Thursday, December 11, 2008

Seize the Fire!

Okay, I haven't finished this yet but I'll say without hesitation, if you like history and are interested in leadership, get a copy of Seize the Fire: Heroism, Duty and the Battle of Trafalgar by Adam Nicolson. Two excerpts:

No one who met Nelson thought he looked like a hero should. Lady Spencer, sophisticated wife of a distinguished First Lord of the Admiralty called Nelson "a most uncouth creature." His general appearance, she thought - and this was a woman who loved and admired him - "was that of an idiot."

[snip]

The asymmetry between British confidence and Franco-Spanish despair, at the very beginning of the battle, is the governing condition of Trafalgar. The battle was lost and won before a moment of it was fought. This was a meeting the British had desired for at least two years, a chance to establish their command of the world ocean. But it was a meeting which their enemies, as they quite explicitly repeated in dispatch after dispatch to Madrid, Paris and on to Napoleon's mobile headquarters then in Germany, did not desire at all. The French and the Spanish commanders knew, as if it were their destiny, that a catastrophe awaited them.

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