The Journal of Military History 68.1 (2004) 252-253
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For God and Glory: Lord Nelson and His Way of War. By Joel Hayward. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 2003. ISBN: 1-59114-351-9. Maps. Illustrations. Glossary. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. xix, 250. $32.95.
As the Nelson Bicentennial Decade approaches its culmination with the long-planned commemoration of the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar, we are beginning to reap the rewards that such commemorative events produce in the way of re-examining and reinterpreting the meaning of significant historical events. Although nearly two years away from the event, the incoming wave of articles and books already seems set to surpass the previous high water marks set by the Armada quatercentenary in 1988 and, then, the Columbian quincentenary of 1992. In another decade from now, we will be able to look back on the Nelson floodtide, as we can now do on those associated with the Armada and Columbus celebrations, to assess the enduring contributions that it brings. The process of reevaluation, however, has an internal dynamic of its own in which separate and significant new contributions promote new thinking and provide a refined focus or framework for thinking that leads toward the fully revised understanding that should eventually emerge from the exchange of ideas that a major commemoration involves. It is this process that we see about us now.
Joel Hayward's study of "Nelson's Way of War" makes a very useful and distinctive contribution at this stage in the process of reevaluation, by linking modern military understanding of command, leadership, and management to our current historical knowledge of Nelson. Unusually qualified to undertake this task, Hayward has M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in military history from the University of Canterbury and has taught defense and strategic studies at Massey University as well as at New Zealand's Army Officer Cadet School, its Air Force Command and Staff College, and its Naval College, and produced a variety of studies on World War II, on joint operations, and on command. Hayward provides his readers with judgments founded on a wider intellectual basis in the study of modern warfare.
In his study, Hayward makes careful use of the published Nelson letters and related documents to outline the historical events involved. In dealing with history, Hayward's approach is to consider Nelson in terms of six categories of great interest to students of modern warfare, devoting a chapter to each: his conception of the enemy, his personal spiritual beliefs, his command leadership, his war-fighting style, and his dealings in land warfare, and in coalition warfare.
In conclusion, Hayward defines Nelson as a man who demonstrated the strength in the human spirit that can create superiority over human frailties in warfare. In Hayward's view, "It is the triumph of Nelson's spirit as much as his tactical brilliance and physical and moral courage that places him among history's greatest warriors—that small group of exceptional humans who trusted their instincts, managed their fears, took risks, learned from mistakes, acted audaciously, and consequently proved all their foes unequal" (p. 208). [End Page 252]
By illuminating the facts of Nelson's well-known career in the light of modern approaches to combat leadership, Hayward has created a thought-provoking work that will certainly help to sharpen and to refine the on-going discussion about Nelson, as new historical research places his story within a wider and deeper understanding.
Naval War College
Newport, Rhode Island