As a technique for the close examination of pre-Victorian life in the British army, Lunt has traced the career of one ordinary regimental officer. John Luard, who served first in the Royal Navy from the age of 16 (1806), went on to spend some 34 years in the army, as adjutant on the field of Waterloo with the 16th Lancers, and thence to India (1822) where he remained until the late stages of the Afghan campaign. ""Pride of regiment, skill at arms, and a supreme contempt for the enemy were the articles of faith of the British army"" in those days, when officers came only from the best families and bought and sold their appointments to further themselves as best they could, doing battle under orders from superiors who might be (considering how they attained their positions) gallant but reckless, brilliant or senile, dour, pusillanimous, or simply dedicated -- and filling in the time between battles by hunting, fishing, going to balls or preening their uniforms. Lunt indicates, more credibly than many textbooks, just why the French lost at Waterloo; spells out the differences among the types of regiments in existence at that time; explains the relationship between the Royal Army and the army of the East India Company; relates the horrible progression of a number of battles in clear if gory fashion, and contributes much to the understanding of how esprit de corps could develop even in the face of conditions of service quite unbelievable by today's standards. Sidelights on the history of India and neighboring countries are amplified by quotations from letters and journals of the period.