Accidental Authors? Soldiers' Tales of the Peninsular War and the Secrets of the Publishing Process

TitleAccidental Authors? Soldiers' Tales of the Peninsular War and the Secrets of the Publishing Process
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsGreig, Matilda
JournalHistory Workshop Journal
Volume86
Pagination224 - 244
Date Published09/2018
Abstract

This article explores the concept of soldiers as professional authors, confronting the enduring myth of 'accidental' military autobiography. To do so it concentrates on case studies of British veterans from the Peninsular War (1808–14), who wrote and published military memoirs in their hundreds, contributing to the creation of an influential and commercially successful genre. In their prefaces, these old soldiers frequently confessed their astonishment at having produced long narrative accounts, professing not to have the slightest literary talent nor education, nor the least authorial ambition – claims which have largely been taken at face value by historians. Drawing upon evidence from publishers' archives, however, this article reveals the immense and sometimes frenzied editing, publishing and marketing activity which in fact usually underlay the facade of the simple soldier's tale. [Oxford Academic]

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