The Battle of Waterloo was one of the key events of nineteenth-century history, but why was it fought, who was involved and what were consequences? This free online course will answer these questions, marking the 200th anniversary of Waterloo on 18 June 2015.
Forming a coalition to defeat Napoleon
We will explain why Europe had been at war almost continuously since 1793; how a peace settlement in 1814 had followed the abdication of Napoleon as Emperor of the French; and how further negotiations were under way at the Congress of Vienna when Napoleon escaped from Elba in February 1815.
The process of gathering military support and a legal basis for a further campaign against Napoleon will be explored, as well as the ways in which a coalition of Allied Powers assembled an army, led by the Duke of Wellington, to fight the French.
We will examine sources from the Battle of Waterloo itself — from official despatches to the voice of the individual soldier — and consider the ways in which different interpretations arise, before discussing the immediate consequences of the battle and the peace settlement that followed.
The course will conclude by examining the longer-term place of Waterloo and Wellington in commemoration and memory, the arts and popular culture, and the connections that were made to nineteenth-century ideas of heroism, nationality and identity.
Exploring the Duke of Wellington’s archive
We will use the University of Southampton’s Wellington Archive — a collection of over 100,000 items from the Duke’s military and political career — to contextualise the battle and the role of Wellington in commanding the allied forces against Napoleon.
You will learn with Professor Chris Woolgar, Professor of History and Archival Studies, who has an international academic reputation as a Wellington scholar and archivist, and Karen Robson, Head of Archives at the University of Southampton Library.
You can find out more in Chris’s post for the FutureLearn blog: “Commemorating the bicentenary of Waterloo.”