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  • All the King's Men

  • The British Soldier from the Restoration to Waterloo
  • By: Saul David
  • Narrated by: Sean Barrett
  • Length: 18 hrs and 40 mins
  • Categories: History, Europe
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (161 ratings)

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Summary

The unabridged, downloadable audiobook edition of Saul David's comprehensive history, All the King's Men: The British Soldier from the Restoration to Waterloo, read by the actor Sean Barrett. "The British soldier," wrote a Prussian officer who served with Wellington, "is vigorous, well fed, by nature highly brave and intrepid, trained to the most vigorous discipline, and admirably well-armed...

These circumstances explain how this army ... has never yet been defeated in the field." From the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 to the Downfall of Napoleon in 1815, Britain won a series of major wars against France that enabled her to lay the foundations of a global empire. By Waterloo, she was the paramount maritime and industrial power in the world, and would remain so for much of the nineteenth century.

This is the story of that extraordinary century and a half of martial success and the people who made it possible: the soldier-kings William III and the first two Georges; the generals Marlborough, Wolfe, Moore and Wellington; and the ordinary British redcoats who - despite harsh service conditions that included low pay, poor housing, inadequate food and brutal discipline - rarely let their commanders down in battles as far afield as Blenheim, Plassey, Quebec and Waterloo.

©2012 Saul David (P)2012 Penguin Books Ltd

Critic reviews

"Filled with swashbuckling derring-do, the reek of blood and gunpowder, combined with shrewd analysis of power, war and psychology." (Simon Sebag Montefiore)
"A big meaty, satisfying and thought-provoking book, a real achievement." (Patrick Bishop)
"Those wishing to immerse themselves in this golden age of British military success will relish David's fine piece of history." ( Sunday Times)
"At a time when the Army is facing cutbacks while being expected to fight distant, unpopular wars on a shoestring, David's book could not be more topical." ( Nigel Jones, Sunday Telegraph)

What listeners say about All the King's Men

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

The British general from the bits Saul David likes

What did you like best about All the King's Men? What did you like least?

Best:
This is a highly recommended book if you want to learn about the British Army between the Restoration and Waterloo. for covering such a broad topic David goes into great detail more then on might expect making particular studies of the early years of the regular army, Duke of Marlborough, James Wolfe, The American War of Independence, and the Duke of Wellington.
David also clearly tries his hardest to use as many primary sources as possible, especially when such a general history could probably get away only one or two sources per era.
This book is informative and highly recommended, but I suggest it is more meant for people who are not looking an in depth study of every event in the century and a half covered.

Worst:
Saul David makes a few little mistakes here and there, nothing major but if you know them they are particularly jarring (for example referring to a French rifle bullet at Waterloo).
This is a personal issue but David seems pretty determined to 'prove' Marlborough was a superior commander to Wellington, as such the former has his faults glossed over while Wellington gets pulled over the coals and is accused of being over cautious or to much of a risk taker depending on the battle.
The level of detail is sporadic for example when talking about the American war of independence every campaign until Saratoga gets decent detail and then David declares that's the point the war was lost and fighting continued for a few years after, with almost no further information.
The last problem is the use of the word 'major' to make generalisations, winning every major battle or war is repeated constantly and makes much of the book come off as just the parts of history that Saul David likes.

Did Sean Barrett do a good job differentiating each of the characters? How?

Sean Barrett's narration is good if a little monotonous but really comes alive when he adopts an accent for primary sources so I really can't complain, and on its own I would have given narration 4 stars but the editing drags it down to three. Words that had to be re recorded for whatever reason are jammed into sentences and it really makes the listening experience jarring because Barrett sounds like he is reading the reinserted word as a quote, for the sake of a clearer production they should have asked Barrett to re read the entire sentence that then just part of it.

If this book were a film would you go see it?

This would never be a film but it did make me want to watch Waterloo again

Any additional comments?

Despite my nit picks this is still a good book.

9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Well rounded and interesting.

Although there are slightly confusing sections (especially when lots of people have the same name) this book gives a great overall picture. It jumps around different campaigns across the world but sticks around long enough for you to get a good feel for what the conflicts are really about. The author seems to give a fair analysis and the voice acting is very good. Would recommend if you're interested in this kind of thing.

2 people found this helpful

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A fine book

It’s hard to fault such a well written & well read book. Many listeners / readers will know the history already but with a book like this it improves with the telling. The Georgian period was one of the survival of the fittest, and this translated into the best fighting army (and Navy) of the era.

I think the writer is quite harsh on Wellington, or at least cannot quite make up his mind. I’m not sure it’s a good idea for historians with no military experience to stand in judgement when, for all the brilliance of their writing, they’re not qualified to make that judgement. Also, as far as this book is concerned, I’d like to have heard more about the private soldier and his NCOs.

But the above is to quibble - listen to the book, it’s great.

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Fascinating.

Found this fascinating, and learned quite a few things I didn’t know. Poor Tommy Atkins is all I can say. Marlborough , Wellington et al get high rewards. The poor honest soldier gets little.

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All the King's Men.

Great stories of Britain finest soldiers and battles as well as the men that led them.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Gritty and to the point

There are no rose coloured spectacles to cloud this work. And as much as I love history; reading, listening and watching there is still something to learn from it, right here. Yes our history is 'bloody', and sometimes bloody vulgar, it's part of our history, our heritage, it helps shape us but does not necessarily define us. A great history lesson that does not pull it's punches. Thoroughly recommend the book and the narrator, who helps you every step of the way.

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Very Enjoyable

Very much enjoyed this book - not all "new news" by any means but a good, solid, entertaining history of the subject.

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good listen

well written well read enjoyed this cover to cover will recommend as a winter read for anyone interested in the napoleonic wars

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Excellent read

Have "read" this twice now. A fascinating overview of the key points in English infantry history and how every hundred years or so there is a major conflict: 1705 Blenheim, 1815 Waterloo, 1914 WW1. We are due for another European conflict! Russia?

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Great Book, Brilliantly read by the narrator

Saul David gets it spot on again and Sean Barrett is the perfect choice as narrator.

The Story of British Commanders such as Marlborough, Wolfe and Wellington and the Redcoat..all told so well

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  • Mark Henman
  • 03-09-12

A grand epic

What did you love best about All the King's Men?

This highly detailed and super interesting book exceeded my expectations on every single level.The narrator was excellant,the facts well researched ,and the story told in a very accessable way.It is quite simply one of the best military/social histories I have listened too-Ive listened to alot as well-BUY THIS BOOK NOW

4 people found this helpful

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  • Michael
  • 06-04-13

Excellent book

Well studied and covers much detail. Does focus on the leaders such as Marlborough and Wellington and ends at Waterloo which is where is said it would but would of been nice to go through the 19th Century. Perhaps SAul David could write
part-two'. Never the less you can read Richard Holmes 'Redcoat' to cover most of that - another excellent book.
What I really liked about this book was the British side of the 'War of Independence'. Most books seem to cover the US side of things but it is nice to see another perspective. I now plan to listen to Bernard Cornwalls 'The Fort' which will cover John Burgoyne's 'Saratoga campaign', actually I guessing on that one, but it sounds close. It is fictional, but I think it will give a rather accurate idea of the campaign. I think 'Jack Absolute' novel covers this campaign as well.
Anyway, a good study, well put together and nicely finished. If you are into studying military history, soldiers, 18th & 19th century especially British, then this is a must. I am so happy I listen to this book as Sean Barett has done an excellent job presenting it and Saul David in writing it.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Ian
  • 02-02-16

Interesting book

Story is a bit disjointed but generally flows quite well chronologically. It is more of an overview than an in-depth look at any particular general or period.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Gerry
  • 15-06-12

Not quite what it's billing suggests

What did you like best about All the King's Men? What did you like least?

This book purports to be a study of the British Army from the Restoration to Waterloo. In fact, its much more the summary of the British Army's major wars, campaigns and actions as told through 4 of its leading commanders than about the army itself. Certainly there are sections which cover the common soldier's life and lot, and the system for the purchase of commissions, but I expected and would have preferred a more thorough analysis of the army itself - how it was formed, led, fed, moved, and drilled.

The book does provide a great overview from the point of view of wars and campaigns, but overall it felt like it tried to cover too much ground in too little time.

Have you listened to any of Sean Barrett’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Like most audio books, I think that this should be listened to at double speed, otherwise the narration is simply too slow.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

No, absolutely not.

3 people found this helpful

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  • John
  • 07-12-19

Good Overview of the British Army

A higher level picture of the British Army and key Generals. that led it

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Rich Kreitz
  • 08-01-17

Couldn't get into it

Found it very dry and uninteresting. I gave up half way through. Which was too bad because I was very interested in the topic.