Gurwood’s Dispatches of Field Marshal, the Duke of Wellington
Gurwood was able to follow up the General Orders with a proposal for a remarkable publication, an edition of Wellington’s despatches, that is, his official reports and correspondence. These had been written by the Duke partly in anticipation of official publication in the course of normal business, for example, in Parliament or the London Gazette. Gradually the scope was broadened to include other material that Wellington had written or had in his possession that had not been previously printed. The aim was that the correspondence would speak for itself. As the Duke told Gurwood:
The authority of the Duke’s writing at the time was to be crucial. Over the course of the years 1834 to 1839, Gurwood produced 12 volumes of the Duke’s correspondence and a further, index volume — known to posterity as the Wellington Dispatches — they are best consulted in their revised edition, J. Gurwood, ed., The dispatches of Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington, KG, during the various campaigns … from 1799 to 1818 (13 vols., new edition, London, 1837–9).Problems of the projectI think that the character of your work is one compiled from publick or official documents that you could obtain. It would not answer for you in your work nor should I like that you should make any correction of other people’s statements founded upon any statement of mine from recollection.
While the publication of the material relating to Wellington’s campaigns in India was relatively uncontroversial, difficulties arose as the project came to the Peninsular War. Wellington himself had been Foreign Secretary in 1834–5 and there was civil war in Spain at this point. There were sensitivities that nearly derailed the project. As the Duke wrote to Gurwood: ‘I am afraid that the examination of these papers will leave many statues without pedestals.’ Caution was exercised and a way through to publication was found, excising some names and passages from the text.
Want to keep
University of Southampton online course,
Wellington and the Battle of Waterloo
No subsequent work of history focused on Britain’s contribution could be undertaken without detailed reference to it. If the Dispatches were centred on the letters that Wellington had sent, they were to be followed by subsequent projects to publish more material and incoming correspondence, in a further 15 volumes covering the Duke’s life up to 1818, in a series known as the Supplementary Despatches, edited by Wellington’s son, the second Duke, between 1858 and 1872 (A. R. Wellesley, second Duke of Wellington, ed., Supplementary despatches and memoranda of Field Marshal Arthur Duke of Wellington, KG (15 vols., London, 1858–72). These printed overwhelmingly correspondence in English, and supporting material in French; but there was little account taken of material in other languages — material that was of great significance for the Peninsular War. Between 1867 and 1880 eight further volumes were produced, covering Wellington’s career between 1819 and 1832, that is, his political life — including papers for Wellington’s premiership of 1828–30 (A. R. Wellesley, second Duke of Wellington, ed., Despatches, correspondence and memoranda of Field Marshal Arthur Duke of Wellington, KG … from 1818 to 1832 (8 vols., London, 1867‒80)).Wellington’s reputation
This publication of the Dispatches had the effect of deepening the appreciation of the Duke’s position. For those who cared to read them — and the abridged edition must have been found on the bedstands of many who fancied a military life for themselves — there was a wealth of detail. Even politicians who had not appreciated at the time what Wellington had done were magnanimous when the material came to print: the Whigs in particular, had attributed much of the Duke’s success to his subordinates. That view could no longer stand.
Wellington and the Battle of Waterloo
Our purpose is to transform access to education.
We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.
We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.