beforehand.

With an author like Bernard Cornwell, you know you are guaranteed a great story, even when he writ
Feb 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the second book of basically the same title written by Bernard Cornwell. The first is #20 in the Richard Sharpe series. Cornwell is one of the most respected writers of historical fiction. But here, he is a true historian looking at this pivotal battle in European history.

Unlike many of the Napoleonic Era battles, Waterloo was basically a hastily constructed battle between Napoleon Bonaparte (who desperately needed to his return to the French throne). And, the Allies, led by the Duke of
May 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-military
With his first nonfiction book, novelist Bernard Cornwell has done an admirable job of telling the story of the Napoleon’s ultimate defeat. While breaking no new ground, the author does an excellent job of telling the story of the campaign, including the battles of Quatre Bras and Ligny that were fought immediately prior to Waterloo.

In telling of the battle of Quatre Bras, Mr. Cornwell does a good job of telling why Quatre Bas was important and why Wellington decided to defend it. It was a cros
Alice Poon
Mar 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
For a non-fiction title, this was a riveting and moving read that was not only not dry, but actually managed to transport me like fiction to that shudderingly brutal time and place. As much as there are various military terms and jargon that were confusing to me (not surprisingly), that didn’t take away the enthralling effect the book had on me.

Cornwell’s lucid description of the terrain of the battlefield at the beginning gives a presentiment of what might later prove to be obstructive or facil
An engaging and well paced book that has the hallmarks of Mr Cornwell's ability to construct stories against one of Europe's most famed and important battles.

In essence this is a book only about the battle: the armies and the three battles over the four days. The background and lead-in is brief but enough for most readers who then are taken into the camps of the three armies and their movements as they build into clash of armies.

For the seasoned Waterloo student or Napoleonic expert Mr Cornwell'
Only buy the hardback edition--this is a gloriously handsome book with at least 50 color plates/maps. Don't even think of buying in electronic form.

Such "Saxon Tales" storytelling of a Napoleonic battle isn't for everyone--marred upon occasion by over-dramatic storytelling hardly necessary for the most consequential land battle of the first half of the 19th Century (and perhaps the entire Century). But it is a good basic introduction, with more maps than most modern works provide, and far more c
Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂
Jun 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history-europe
Reading as a buddy read with Hana. We had both read An Infamous Army by Georgette Heyer & were keen to learn more.

& I loved this lavishly illustrated book.

I've never read any fiction by Cornwall, but I am certainly going to look for it now.

Cornwall's writing style is very readable & approachable. I'm not a historian, so I like this.

For example regarding Slender Billy (William of the Netherlands)

He wrote to his parents:"We had a magnificent affair against Napoleon today... it was my corps which
"Some battles change nothing. Waterloo changed almost everything."

Two hundred years ago this year three battles were fought that altered the course of European history. For over 50 years Britain and France had fought each other for world dominance. But this fight was different. This time the European powers united in one of the first effective trans-national coalitions. The aim: to defeat an aging Emperor who had come back from exile to wage a new war.

It was a cliff-hanger and right up until ni
May 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
In the end, I gave this one 4 Stars but it was touch and go for awhile. I had to recalibrate my expectations of a Cornwell book. This was his first non-fiction book and I was expecting a telling of the battle more like his awesome fictional tales. The book was mostly a recounting of a very disjointed battle by participants. Very hard to get a big picture of the battle. But the accounts of the battle are excellent and the maps and illustrations are timely and outstanding. Highly recommended but y ...more
Jul 16, 2015 rated it liked it
This was a mixed bag for me. Starting with the good, as an idiot's (ie, moi) guide to the Battle of Waterloo, it was very good. Before reading it, all I knew about Waterloo, other than Wellington's winning it and Napoleon's being packed off to St. Helena, was dancing at the Duchess of Richmond's ball the night before and "The battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton." This was compact and for the most part, engagingly told. I now have a clear sense of the various battles, stands, ...more
There is nothing dull about this book; I could not put it down. Cornwell used his novelist skills to tell the story of Waterloo through the words and experience of the soldiers’ letters, diaries and memoirs. He brought the battle to life from both the French, British, Dutch, Flemish and German soldiers’ viewpoints.

For the 200th anniversary of the battle of Waterloo, Bernard Cornwell published a non-fiction book on the subject. A number of years ago he had written a historical fiction book about
David Eppenstein
I've read Cornwell before and enjoyed his fiction so I was surprised to see that he had authored a genuine history. I am now further surprised at how good it is. Without a doubt this book is the clearest detailed account of the Battle of Waterloo I have read. The book is very readable and laymen will have no trouble following the tide of this battle and all its facets. The author's copious citing of the reports and diaries of the combatants conveys a realism to the events described that transpor ...more
Aug 16, 2020 rated it liked it
While the illustrations, paintings and excerpts from letters who were at Waterloo are very interesting, the rest of the book is mediocre at best, unless your task is to save Belgium from an invading French Army.
Myke Cole
Jun 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
In a development that will surprise absolutely no one who is familiar with Cornwell's work, his first foray into non-fiction is fantastic.

Cornwell seamlessly transitions from the novel to historical monograph, bringing all of his fiction-writing skills to bear to create the absolute best kind of narrative history. He's got story beats and cliff hanger endings. He's got amazing and flawed characters, at once heroic and identifiable.

He doesn't give short shrift to scholarship. Waterloo is impecca
Claude Foster
Jun 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While reading Waterloo, you’ll discover that Bernard Cornwell has brought his considerable writing talents as a novelist to bear on this straight history of one of the most famous battles in the history of warfare. He skillfully ties together the story of three battles, (Ligny, Quatre-Bras, and Waterloo) three armies, (Allied, Prussian, and French) and the three commanders (Wellington, Blucher, and Napoleon.) Cornwell supplies plenty of facts and figures but he doesn’t let them overwhelm the nar ...more
❆ Crystal ❆
Review for audiobook ~ 3 stars story ♫ 5 stars narration.
I liked it well enough. I did learn a lot about Waterloo with this book. I was pretty amazed to learn that when this battle was fought, Napoleon was already in exile and this was his attempt to regain power. If he had just stayed put, there wouldn't have been so many lives lost. The brutality of the war was a bit depressing. There was quite a bit of gory details that made me sad. I could have done without detailed accounts of the death and
Good in depth history of the battle. I actually learned quite a bit.
Dec 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cornwell’s Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies, and Three Battles begins with the return of the five-foot-six thorn in the side of Europe’s monarchies that was Napoleon’s return from his first exile on Alba. We rapidly move through his re-acquisition of France’s military might and the scene in which his soon-to-be opponent Arthur Wellesley is informed of Napoleon’s return. I did find it funny that so many British officers and soldiers were so stoked at the news. I can only imagine t ...more
Sep 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
To commemorate the 200 year anniversary of arguably the most important battle of the 19th century, Bernard Cornwell's non fiction account of Waterloo is historically significant in that it ended the storied career of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, perhaps the greatest military leader of his time and established Great Britain as the preeminent military power of the 19th century. I was of course, familiar with the overall story of the battle but not the details which the author so richly adds. For ex ...more
May 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cornwell is an entertaining writer, and even though book is not fiction, it still has that appealing air. There is a mistake about one of Napoleon's commanders, but that was minor considering the scope of the book and the campaign.
A. L. Sowards
I haven't read much about Napoleonic warfare, so I thought Waterloo + Bernard Cornwell would be a good introduction. Interesting stuff, touched with the sadness that's typical in books about battles.
Aaron Bright
Oct 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Thoroughly enjoyed this book, cover to cover. Some say it can be a bit simplistic in the way it tells the story of the battle, but I think that’s what I liked most about it. War nonfiction can, on occasion, tend toward mundane detail of which only the writer truly knows what the hell he’s writing about. While there was some of that here, it wasn’t near as extensive as usual and was conveyed in such a manner that it was easy to follow. Spoiler: Napoleon loses at the end.
Dean Hamilton
May 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies, and Three Battles by Bernard Cornwell is Cornwell's first venture into non-fiction.

The author, best-known for his historical fiction (including the Sharpe series as well as the ongoing Saxon Chronicles, and numerous other excellent pieces of work), manages to combine the clarity of prose of the novelist with the myriad details of the historian, serving up a rousing, reader-friendly account of the famous battle that brought the Duke of Wellington
Robert Cruthirds
Jun 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Originally published at Reading Reality

To meet one’s Waterloo, has become almost a cliché, a byword for meeting one’s final or ultimate defeat.

The term, as well as all of the cities and towns named Waterloo, come from one singular battle – the place where Napoleon Bonaparte met his own personal and political Waterloo at the hands of the Duke of Wellington.

Today, June 18, is the 200th anniversary of that battle. While a cannon’s weight of books have been published this year to commemorate the bic
Jun 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Actually I give it 4 and 1/2 stars. An excellent overall account of this fascinating event.
Darrel Bishop
Mar 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book mixes the lecture style with personal accounts from men on the fields. I got a real sense of the brutal, gory horror that comes with this kind of war though Mr. Cornwell didn't try to be gory he was merely retelling what the eyewitnesses reported. Though not very exciting, this book was very satisfying and I'm sure I will read it again in the future.
May 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
A very good history of Waterloo, while still written in a very Bernard Cornwell adventurous style, with added colour from quotations from memoirs. Plus, I may have found a new relative!
Jim Stennett
Mar 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Easy to read study of one of history’s most important battles. Written for non-military types in a clear and concise fashion. Quite enjoyable. I’m not usually one to investigate the Napoleonic Era, but I’m happy to report that learned a lot about the history as well as why the heck they fought in those crazy formations! Now it makes sense.
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Cornwell was born in London in 1944. His father was a Canadian airman, and his mother, who was English, a member of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force. He was adopted and brought up in Essex by the Wiggins family, who were members of the Peculiar People, a strict Protestant sect who banned frivolity of all kinds and even medicine. After he left them, he changed his name to his birth mother's maiden n ...more

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