Witnessing Waterloo: 24 Hours, 48 Lives, A World Forever Changed

By David Crane

[Previously published as ‘Went The Day Well’]

‘Of all the books marking the bicentenary Waterloo, this has to be the best’ Spectator

‘A book to die for’ Evening Standard

From Samuel Johnson Prize shortlisted author David Crane, this is a breathtaking portrait of the Britain that fought the battle of Waterloo.

As Wellington’s rain-sodden army retreated towards an obscure valley called Waterloo, the men and women of Britain were still going to the theatre and science lectures, working in the fields and the factories, reading and writing books and sermons, painting their pictures and sitting in front of Lord Elgin’s marbles. David Crane’s stunning freeze-frame of Britain on this day of momentous change shifts hour by hour between Britain and Belgium. The Britain that fought Waterloo – its radicals and patriots, artisans and aristocrats, prisoners and poets – appears through the smoke of battle and the mythology of Waterloo in this magnificent and original tracing of the endless, overlapping connections between people’s lives.

Format: Paperback
Release Date: 25 Feb 2016
Pages: 384
ISBN: 978-0-00-735838-0
David Crane\'s first book, ‘Lord Byron’s Jackal’ was published to great acclaim in 1998, and his second, ‘The Kindness of Sisters’ published in 2002, is a groundbreaking work of romantic biography. In 2005 the highly acclaimed \'Scott of the Antarctic\' was published, followed by ‘Men of War’, a collection of 19th Century naval biographies, in 2009. His ‘Empires of the Dead’ was shortlisted for the 2013 Samuel Johnson Prize. Crane lives in north-west Scotland.

”'Magnificent … by far the most enjoyable account of the battle I have ever encountered. Crane has had the brilliant idea of interweaving a fast, colourful narrative of the battle with the story of what was happening in Britain … it is a social and cultural panorama, taking in everything from murderers and vicars to portrait-painters and prize-fighters … [Featuring] countless beautifully observed moments … Crane has a superb eye for fascinating little nuggets” - Dominic Sandbrook, Daily Mail

”'It will be hard to match the sheer verve and brilliance of David Crane’s evocation. Frame by frame, like a great stop-motion film, we see … heroes, villains, the innocent, the fortunate and damned, and the merely damned lucky. Crane weaves hour by hour diverging and coalescing human dramas of the day with deft originality. Here literary art trumps television drama at its best. It paints a brilliant continuous action drama of Britain then, and in doing so suggests an awful lot about Britain, its tastes and foibles, today … a book to die for” - Robert Fox, Evening Standard

”'A fascinating snapshot … It’s beautifully written, absorbingly researched and paints a vivid canvas where the mundane details are as fascinating as the momentous battle” - Sunday Express

”'Strikingly urgent and vivid” - Mail on Sunday

”'Of all the big battalions of books marking the bicentenary of the battle of Waterloo, this has to be the best. Crane has used the bloody campaign as a telescope, bringing into sharp focus not just the carnage … but the state of Britain itself … The result is a rich feast: dramatic, poignant, funny, gruesome and tragic by turns. Crane selects a small cast to people his narrative, and involves us in their destinies without ever losing sight of the bigger picture” - Nigel Jones, Spectator

”'Terrific… an engaging book” - Independent

”'Sheer quality… In giving us a multifaceted portrait of the Regency age, he makes us think again about the battle and its impact on the British” - Literary Review