On Monday 11 May 2015, Peterhouse, the Forum on Geopolitics and the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge hosted a lecture on
'Waterloo: the first NATO operation?’
By Brendan Simms.
The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker called recently for the establishment of a European army. The former Chief of the Defence Staff, Lord Bramall, called Waterloo ‘the first NATO operation’. With Europe facing urgent challenges to the south and east, Prof. Simms seized the opportunity of the 200th anniversary of Waterloo to reflect upon its complex legacy for the present day.
In this wide-ranging and well-attended talk, Simms considered the evolution over several centuries of a coalition tradition in Europe, and in particular, the centrality of Germany to this tradition. He went on to explore the comparable nature of the allied effort at Waterloo and the dynamics of NATO, commenting on the way in which these examples represent a community of both values and armies, and a device through which to mobilise German resources in the pursuit of common European security. Gneisenau's retreat from the battlefield and reappearance the following day in support of Wellington was, he argued, Waterloo's "Article 5" moment.
The lecture was followed by a lively Q&A session, chaired in the absence of the Master - who was unavoidably in Hong Kong - by the former Master and sometime Governor of Hong Kong, Lord Wilson of Tillyorn.
About the speaker
Brendan Simms has been a Fellow in History at Peterhouse since 1993, and is Professor of the History of European International Relations. He is the author of 'Europe: the Struggle for Supremacy, 1453 to the Present' (Penguin Press, 2013), and – most recently – of 'The longest afternoon: The 400 men who decided the battle of Waterloo' (Allen lane, 2014), a study of the King’s German Legion and its legendary defence of the farmhouse of La Haye Sainte.
About the series
This lecture will be followed by another in this series at the same time and place on 21 October. The speaker on this occasion will be former Fellow John Bew, speaking on the subject of Castlereagh and the Congress of Vienna.