Popular Posts


Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Austerlitz: The Empire at its Zenith by François Guy Hourtoulle

I have a fairy extensive library of Napoleonic military history books and I am slowly reviewing ones I like or need a decent review. In that vein here is a review of a book from Hourtoulle's collection originally done for Amazon.

Austerlitz: The Empire at its Zenith written by F.G. Hourtoulle and illustrated by Andre Jouineau is the fourth book in this very good series. The book gives the background and overview of the battle of Austerlitz. There are detailed maps, orders of battle, uniform and equipment illustrations, biographies and portraits of major actors. There is a detailed breakdown of the French army and its components but there is only the order of battle for the Russians and Austrians plus the numerous illustrations and their annotations.

Austerlitz is clearly aimed at military history enthusiasts and researchers as well as military modelling devotees. The focus of the book is detailed information covering the major actors and armies at Austerlitz as well as numerous colour plates showing the uniforms of many of the units that participated at Austerlitz.

F.G. Hourtoulle has written numerous books on the Napoleonic Wars for the publishing house Histoire et Collections. Andre Joineau did the majority of the infantry, cavalry, uniform and equipment plates; the originals can be found at the publishers Images de Soldats (the back of the book lists all the original sources for the uniform plates).

Hourtoulle has done exactly what he set out to do, and that is provide a comprehensive description of the battle of Austerlitz. The strength of the book lies in the amazing amount of research and its presentation. I especially like the numerous quotes from contemporary sources regarding the battle and its participants. However, the majority of the research is skewered towards the French army and its composition.

The maps are very good, I especially like the incorporation of contemporary representations such as Lejeune's panorama of the battle, suitably annotated. The order of battle information is likewise very good. There are numerous prints included from the author's collection, portraits of generals and major actors as well as small biographies of each as well.

The strength of the book lies in the research and its presentation of the battle itself and the participants. Although there are hundreds of colour plates of infantry, cavalry, their uniforms and equipment, this is not my favourite part of this book. I would much rather rely on other books that are specifically focussed on uniforms. However, if you are looking for one book on the battle of Austerlitz, the participants and the armies, you can not beat this fantastic volume.

As he been noted by other reviewers there is an issue with the plates on pp14-15 where the black has not been printed. This was the case in my copy as well. There are also numerous other small errors, most appear to be editing and formatting largely originating from the translation of the book from french to english. For such a phenomenal book and the very reasonable price it is very hard to complain, so I won't. It does seem petty to drop stars for such minor issues. It is hoped that these will be rectified in any later editions.


Post a Comment