Tag Archives: Wellington Congress

Rundown of the Sixth Wellington Congress

With our specially designed bicentenary delegate bags stuffed, and some early birds arriving in Southampton on Thursday afternoon, the scene was set for Wellington’s World, the sixth Congress on the life and times of Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington.  2015 is a special year: not only is it 20 years since the University hosted the first Wellington Congress but this year we mark the 200th anniversary of the battle of Waterloo.

In total we had around 80 delegates with us over the three days.  Many, naturally, from Southampton, but people travelled from all over the UK as well as from as far afield as America and Australia.  The Congress was situated mostly at the University’s Avenue Campus with residential delegates able to stay at the nearby Highfield Hall of Residence. His Grace the Duke of Wellington opened proceedings and attended sessions on the Friday afternoon.

His Grace the Duke of Wellington opening proceedings.

His Grace the Duke of Wellington opening proceedings.

Delegates were offered a programme of 25 papers; on some days the itinerary was so full we were required to run parallel sessions.  Papers were wide ranging and focused on a variety of topics covering both Wellington’s military career and the battle of Waterloo as well as political, social and literary topics.

The Congress included four keynote papers.   Will Hay from Mississippi State University kicked off proceedings with his paper “Architects of victory: the partnership of Wellington, Castlereagh and Liverpool in winning Britain’s first great war” which discussed this unappreciated partnership between the military commanders and their political masters.

“Strategy, seapower and supplies: the British government’s resources in support of Wellington and the European allies, 1808-1815” was the topic addressed by Roger Knight of the Institute of Historical Research, London.  He considered the extent to which supply shortages were beyond the government’s control and how the resources of the Royal Navy were heavily stretched in keeping trade routes open.

Rory Muir and Charles Esdaile at a private view of the Wellington & Waterloo exhibition in the Hartley Library.

Rory Muir and Charles Esdaile at a private view of the Wellington & Waterloo exhibition in the Hartley Library.

Rory Muir, who is the author of a new two volume biography of Wellington, showed the depth and breadth of his knowledge on the vast amount research that has been conducted on the Duke’s life and career through his historiographical review “The Vicissitudes of Fame: Wellington’s Posthumous Reputation, 1852-2015”.  He discussed how and why Wellington’s reputation as a military leader and politician has evolved in the years since his death.

The Congress closed with a paper from Chris Woolgar who used his extensive knowledge and experience as a professor of History and Archival Studies to give an in-depth analysis of the under-studied Waterloo dispatch, held at the British Library.  We hope to publish a selection of papers in our Wellington Studies series.

On the Friday evening local group The Madding Crowd performed a programme of music specially selected for the bicentenary. Lively, amusing and informative “With Wellington we’ll go” looked at the Duke of Wellington’s roles in Hampshire, at Stratfield Saye, as Lord Lieutenant, and as Freeman of Winchester. Music included hymns and psalms connected with events in his life, and glees and songs written or performed in his honour.  We were also treated to square and Morris dancing.

Dancing at the With Wellington We'll Go concert on Friday 10 April. Photo: Alan Weeks

Dancing at the “With Wellington We’ll Go” concert on Friday 10 April. Photo: Alan Weeks

Five current and former Southampton History students entertained and educated us with their BBC Battles, Waterloo 200 presentation.  This was produced as a sequel The Battle of the Day: Salamanca 200, a collaborative production by seven undergraduates from Southampton University, which was created to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Salamanca in 2012.  This skit television programme was set in the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Waterloo and included a BBC – that is, British Battles Corporation – news report, BattleGear, which compared  weaponry, in the manner of a certain car programme, and Battle of the Day where the possible future of the Allied campaign was assessed.

The delegates were treated to the first public viewing of the exhibition Wellington and Waterloo: “the tale is in every Englishman’s mouth”.  Original material from the Wellington Archive was showcased in the Special Collections Gallery and delegates were invited to browse and socialise with a glass of wine.

The catering was excellent throughout the three days with the highlight being the splendid 4-course conference dinner on Saturday night.

We are already making plans for the Seventh Wellington Congress which we anticipate will take place in 2018 or 2019 to commemorate the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle and the 250th anniversary of Wellington’s birth.

Waterloo 200: bicentenary events

The Sixth Wellington Congress takes place this week and is part of a number of activities and events organised by the University of Southampton to mark the bicentenary of the battle of Waterloo, including:


Wellington and Waterloo: “the tale is every Englishman’s mouth”
13 April – 19 June, 13-24 July 2015

The Battle of Waterloo, fought on Sunday 18 June 1815, between allied forces and the French forces commanded by Napoleon, brought to a close more than two decades of conflict. Drawing heavily on the Wellington Archive at the University, this exhibition captures the final act of these wars from the perspective of the Duke of Wellington. It considers the diplomatic background to the military campaign of 1815, the battle itself, its aftermath and the occupation of France and the commemoration of both Wellington and Waterloo. It includes descriptions of the battle in the official reports of Wellington’s commanders, and a poignant letter from Wellington to Lord Aberdeen informing him of the death of his brother Sir Alexander Gordon, one of Wellington’s aides-de-camp. Amongst the items relating to the commemoration of Waterloo and Wellington are the catalogue of the Waterloo Museum, an establishment opened in the immediate aftermath of the battle, exhibiting memorabilia, and a nautilus shell, engraved by C.H.Wood, dating from the 1850s, which contains an image of Wellington on one side and St George on the other.

The Special Collections Gallery is situated on Level 4 of the Hartley Library, University of Southampton. The Library is on the east side of the University Road, on the University’s Highfield campus.

During exhibitions the Special Collections Gallery is open to the public Monday to Friday 1000 to 1600. Admission is free. Visitors may be asked for proof of identity by Library Reception staff.

MOOC: Wellington and the Battle of Waterloo
8 June 2015 (for three weeks)

Wellington and the Battle of Waterloo MOOC

Led by Chris Woolgar, Professor of History and Archival Studies, and Karen Robson, Head of Archives, at the University of Southampton, this free online course will use the Wellington Archive as its basis to discover more about one of the great events of the nineteenth century from the perspective of the Duke of Wellington.

For more information and to register go to:

Special Collections blog: the road to Waterloo

Road to Waterloo

Regular readers of the blog will be familiar with our recent posts focusing on some of the key dates on the road to the battle of Waterloo. Using material from the Special Collections, including the Wellington Archive, future posts will also focus on the aftermath of the battle leading to the restoration of Louis XVIII.

To follow Wellington go to:

Sixth Wellington Congress
10-12 April 2015


Although registration has now closed for the Congress, it is still possible to purchase tickets for “With Wellington we’ll go” a concert of music from the period by the Madding Crowd at the Turner Sims Concert Hall.

For information and to book go to:

Sixth Wellington Congress 2015


18 June 2015 will mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, one of the most famous battles in the history of Europe. The battle not only ended the political and military career of Napoleon Bonaparte but also ended the series of wars which had raged across Europe, and other regions of the world, since the French Revolutionary wars of the 1790s.

For the 200th anniversary the University of Southampton will be holding its Sixth Wellington Congress 10-12 April 2015.

Papers will focus on a range of topics covering both Wellington’s military career and the battle of Waterloo as well as political, social and literary topics. Keynote speakers will be Rory Muir, Roger Knight, Will Hay and Chris Woolgar.

On the Friday evening there will be a concert of music from the period at the Turner Sims Concert Hall. Saturday will feature a BBC Battles, Waterloo 200 presentation, a private view of the exhibition Wellington and Waterloo: “The tale is in every Englishman’s mouth” in the Special Collections Gallery, Hartley Library, and a conference dinner.

The University’s Hartley Library is the home of the first Duke of Wellington’s archive, and the meeting will include opportunities to see the collection, as well as a programme of social activities. The event is organised in conjunction with the Southampton Centre for Nineteenth-Century Research.

For further details visit the Special Collections website at:

User perspectives: Researching attitudes to the Peninsular War using the Wellington Papers

The papers of Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, were allocated to the University of Southampton by the government under national heritage legislation in 1983. Containing approximately 100,000 items, the Duke’s political, military, official and diplomatic papers cover all aspects of his career. This collection has led to pivotal events that provide an opportunity for research on the Wellington papers to be discussed, such as the annual Wellington lecture and the Wellington Congress, which occurs every few years.

Zack White

Zack White, a former University of Southampton History undergraduate student, and now a Masters History student, explains how he has used the Wellington papers for his academic research.

“As the home of the Wellington Papers, the Special Collections Department at Southampton University’s Hartley Library has become a familiar sight over the course of my research. The Wellington papers were a major factor in my decision to study at Southampton, leading me to utilising the Wellington Papers as an undergraduate and post-graduate student.

After some initial work examining the Battle of Salamanca, one of Wellington’s most important victories, I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on the relationship between Wellington and his troops during the Peninsular. My current research, for my Masters thesis, builds on some of the themes that emerged from my undergraduate work. This includes examining the waxing and waning confidence in Wellington’s Peninsular Army between the signing of the Convention of Cintra in 1808 and the Battle of Salamanca in 1812.

The Complete Drill Serjeant 2nd ed. (1798) - Rare Books Ward Coll. 136

The Complete Drill Serjeant 2nd ed. (1798) – Rare Books Ward Coll. 136

In order to ascertain how the ordinary soldier’s confidence shifted over time, I have been examining the General Orders, Adjutant General’s papers, Applications for Ensignships, General Court Martial proceedings, and of course the letters of the First Duke of Wellington. The work is essentially quantitative, requiring the tabulation of a huge number of trials and misdemeanours, and analysing this data in relation to the events that were transpiring in the Iberian Peninsula. This research responds to fears amongst academics of the tendency to perceive the Peninsular War as ‘an endless march to victory’ (Charles Esdaile, 5th Wellington Congress 2013).”

Welcome to our new blog

Find out about the collections, Special Collections news, events and exhibitions through the new blog.

The Special Collections holds in the region of 6.5 million manuscript items in 2.500 collections and 50,000 books. Amongst the manuscript collections are extensive military and political material for the late eighteenth to the twentieth centuries and one of the largest holdings of Jewish archives in western Europe. The University is the home of the archive of the first Duke of Wellington. The printed collections include early and rare books from the general collections of the Hartley Library and a number of named collections the most notable of these being the Parkes Library, the Cope Collection on Hampshire and Isle of Wight and the Perkins Agricultural Library.

Starting from March 2014, this blog will host weekly extracts of writings on war and warfare drawn from the manuscript collections. Ranging from items on the Maratha wars to the Second World War, the extracts will reflect opinions both from the battle front and from those at home.

The Special Collections Gallery exhibition When “the days of conquest are passed”: reflections on war and warfare which will run from 13 October to 12 December 2014. As part of the events set to mark the battle of Waterloo in 2015, the University will be hosting the Sixth Wellington Congress 9-12 April, with a related exhibition opening in the Special Collections Gallery at the same time.