Culloden : Murray Pittock
- Murray Pittock
This book is part of the Oxford Great Battles series and whilst it covers how the battle was fought, perhaps the greater part of the book is on how it has been remembered and what exactly are its implication for us in the modern day.
I have been to Culloden a few times due to its relatively close proximity as well as several other Jacobite battle sites, as well as reading a number of articles and books on the battles. It's fair to say therefore that this book challenges several of the common beliefs held about the battle.
Professor Pittock's presents his evidence well and in a logical format. His challenges include that the Jacobite Army was reasonably well armed with musket and even outgunned the British Army in terms on cannon, though not in the skillset of their gunners. They were far more organised than a rabble of Clans but operated a system of regiments. The choice of battle ground was not as poor as suggested but the only reasonable one left after examining various options. The Prince himself was no coward who field the battlefield but had to be removed for his safety. The British casualties were far higher than admitted and it had been a closer run thing that many suppose. Whilst the Jacobites did advance and break through the first line on the British Left, it was the British cavalry who won the battle with an envelopment on both flanks and that the battle was won far more by British Dragoons than it was by bayonet against claymore.
I use the word British as opposed to Hanoverian as that is the language used by the author. I'm still wondering about that but his argument that the Army that fought at Culloden was composed of the same troops who were fighting on the Continent and we have no difficulty calling them the British Army in that context.
This book is far more than a simple description of the battle but explores the aftermath in terms of its impact on the historiography of Britain. It has been billed as the last great British battle, which forged Great Britain as we know it now by eliminating the final internal threat to the Union. The book analyses how it was used and misused to further that aim in its representation over the years. It is interesting to see how various historians have merely repeated myths over the years rather than do their own research.
This famous painting comes into some scrutiny and is a good example of what the author means about how the battle has represented through time.
Whilst the book contains a few contemporary maps of the battle, his own 2 maps could have been clearer as I find them difficult to interpret. The book is well illustrated throughout to good effect.
As the book progresses and the final chapters explore the memory and impact of the battle, I found the language used to become far more complex and technical in terminology, but that does not overly detract.
This book would appeal to anybody with an interest in military history and especially to those with an interest in Scotland. It would also appeal to those who enjoy debating Scottish politics as is gives a great deal of insight into how various mindsets have been formed over the years.
Amazon currently stock it at £15.90 for the hardback and £15.10 for the Kindle version.
I'd give it 4 Mr Mushroomheads