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Posted November 19, 2006
Markham¿s Verling a key to understanding Napoleon¿s life on St Helena. J. David Markham is one of the premier Napoleonic authors in the world and has made yet another important contribution to the field of Napoleonic history. Napoleon¿s exile on the island of St Helena from shortly after his defeat at Waterloo in 1815 to his death in 1821 has always been one of the most interesting, and tragic, periods of his great career. With his book, Napoleon and Dr Verling on St Helena, Markham tells what may be the last major story to come out of that period. The British were very concerned that Napoleon receive excellent medical care and took steps to see that he did. But the parade of doctors became almost comic, as each soon became embroiled in controversy or, in the case of his last doctor, incompetence. Markham tells us that without doubt the best doctor appointed to care for Napoleon was the Irish doctor, James Verling who, unlike most military ¿doctors¿ of the day, actually had a medical degree. The two had met on the ship from England, and Verling was assigned as medical officer to a British military unit. When the second of Napoleon¿s doctors left in disgrace, the Governor of the island, Sir Hudson Lowe, appointed Verling to care for Napoleon. Napoleon was having none of it, however, and Verling never treated Napoleon (though he did treat members of Napoleon¿s entourage). What is fascinating about this book is that Markham presents for the first time Dr. Verling¿s journal. Through it, we see the petty and often absurd soap opera that was live in exile. This journal is most likely the last such document of any significance from Napoleon¿s time on St Helena, and Markham provides an invaluable service by making it available to the public for the first time. In addition to the journal, Markham includes important letters from the Lowe Papers in the British Library. J. David Markham¿s Napoleon and Dr Verling on St Helena is a major contribution to our understanding of Napoleon¿s amazing career. It provides what is likely the final key to understanding the last phase of Napoleon¿s career. As such, it belongs in every Napoleonic library. Doug La Follette, Ph.DWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.