you are currently viewing: Discussion Forum


The Rorke's Drift VC Discussion Forum
(View Discussion Rules)


PLEASE NOTE: This forum is now inactive and is provided for reference purposes only. The live forum is available at

(Back To Topic List)

DateOriginal Topic
I've just read Adam Zamoyski's less than positive review of Adrian Greaves' book in this morning's [London] Sunday Times. Clearly Zamoyski has only the basic grasp of the Zulu War & actually suggests to readers to buy Saul David's book insted. He does not mention the errors of David's work, which leads me to suggest that he doesn't know that the work is factually flawed, even if the prose are more fluid. Anyone know who this Zamoyski chap is?

17th July 2005John Young

Try his website at

John Y.
17th July 2005Mike McCabe
If only more reviews of Zulu War books were similarly robust!
17th July 2005Dave Nolan
Here's the link,,2102-1690213,00.html

17th July 2005AMB
TY, John. Interesting. So he knows about Poland!
Mike, I take your point, but not Zamoyski's about Saul David's book being better. If the facts are wrong, it's not worth the paper it's [beautifully] written on.

18th July 2005Mike McCabe
I've read the Saul David book, and the AG Rorke's Drift book. The core of Adam Zamoyski's criticisms and comparisons seem to be his views on style and structure. On the reasonable asumption that one can read about something from a startpoint of no previous knowledge - expecting the book to fill the gap - then Adam Zamoyski's review also seems very reasonable.
I also enjoyed his swipe at those encountered on visiting the Isandlwana battlefield. O would the power the giftie gie us, to see ourselves as others see us (or similar words?).
So, he's been there - and possibly also bought the tee shirt - which is a substantial start in creeping up the Zulu War learning curve.
18th July 2005Mike McCabe
This is the punch line that might get one or two people going:

"In his concluding paragraph, he claims that “it has to be a total triumph of mankind” that the flocks of British tourists who visit the battlefields of the Zulu war are so popular with the descendants of the nation their forefathers did their best to annihilate. A case, in his words, of “one warrior nation respecting another”. I would hardly describe the fat-bellied devotees of Michael Caine that I encountered at Isandlwana as members of a warrior nation, but a mutual respect does linger and the fascination certainly endures. Those wishing to indulge it would be better advised to turn to Zulu, Saul David’s highly readable account, published last year. Only the maps in this book are better."
18th July 2005AMN

Once again, I take your point! I suspect that one or two of us who regularly feed in to (& off) this excellent site, might be branded 'spotters'.
However, I for one, would take offence at being classed as part of the "fat man in a T-shirt bde"!

18th July 2005Peter Ewart
Warrior nation? The British? Hardly! Being involved in numerous wars before, during and after the time of Empire doesn't seem enough to me for this county to be described as "a warrior nation." As far as I can see, the evidence points strongly in exactly the opposite direction.

19th July 2005AMB
Capitalist nation more like, eh?
The Empire, let's face it, was for profit. After all, even Cecil Rhodes expanded the 'pink bits' to make more pounds - at least at the start.

19th July 2005Mike McCabe
That the British are not intrinsically a 'warrior nation' is clear from the time and trouble necessary to turn out a Regular Army of the necessary quality.
However, the nation itself can take on the 'warrior' role, once sufficiently provoked, or when real dangers to the nation are universally accepted. But, it does not do it particularly willingly, and the consensus soon collapses once the unifying purpose is removed, or perceived to have gone.
19th July 2005Julian Whybra
It's interesting to note that kissinger once said that there was only one warrior nation and that was the British.
AMB, have a read of Robinson and Gallagher's Africa and the Victorians - you'll be surprised at how much Africa cost the Victorians as opposed to their profit margin.
19th July 2005AMB

I appreciate that the Victorians didn't actually make money every time, but I put forward the notion that they set out to make a profit. Some (Rhodes) were better at this than others.

23rd July 2005Edward Bear
Until this book has been remaindered, simjply a question of time, I will not consider buying it.
Had a look at a copy in a shop today. Why does Mr Greaves keep publishing his books in double spacing?
2 very possible explanations spring to mind.
Firstly, it helps his general readership to learn to read.
Or, it 'bulks out' the size of the book to the 'next publishing size' for which more might be charged per unit copy at retail.
Either way, it's all shabby, commercial writing. Prince Zamoyski would appear to be about right in his, rather generous (I thought), review.
25th July 2005John Silversmith
Dear Edward,
To be fair, can an author really iinfluence a publisher with regard to line spacing?
As for remaindering, not sure about that either, my bookshop is having to wait for copies as it appears the first print run of Greaves' book has sold out.
25th July 2005Rich
I read both reviews by Mr. Zamoyski. He certainly likes history. However, I'm more apt to go with some of the literate fellows here who have PERCEPTIVELY given fine criticisms of authors who attempt to "wade into the subject matter of the Buffalo". Frankly, there's nothing new in his criticism. He, of course, needs to read much more extensively.
26th July 2005Mike McCabe
John Silversmith,
Though EB'd 'bah humbug' style is not entirely and consistently devoted to fairness, he raises a fair point on 'line spacing'. It is used conspicuously and routinely in AG books (and I concede some others), and one does wonder why. Owning rather too many books already, need books be bigger than is necessary by being printed in this (faintly annoying) way?

I should hope that Adam Zamoyski reads at least as much as people on this website, on a whole range of topics, fearing the opposite!
26th July 2005Steven Sass
After reading Adam Zamoyski's review of "Crossing the Buffalo," something deep within me called out that this chap missed the point and someone needed to call him on his pomposity. Therefore I sent a letter to the feedback portion of his website. I doubt very much that I will receive a reply but if I do, out of fairness I will also print it for all to read. I was not gentle nor did I make an attempt at civilized discourse. However the merciless irony was intended hopefully to induce Mr. Zamoyski to consider what his purpose truly is, next time he is asked to write a review. Also some comments may be considered somewhat overkill but many are meant to be humorous and in the end I believe he had them coming. Please note, the original letter has been slightly editied, both for space and the fact that some of the readership on this site would not have cared about parts of the letter. Those that will savage me, I care not, as far as I am concerned he had it coming. P.S., apologies in advance for keeping my alternate recommendation list short, as the letter was becoming a novella. Certainly I've done injustice by omitting many other qualified authors, however this was not done out of disrespect, just space limitation.

Mr. Zamoyski,

I was in the process of purchasing your book "The Last King of Poland," regarding the life of Stanislaw Augustus. Through a protracted and painstaking course of research, it is becoming apparent that my father's side of the family is directly descended from Stanislaw Augustus (note by author: (me) Stanislaw Augustus was the Elector of Saxony and was really Polish primarily by association of duty) and his progeny. As it is exceedingly difficult to find information regarding his reign and subsequent descendency of the family through time in English, I thought perhaps I found the "Holy Grail" I had been so dilligently searching for to aid in filling in a few gaps that still remain in my quest for answers. My family is very involved in Polish organizations in Milwaukee, (in fact my father was named Polish American of the Year in 2004 by the Milwaukee chapter of the Polish National Alliance). My mother's side however brings in a proud mix of British heritage and this has sparked my interest in the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879.

Luckily, before placing my order for your book, I read with great distress your review of Dr. Adrian Greaves book, "Crossing the Buffalo." Allow me to be forward, I am no cheerleader for Dr. Greaves' work regarding the Zulu War. From the perspective of scholarly research, his books have been criticized for inaccuracies. However, your "dissection" of the book gives the reader precious little information as to why not to buy it. Bascially what I found was you using the space afforded you to preen and pose, delivering an oversimplistic description, lacking in political context regarding the causes of the war, whilst deceiving the average reader into thinking you actually have the knowledge to render such judgements. I am curious from which travel pamphlet you gleaned your expertise. In the end, the review serves only as a classic example in which one's ideologies promotes self indulgence rather than what it should have been, a thorough study of the book, with a recommendation as to it's worthiness to be purchased.

Rather than debating the inaccuracies point by point you couch as fact in your pontification, I will instead suggest the mean spirited and ignoble tone that permeates your words may actually build sympathy for poor Dr. Greaves. Rather than touting the writings of another obviously unqualified author (Dr. Saul David), at least regarding the Anglo-Zulu War, had you done the smallest bit of homework, works by names such as Ian Knight, John Laband, David Jackson, as well as innumerable primary sources, could have pointed the student of history in a better direction. All of the aforementioned names have produced works that have considered the situation from many angles, giving equal creedance to both sides and look at events from the mores of 1879, rather than 2005. Judging events that took place 125 years ago by the morals and ethics of today is one of the most obvious and damning characteristics that reveals the certain ignorance and lack of ability of an alleged expert asked to comment on a historical work.

Lastly, besides being an example of the utmost in poor taste, your comment regarding the "fat-bellied devotess of Michael Caine," calls out a challenge. I'm not sure what this comment has to do with "Crossing the Buffalo" but I shouldn't be surprised as the rest of your review had little to do with it as well. However, as they say, "people in glass houses.....," so let's see your belly, Arnold!! It sure is easy to be pompous and derisive when you are insulated from debate, isn't it Mr. Zamoyski? All I can really say is that I am thankful your review was brought to my attention before my credit card was made available to purchase your book. If this is any example of how you conduct historical research, I believe my best course is not through you.


Steven J. Sass
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
[email protected]
26th July 2005Edward Bear
Very difficult indeed to conduct 'counter-pomposity' without becoming even more pompous in the course of doing so. Indignation is, I fear, intrinsically pompous. However, a bit of pomposity can also be a bit of fun - used intelligently.
Whether Prince Adam Zamoyski does indeed reply or not is yet to be seen. He might, he might not. He might also not give a monkey's whether people get miffed over being labelled 'fat bellied' - I suppose he, and his editor, thiught about that bit ages ago!
Actually, it was one of the best bits. High time Zulu War books got 'wire brushed' more often - some in the last 5 years have been utterly trite, unsoundly contentious, and fairly dismal. A good story deserves to be told better.
26th July 2005Rich
Well I'll say this from my research. Mr. Zamoyski, in his previous reviews of other books, usually tends to like the books he writes about. He rarely is disappointed, however as we've seen, Dr. Greaves' book didn't cut it for him. The only positive thing he could muster to say about it was that he gave what I believe is an uncharitable remark and that was that the "maps were better". I thought this disrespectful in light of the work done in putting the book together and after he noted Mr. Greaves has a Phd. No matter what Mr. Zamoyski says the book is an addition to Zulu War scholarship.
31st July 2005AMB

Totally agree!

9th August 2005Rich
Thanks, AMB. Glad you agree.
I'd just like to make a remark.
For the life of me, I've wondered why the gentleman had to poke Mr. Greaves in the eye
with his review in the first place. His veneer of erudition appeared to mask a neat little swipe at an accomplished Zulu War author. If he needed to disagree well ok, make the point with incisive comments and teach us something with the criticism. And by all means refrain from the cheap shot. Maybe Mr. Greaves didn't give him a free subscription to the Society and that got his dander up?
11th August 2005Edward Bear
You jest, perhaps.
It is Adam Zamoyski who is the accomplished author, and scholar.
Dr Greaves just writes somewhat contrived and contentious books for gain.
12th August 2005Rich
I'm all for intelligent criticism. Me, I just I don't like vapid remarks, i.e. the " maps were better" which slyly attack a man's work. It's unbecoming. Personally, I find it disrespectful.
14th August 2005Edward Bear
Purely commercial authors who exploit the fickle book market to write contentious and off beat books simply for gain are not necessarily deserving of respect.
They sell books like fishmongers 'mong' fish.
There are conspicuous exceptions in such writers as Ian Knight, John Laband, FWD Jackson, and (I suspect we are just about to discover) Mike Snook, and one day even perhaps Julian, who combine careful research and good judgement so as to add considerably to the sum total of developed scholarship in compiled writings on these interesting times. Yes, income flows their way - but not always in much volume.
There are other earlier writers too, and TWOTS was a milestone in its day. Quite remarkable also were the two attempts, both with limited access to primary sources, to puzzle out events at Isandlwana in the Historical Records of the 24th - the 1937 version being interestingly ready to re-examine the earlier regimental conventional wisdoms.
Respect what truly deserves respecting, not just anybody who writes something.
15th August 2005Michael Boyle
I can't comment on the two books by Dr. Greaves that seem to have caused such consternation here as I haven't gotten to them yet. ( Their many mistakes listed in the forum do seem discouraging though.) However I have read two books that he edited ("...Curling..." and "Redcoats & Zulus") as well as many articles written by him that I found very useful. Based on that , his website and the fact that he's credited on this site for his assistance lead me to think it unfair to accuse him of a 'drive-by publishing' as could be said of Dr. David.

(This being a thread for personal opinions, that's mine!)

15th August 2005John Young

I've only had a cursory glance at 'Crossing the Buffalo', it still bears some of the errors from Dr. Greaves' past works, and introduces some fresh ones, for example Lieutenants Adendorff & Vaines were, according the work, members of the 'NNH'.

At least there is a rider from Dr. Greaves in this work accepting errors as his own. However, I feel that poor proofreading has again been a contributing factor.

John Y.
17th August 2005Rich
I was a bit surprised at reading your remarks and opinion on the 14th. Pretty strong. Are we commenting on the same individual? Surely the author in question is not "anybody who just writes something"?

I agree. Somebody appears not to be on the job at Weidenfeld & Nicolson. Publishing obviously is a cooperative venture between the writer and the "house". If they're a good outfit they'll work together to look over why the problems occurred.