Reviews: Periodicals

First Empire: The International Magazine for the Napoleonic Enthusiast, Historian and Gamer

Bridgnorth, UK: First Empire Ltd., bimonthly. ISSN#0969 0689 £3.25

Editor's Note: Unfortunately the magazine ceased to exist in 2011 due to the illness of its founder and editor, Dave Watkins. He died on 3 June 2015. A great loss to the Napoleonic community.
First Empire cover

First Empire, edited by Dave Watkins, has been in publication for a number of years and recently celebrated its 50th issue. It is printed on glossy stock, well laid-out, averaging about 40 pages an issue, with a generous mix of color and black & white photography. There are often diagrams, maps and illustrations accompanying each article, and it is a handsome effort overall. The subject matter agrees with its declaration of being for the "enthusiast, historian and gamer," and the articles are in large part on military subjects, covering individuals, battles and campaigns in some detail. All include sources, some being footnoted and others offering lists for further reading. There have been some gaming articles, but they are fewer in number, at least in recent issues. There are rarely articles on naval, political or other non-military aspects of the period.

The scholarship is very good, and comes for the most part from dedicated amateur historians, whose work is largely derived from printed primary and secondary English-language sources. On occasion, articles are presented from authors of recently published books, usually having to do with some aspect of their current work. First Empire also offers a good deal of insight about the topography that armies contended over with abundant photography, much of it in color. Many articles, such as Geert van Uythoven's 3-part piece on the Dutch During The Revolutionary Wars also detail events little covered elsewhere.

The Napoleonic Newsdesk, edited by Paul Chamberlain, is a regular feature, which lists upcoming events around the world including, new book releases, television offerings, re-enactments, tours and conventions. Ian Barstow has also authored a long-running series on the Fighting Marshals, each issue highlighting one of the 26 French leaders. In addition, First Empire usually offers a first-hand report on re-enactments from around the world, supported with photography showing the present-day locale and dress of the participants. There are also Reader's Reviews, where honest and occasionally harsh appraisals greet new works. Lastly, a lively but infrequent letters column, Dispatches, offers many of the hobby's luminaries the opportunity to debate the finer points of history.

In conclusion, First Empire is the result of the hard work and devotion of a number of individuals who donate their time and effort to writing and reporting on their interests, travels, and studies. They do not appear to be paid for their efforts, but we are all rewarded by their fine work.

For more information about this magazine, write:

First Empire
59 Whitburn Street,
Bridgnorth, Shropshire
Tel: 01746 76591
Fax: 08700 881207

73 Rue Championnet
75018 Paris, France.
01 46 06 84 21

Via Sidney Sonnino, 34,
43100 Parma, Italy.
Tel: (39) 521 292733
Fax: (39) 521 290387

Or visit their web site at:

Reviewed by Max Sewell, FINS



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