Napoleon and Wellington by Andrew Roberts (Weidenfield and Nicholson).

I recently read this book, originally published in 2001, and found it fascinating. So, while it is not new, I would recommend getting hold of a copy. It would make an ideal gift for anyone interested in European history.

There have been hundreds of books about Napoleon and Wellington but Roberts' angle is to look at the relationship between the two great generals, who were both born in 1769 and became national heroes.

The two only met, albeit not face to face, on one day - June 18, 1815, at the battle of Waterloo. But their lives were intrinsically linked and what they

said about each other - both publicly and privately - is hugely revealing.

Wellington commanded Britain's forces in Portugal and had great success against Napoleon's troops. Napoleon was dominant almost everywhere else in Europe at this time but the Peninsular War kept some of his troops tied up and gave hope to other nations that he could be defeated.

Napoleon praised Wellington's ruthlessness in private while publicly deriding him as a mere 'sepoy general'. In contrast, Wellington publicly lauded Napoleon, saying that his presence on a battlefield was worth 40,000 men, but privately wrote long memoranda lambasting Napoleon's campaigning techniques.

On the morning of the battle of Waterloo, Napoleon declared that the Duke of Wellington was a bad general, the British were bad soldiers and that France could not fail to have an easy victory. Forever afterwards historians have accused him of gross overconfidence, and massively underestimating the calibre of the British commander opposed to him.

However, Roberts takes a revisionist stance, arguing that Napoleon's generals were pessimistic on the day of battle and Napoleon had to do something to raise their morale. His words did not necessarily reflect his true feelings about Wellington's abilities.

After Napoleon was exiled to St Helena he did everything he could to criticise Wellington, who he wrongly believed had been instrumental in the decision to send him to the Atlantic island. Wellington, meanwhile, collected memorabilia relating to Napoleon, including statues that had once stood in his adversary's home.

This is a tremendous study of two intriguing characters, who were both driven and determined to ensure that their legacy was one of greatness.