Warhorse Simulations home page WARHORSE

ACTS | Empire | Epic of the Peloponnesian War | Free Stuff | Friends

Other historical book reviews and research papers are also available on our site.

Kurt Kuhlmann


HST 352.01


Review:                  The Art of Warfare in the Age of Napoleon, by Gunther Rothenberg (Indiana University Press, 1978).


Gunther Rothenberg's The Art of Warfare in the Age of Napoleon delivers exactly what the author promises, "a description of the major changes and trends in the art of war, especially at the cutting edge of events, with a discussion of the French military establishment and the armies of the major opponents, British as well as continental."[1]  While the book is mainly descriptive rather than analytical, lacking any thesis or theme, Rothenberg's tight focus gives this book an overall unity which might otherwise be lacking.

Rothenberg is nothing if not methodical, and his coverage of these subjects is clear and well-organized.  The first chapter briefly summarizes the militaries of the ancien régime and the developments leading up to the Revolution, while the second chapter gives a concise summary of "The French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars: from Valmy to Waterloo."  For the remaining five chapters, Rothenberg examines different aspects of warfare, staying close to the traditional concerns of military historians: strategy, tactics, organization, armament, logistics, etc. in the five major European powers of the time, France, Britain, Austria, Prussia, and Russia.  He justifiably spends more space looking at the changes that were being initiated in France, but he always acknowledges those developments which were initiated elsewhere.  He also integrates nicely some elements of the 'new' military history without it appearing forced or an afterthought.  For example, the third chapter, titled "The Soldier's Trade," fits together very naturally sections on arms, equipment, and tactics, along with sections on "The armies on the march and in bivouac," "The soldier's women," and "Prisoners of war and their treatment."

Rothenberg knows what he wants to say, and for the most part he says it well.  The narrow focus of the book does not blind him to the fact that strictly military considerations were only one of the factors affecting the military developments of this period.  The chief weakness of the book is Rothenberg's pedestrian writing style, which is always clear but often rather plodding.  He treats commas as an all-purpose punctuation mark, using them freely where other authors might choose a semi-colon, dash, or period.  However, this detracts very little from the overall interest of the book's content, which always transcended the occasional limitations of Rothenberg's style.  The Art of Warfare in the Age of Napoleon is an admirable survey of the traditional military aspects of the wars of the French Revolution and Napoleon.

[1]  p. 9.

Copyright © 1998 Warhorse Simulations