Muir, Rory 1962-
MUIR, Rory 1962-
PERSONAL: Born March 20, 1962, in Adelaide, Australia; son of H. B. (a bookseller) and Marcie (a bibliographer and writer) Muir. Education: University of Adelaide, B.A. (with honors), 1983, Ph.D., 1989.
CAREER: University of Southampton, Southampton, England, visiting fellow in history, 1990-91; University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia, visiting research fellow in history, 1997.
Tactics and the Experience of Battle in the Age of Napoleon, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1998.
Salamanca, 1812, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2001.
Contributor to books, including The Road to Waterloo, edited by Alan J. Guy, 1990; and Wellington Studies I, edited by M. Woolgar, 1996.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Editing the letters of Lieutenant Colonel Sir Alexander Gordon, aide to the Duke of Wellington during the Peninsular and Waterloo campaigns.
SIDELIGHTS: Historian Rory Muir has published three books on the Napoleonic Wars. In Britain and the Defeat of Napoleon, 1807-1815, Muir examines the latter part of the wars from the British perspective. He "rightly links the conduct of war with the social and political context in Britain," noted History Today critic John Derry, "and he is particularly anxious to demonstrate why the statesmen of the time deserve more credit than they have often been given for the tenacity with which they fought on until victory was achieved." It was the resilience of the British military system, under Lord Wellington, that made possible Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte's defeat, Muir argues;
"occasionally [the author] is so eager to correct earlier accounts on points of detail that his version suffers from its own instances of slight imbalance," Derry added.
Tactics and Experience of Battle in the Age of Napoleon outlines what the author calls "the practice of what actually happened in battle" during the nineteenth-century conflict. The author puts the reader in the midst of battle, explaining, for example, that "a line of horsemen galloping straight at you looks much the same, and the steadiness of your unit will depend on its confidence and training." While many nationalities were involved in the battles—including the Russians and the Portuguese—Muir concentrates on the British viewpoint, arguing that first-hand accounts in languages other than English and French are rare. That is regrettable, said Jeremy Black in an article for English Historical Review, because "differences in tactics, recruitment, unit cohesion and weapon quality are all important aspects of European military history of this period." Canadian Journal of History writer Owen Connelly likewise found some fault with Muir's book, including what he called a tendency for the author to generalize, resulting, for instance, "in the gross under-estimation of the size of a French battalion." But Connelly ultimately found Tactics and Experience "a very readable and informative book. [Muir's] best chapter are those that contribute directly to his major purpose—-to get inside the heads of men in combat." Jack Thacker, writing in History, found especially interesting Muir's section covering command and control, "especially the chapters on the role of generals … and regimental officers," who were crucial in preparing their troops for combat. Thacker summed up this book as a "carefully researched and well-written work [that] will be of interest to anyone studying either military history or the Napoleonic wars."
Tactics and Experience includes a chapter on the battle of Salamanca, in which Wellington effectively routed a French attack led by Marshal Marmont. Muir expanded on that battle for his 2001 book, Salamanca, 1812. The book examines how Wellington, who had heretofore primarily engaged in defensive combat, turned to the offensive that crushed the oncoming French, "driving an army of close to 50,000 men off the field in confusion," as Andrew Lambert described it in a Times Literary Supplement review. The resulting demoralization of the French led the way to an advance by Wellington, and within two years the British forces had crossed into France.
While a Kirkus Reviews contributor found problems with the book's "minute and often confusing details," Lambert had no such reservation in his praise. Salamanca, 1812 offers "a master-class in the art of reconstructing battles," according to Lambert, who added that if the battle of Salamanca was Wellington's master stroke, then "this book may be Rory Muir's."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Albion, summer, 1997, review of Britain and the Defeat of Napoleon, 1807-1815, p. 311.
American Historical Review, October, 1997, review of Britain and the Defeat of Napoleon, 1807-1815, p. 1162; October, 1999, review of Tactics and the Experience of Battle in the Age of Napoleon, p. 1368.
Canadian Journal of History, August, 2000, Owen Connelly, review of Tactics and the Experience of Battle in the Age of Napoleon, p. 329.
Choice, September, 1998, review of Tactics and the Experience of Battle in the Age of Napoleon, p. 208.
English Historical Review, February, 1998, review of Britain and the Defeat of Napoleon, 1807-1815, p. 311; June, 1999, Jeremy Black, review of Tactics and the Experience of Battle in the Age of Napoleon, p. 742.
History, winter, 1999, Jack Thacker, review of Tactics and the Experience of Battle in the Age of Napoleon, p. 74.
History Today, January, 1997, John Derry, review of Britain and the Defeat of Napoleon, 1807-1815, p. 60.
Journal of Military History, January, 1999, review of Tactics and the Experience of Battle in the Age of Napoleon, p. 179.
Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2001, review of Salamanca, 1812, p. 1405.
Library Journal, June 1, 1998, review of Tactics and the Experience of Battle in the Age of Napoleon, p. 126.
Times Literary Supplement, October 19, 2001, Andrew Lambert, review of Salamanca, 1812, p. 31.
Virginia Quarterly Review, spring, 1997, review of Britain and the Defeat of Napoleon, 1807-1815, p. 367.*