‘The Belgians ran at the first shot’: De slag bij Waterloo en de retoriek van de lafheid

Translated title of the contribution: ‘The Belgians ran at the first shot’ : The Battle of Waterloo and the Rhetoric of Cowardice

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review


For many generations British historians have decried the conduct of the Dutch troops at the battle of Waterloo as cowardly, an accusation which Dutch and Belgian historians, in their turn, have tried time and again to refute. This accusation of cowardice results from the exclusive and uncritical use a chauvinistic British historiography made of compatriotic eyewitness accounts. The slighting assessments of the Dutch military they contain, in most cases, derive from misinterpretation: the smoke and noise, the chaos and danger of battle precluded an objective appraisal of each other’s combat performance. Miscommunication further enhanced this negative opinion. Since the occasional allies of Waterloo were not allowed time to get to know and appreciate one another, they were unfamiliar with each other’s language, uniforms, and command structure. Nonetheless, the British were certainly acquainted with fighting side by side with foreign troops, and they were more than willing, if applicable, to appraise their professionalism. As this common battle experience was lacking at Waterloo, historical prejudices could easily prevail.
Original languageDutch
Pages (from-to)523-543
Number of pages21
JournalTijdschrift voor geschiedenis
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


  • Cowardice
  • Battle of Waterloo
  • Allied military cooperation
  • Historiography
  • Napoleonic Warfare

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