The Long Shadow of Waterloo

Myths, Memories, and Debates

Timothy Fitzpatrick

An examination of the battle of Waterloo's significance in history, looking at how the cultural myths and legends about the battle were made in the century that followed.
Date Published :
June 2019
Publisher :
Illustration :
32 black and white illustrations
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781612007618
Pages : 240
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock
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The Long Shadow of Waterloo explores how Waterloo was remembered by the various nations involved, including the French, British, Germans, the influence it had on these nations (and others, including the USA) and how this changed over the 100 years following the battle.

The Battle of Waterloo ended a century of war between France and Great Britain and became a key part of their national identity, serving their political needs as the battle was refought throughout the 19th century in politics, books and art to create the myth of Waterloo. For Great Britain, Waterloo became a symbol of British hegemony while the multinational contribution to the battle was downplayed and for France it was remembered as a military disaster.

Through looking at the history of the battle over the battle's significance in history, an insight is gained into how cultural myths and legends about a battle are made. Wellington and Napoleon both tried to shape the memory of the battle to their advantage. Wellington propogated the myth that the British won despite being outnumbered by a huge French army, while Napoleon chose to blame his subordinates for the loss, in particular Emmanuel de Grouchy. Grouchy spent the next 60 years struggling to defend his honour, claiming that Napoleon's account of the battle written during his exile at Saint Helena was imaginary and intended to cover Napoleon's own mistakes during the campaign.

This book covers the battle's influence on figures such as Jomini and Clausewitz, military theorists who wanted to find the objective truth of Waterloo and use it as a guide for future wars, as well as Victor Hugo (and Les Miserables) who challenged the myths of battle to transform it into a win for France from which the Republic would emerge. The way Waterloo was used for entertainment is also explored, as battlefield tourists came from all over the world to vicariously experience the legendary battle through visualisations such as the travelling panoramas in England and poetry of Sir Walter Scott.

About The Author

Timothy Fitzpatrick grew up in Williamsburg, Virginia where he developed a love for history. He has been an adjunct Professor at Tallahassee Community College since 2004 and since 2008 he has been a lecturer on the Algerian War for the United States Navy's Naval War College. In 2010 his article "Napoleon's Final Triumph" was published in Military History.


1: Making Waterloo
2: Waterloo: Napoleon's Myth and Legend
3: Grouchy and Waterloo
4: Jomini and Clausewitz
5: Victor Hugo: Memory and Waterloo
6: Media and Memory of Waterloo


"Rather than a simple retelling of this battle, this new work explores its effect on the minds and memories of those involved. The authors gathered information on how Waterloo was remembered politically, culturally, through literature and even tourism. The battle figured prominently in the 19th-Century mind, and the book effectively presents how that hold on the imagination was used and even exploited."

- Military Heritage Magazine

"...a sympathetic but objective account.''

- Waterloo Association Journal

‘'Timothy Fitzpatrick sums up his concise but authoritative narrative of the last action of the Napoleonic Wars. Fitzpatrick accurately concludes that the history of Waterloo will never escape the myths and legends around the two central personalities.''

- Military History Matters

"...covers the historiography of Waterloo and attempts to give context to the various camps and their effect on the teaching and analysis of the great battle...a quick read and will leave the reader with numerous insights that they likely did not have before reading it."

- Napoleonic Historical Society

"This is an interesting twist on Waterloo, and I found it an entertaining and often surprising book."

- History of War

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