Thursday, May 16, 2013

Book Review: The Best of Enemies

(cover art from the book)

Dear Reader,

(Sorry for the long absence, I've been in Washington DC doing research for my MA program!)

Book Review of:

Christopher Duffy, The Best of Enemies: Germans vs. Jacobites, 1746. Emperor's Press,
          Bitter Books, (Chicago and London) 2013.

Most Americans remember the Hessians from their time in grade school. These are the soldiers which American general George Washington crossed the the Delaware to surprise at the Battle of Trenton on the day after Christmas, 1776. In his latest book, Dr. Christopher Duffy examines these soldiers in a different context: the '45, the final major Jacobite uprising in Britain  Much like in the American War of Independence, the German state of Hesse-Kassel hired its soldiers as subsidized allies (subsidientruppen) to the British. These Hessians assisted the British (and their Hanoverian monarch, George II) in suppressing this rebellion in the eighteenth century.

In this small, though informative, book, Duffy manages to give a campaign history of the Germans in the '45 uprising, as well as examine the life of Hessian Prince Frederick II in a book which, at times, reads as a mini-biography. Duffy lends a sympathetic voice to Frederick II of Hesse-Kassel, and attempts to show that this monarch had admirable qualities. Duffy's work touches on the history of the Hessian military from the turn of the eighteenth century to the American War of Independence. However, in order to get the full story of the Hessians in the American War of Independence (which is outside the scope of Duffy's work), this book should be read in tandem with Rodney Atwood's The Hessians. 

 For readers familiar with the American War of Independence, many familiar names crop up in the text, as we see future Hessian leaders. Duffy's thesis is that the Germans were more humane than their British counterparts, and kept clear of the worst of the atrocities following the Battle of Culloden. He amply proves his thesis, and this provides an interesting counterpoint to the supposed atrocities of the German troops during the American War of Independence.

As usual, Duffy writes in an engaging and often humorous style. His prose is easy to understand, even for those who do not understand all of the technicalities of eighteenth century warfare. He provides a full bibliography, which is clearly laid out. Overall, the only major flaw in this book is it's length: it leaves the reader wishing for more! Dr. Duffy has once again proved that military history and serious scholarship go hand in hand.

 The book is being published and sold by John Brewster over at Bitter Books, with assistance by Emperor's Press. If you would like to purchase the book directly, here is a link to Bitter Books.  For British readers, the book is a fascinating examination of a pivotal event in the history of Britain. For American readers, the book gives an important comparison to the experiences of the American War of Independence. For any serious student of the Jacobite Rebellions or American War of Independence, this book is a must have.

Thanks for reading,

Alex Burns

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your thoughtful review. I just ordered a copy from Articles Of War in New Mexio, direct to my door for $30.00 including postage. I've been obsessed with The '45 and The Battle Of Culloden since I saw Peter Watkins' film "Culloden" on local PBS c. 1972. What are the two easiest "pop culture" references to The '45 in order to talk a layman into what you are talking about?: Robert Louis Stevenson's "Kidnapped" [and perhaps the Disney movie made of it, which opens with the aftermath of Culloden], and the liqueur "Drambuie" which features in its advertising the phrase "A Link With The '45". And I have a fifteen year old son named "Culloden".GFS