Explore the Commentary

Lifeofwellington.co.uk is home to the accompanying Commentary of Rory Muir’s two volume biography of Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington. The commentary is the extended text from Rory Muir’s definitive biography, Wellington: The Path to Victory, 1769-1814 and Wellington: Waterloo and the Fortunes of Peace, 1814-1852. Originally written by Rory Muir for his own use, Yale University Press is delighted to make it available to read online and as a free download.

Author Rory Muir says:

Over the three decades I have been working on Wellington and subjects closely related to his life, I have made many interesting discoveries which, for reasons of space, can only be touched on briefly in this biography. In the past, such material would have been consigned to remain stashed away in my personal files, or at best trickled into the public realm via obscure scholarly articles and conference papers largely inaccessible to general readers, while future biographers and historians would have wasted many hours pointlessly following the same lines of enquiry. I am pleased, therefore, that this material is now freely available on this website.

This self-contained Commentary is an additional resource for readers who are interested in following up details and digressions originating within the published text. The Commentary is extensive – about the same length as the main narrative – and consists of further descriptions of events, often from obscure or unpublished sources, deeper explanations of when and why my account differs from the established narratives and Lives, and the somewhat sobering chronicle of the red herrings and dead-ends thrown up by my research.

Most of the entries are short – just a paragraph or two – but they add significantly to the main narrative at almost every point of Wellington’s life, sketching the character and careers of his friends, family, rivals and colleagues, testing the veracity of many old anecdotes, and including many first hand glimpses of Wellington by contemporaries that could not be included in the book. The battle of Assaye, for instance – Wellington’s least understood and explored victory – gains a further twenty pages of commentary, which goes through all the significant primary sources for the battle, and collates and compares the existing evidence for each point. This does not amount to a full study of the battle, of course, but it gives interested readers a much fuller account of what happened and a clearer understanding of the difficulties of reconstructing the events of the day, and, indeed, of any battle.

I hope, the Commentary adds a third layer to historical writing: a parallel text that elaborates, divagates and elucidates, and whose online format makes it easy to search and explore.

Rory Muir

How to explore the Commentary

Use the panel on the right to select the volume of the book and chapter you are reading – you will then be shown all of the author’s additional material to accompany that chapter.

When viewing Commentary you will also see a list of tags at the bottom of each section – click on these to see a list of all Commentary sections which have that tag. A full list of  the abbreviations used can be found here.

Download the full commentary

Download the commentary in the format that suits you. You need to register in order to get a link to the full download.