The Reason Why

Cecil Woodham-Smith

Introduced by Allan Mallinson

Celebrated writer and historian Cecil Woodham-Smith turns her acerbic eye on the disastrous Charge of the Light Brigade.

Published price: US$ 67.95


The Reason Why

Crafted meticulously from private letters and diaries, newspaper reports and War Office correspondence, The Reason Why combines a compelling examination of the personalities at the heart of the disaster – brothers-in-law and sworn enemies Lords Lucan and Cardigan – with a stringent analysis of the fatal assault itself. The binding is inspired by the colours of Lord Cardigan’s 11th Hussars, nicknamed ‘the Cherry Pickers’ for their impeccable red trousers. Crimea was the first war to be photographed by war correspondents, and this edition features iconic photographs by Roger Fenton, alongside painted portraits and contemporary cartoons.

Production Details

The Reason Why book
  • Bound in buckram, blocked with a design by Neil Gower
  • Set in Laurentian
  • 320 pages
  • Frontispiece and 16 pages of colour plates
  • 9½" x 6¼"

'A dream that died hard'

‘Describes the chief British officers in the Crimea with a vividness and coruscating wit that remain unsurpassed’

‘Military Glory! It was a dream that century after century had seized on men’s imaginations and set their blood on fire’, writes Cecil Woodham-Smith at the beginning of her lucid history. But, as the hundreds of thousands who died in the Crimean War of 1853–6 would discover, ‘It was a dream that died hard.’

Woodham-Smith offers a page-turning narrative account of the events leading up to the Charge of the Light Brigade, the unparalleled military farce that, on 25 October 1854, cost hundreds of lives unnecessarily. The charge – immortalised in Tennyson’s famous poem, published just six weeks after the event – propelled the British light cavalry ‘into the valley of Death’. With charm and vigour, Woodham-Smith guides her readers through the battlefields of Balaclava, where inept decisions from British leaders, botched attacks and administrative chaos made tragedy inevitable.

‘One of the most gifted biographers and narrative historians of her generation. She displayed an attention to detail, a flair for story-telling, and an historical and human intelligence that set her work apart’

About Cecil Woodham-Smith

Cecil Woodham-Smith was born in 1896 and educated at the School for Daughters of Officers of the Army in Bath before graduating from St Hilda’s College, Oxford, in 1917. Her highly-acclaimed first biography, Florence Nightingale (1950), won the James Tait Black memorial prize, and was followed, just three years later, by The Reason Why. She received the CBE in 1960, and had her next work, The Great Hunger: Ireland 1845–1849, published in 1962. Awarded honorary doctorates of literature at both the National University of Ireland and St Andrews, and granted an honorary Fellowship of St Hilda’s College, Oxford, the first volume of her biography of Queen Victoria was published in 1972. She never completed the second volume, dying at the age of eighty in 1977.

About Allan Mallinson

Allan Mallinson is a former infantry and cavalry officer, with 35 years’ service in the British army. He is the author of the acclaimed Matthew Hervey series of historical novels and several works of nonfiction including Light Dragoons, a history of four regiments of British cavalry (one of which he commanded), The Making of the British Army and his latest book, 1914: Fight the Good Fight. As well as writing on defence matters for The Times, he is a regular reviewer for The Times, Spectator and Literary Review.


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Review by MKenny on 2nd Jun 2016

Text: Illustrations: Binding: Rating: 5/5

"The Review by experi-ate was s deciding factor in ordering this book. I have to agree whole heatedly with the review. I really enjoyed this book as Woodham-Smith's writing style holds your interest ..." [read more]

Review by experi-ate on 11th Oct 2015

Text: Illustrations: Binding: Rating: 5/5

"I had no idea I could enjoy this book so much, which still seems an odd odd thing to say when referring to a war book. I'm no military history buff, but I found Woodham-Smith's depictions of the princ..." [read more]

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