Books by Christopher Hibbert

Released: Oct. 1, 2008

"Knowledgable but not particularly compelling."
Ill-focused, overstuffed portrait of the powerful Pope Alexander VI and his ambitious children, by prolific British historian Hibbert (Napoleon, His Wives and Women, 2002, etc.). Read full book review >
NAPOLEON by Christopher Hibbert
Released: Nov. 1, 2002

"For students of military history and tactics, this is a modest addition to the huge library devoted to Napoleon. But for general readers, it's a pleasure, full of well-chosen information and juicy anecdotes."
The Little Corporal goes love-happy and receives little but scorn for his troubles. Read full book review >
WELLINGTON by Christopher Hibbert
Released: Sept. 1, 1997

The prolific Hibbert (Nelson: A Personal History, 1994, etc.) offers a lively if unsurprising portrait of a contentious hero. Arthur Wellesley, later to become the duke of Wellington, took to the trade of soldiering with alacrity, rising to prominence during his long, careful campaign against Napoleon's forces in Spain, and becoming enshrined as a national hero for his victory against the emperor himself at Waterloo. He then chose to plunge into politics, eventually becoming prime minister, in 1827. For several decades Wellington, alternately irascible and charming, arrogant and solicitous, and almost always imperious, dominated the national scene. Hibbert covers Wellington's campaigns with speed and clarity but plunges with enthusiasm into Wellington's years at the center of British politics. It's likely that most readers do not need to know quite so much as they are told here about the nasty particulars of political life in the 1820s and '30s in England. Still, Hibbert does a deft job of marshaling facts and anecdotes. A useful introduction to a complex, powerful figure. (b&w illustrations, not seen) Read full book review >
NELSON by Christopher Hibbert
Released: Dec. 1, 1994

A lively but incomplete biography of Admiral Nelson that keeps most strategy below decks and instead concentrates on one of the more celebrated adulteries in history. In doing so, the prolific Hibbert (Cavaliers and Roundheads, 1993, etc.) taps a vein of popular curiosity about Nelson, but deals with that part of Nelson's character that is least interesting. For the truth is that Nelson, aside from his profession, was not a very interesting man. Having left school at 12 to become a midshipman in the Navy, he was vain, sanctimonious about his dedication to duty, hypochondriacal, and often querulous about the inadequacy of the rewards that he received. To the dismay of his admirers who thought her a poseur, he was unable to see through Emma Hamilton, the mistress and then wife of Sir William Hamilton, the minister in Naples, who had taken her over from his nephew and in turn, knowingly or otherwise, shared her with Nelson. This mÇnage Ö trois scandalized Europe and leaves historians, including Hibbert, uncertain as to whether Sir William was aware that his wife had given birth to Nelson's child and whether he truly believed his oft-asserted statement of the purity of their relationship. What is really interesting about Nelson, and what historians, including Hibbert, find difficult to communicate, is the fascination that he roused in his peers: ``I don't know that I ever had a conversation that interested me more,'' wrote the very unimpressionable Duke of Wellington after an interview in which he had initially seen Nelson at his vainglorious worst. Hibbert gives us insight into the human touch that made Nelson beloved by his men but little on the strategic grasp that associated him with the four most devastating defeats suffered by the French Navy and its allies in the Napoleonic Wars. It is almost impossible for Hibbert to write a dull sentence- -King Ferdinand of Naples, he writes, was ``a fundamentally idle man much given to fornication''—and he gives a fine sense of Nelson the man. To understand what made Nelson different from his contemporaries, one will have to read elsewhere. Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 1993

A rollicking, if not always enlightening, narrative history of the English Civil War, by the prolific Hibbert (The American Revolution through British Eyes, 1990, etc.). Hibbert concentrates with some success ``upon what happened rather than upon what brought it about, upon the minor engagements [rather] than the major battles, and upon the impact the fighting had upon the civilian population.'' Neither before nor since has there been a war in England that so swept up everyone in its path: By its end (signalled by the execution of Charles I), nearly 200,000 lives had been lost—80,000 killed in the fighting and more than 100,000 from accidents and disease in plague-ridden towns. Throughout, Hibbert displays an eye for the curious and illuminating detail—quoting poet and playwright Thomas May, for instance, on Cromwell's New Model Army: ``Never did hardly any Army go forth to war with less confidence on their own side.'' The author succeeds in conveying the ruthlessness of war and the fears and anguish of those who fought (``Oh Lord, thou knowest how busy I must be this day. If I forget thee, do not thou forget me,'' wrote one soldier on the eve of battle), and he conveys most of his material with great vividness (the Earl of Newcastle was a ``rich and generous dilettante, skilled horseman, graceful dancer, indifferent playwright, and execrable poet''). But what's sorely lacking is the background that Hibbert deliberately avoids: Why the war occurred; why there was a growth of class consciousness at the time; why religious animosities grew so deep; and how a revered monarchy came to be overthrown. Without this information, Hibbert can't escape the besetting vice of much narrative history—that it so often seems like just one cursed thing after another. (Eight-page photo insert) Read full book review >
Released: April 18, 1991

A portrait of England's Queen Bess (1533-1603), which, despite its author's considerable storytelling skills, fails to demonstrate that she was central to England's ``golden age''-and fails to explain her character plausibly. Hibbert (The Days of the French Revolution, 1980; Rome, 1985; The American Revolution Through British Eyes, 1990 knows how to pace a narrative with well-chosen anecdotes and details that deftly summarize major figures (e.g., a memorably ugly French suitor of the queen have ``a nose so large as to appear to be worn as a joke''). He portrays both the public and private monarch in representative moments: riding horses, facing down Parliament and Spanish ambassadors, poring over finances, or speaking eloquently of her love for her subjects. In spite of the biography;s subtitle, this is no simplistic Anglophilic discussion of Queen Elizabeth. Yet, without a fuller discussion of the Tudor monarch's times, her special contribution to her country can't be understood. Moreover, the less attractive facets of this fiercely intelligent, charming queen-vanity, deceit, indecision-seem to come from a vacuum. Her constant disruptions of male expectations, her coquettishness and lifelong refusal to marry, all make little sense. One problem seems to be that her sexuality does not receive the sustained and careful attention given in Lytton Strachey's Elizabeth and Essex. Otherwise, the brilliance of the Elizabethan age seems disconnected from the ruler self-described as having ``the body of a weak and feeble woman, but...the heart and stomach of a king.'' A sharply observed biography that catches Elizabeth in all her complexity, but without a coherent vision of her character. (Sixty color and b&w illustrations.) Read full book review >