Waterloo: A Decisive Victory


Few events in human history have had the impact of Waterloo. The battle brought to an end nearly a quarter of a century of warfare, it shattered the dreams of a man who sought to dominate Europe, and it ushered in nearly half a century of peace.

This course will examine Europe at the start of the nineteenth century and Europe’s transition from the French Revolutionary Wars to the Napoleonic Wars. We will consider those wars in the context of the rise and fall of Napoleon Bonaparte and both Britain’s response and her role in that struggle. In greater detail the course will study the brief period of peace in 1814-15; Napoleon’s first abdication, the fractious Congress of Vienna and his escape from Elba triggering the start of the Campaign of One Hundred Days. Then we will look at the battles of the Waterloo Campaign from several different perspectives, concluding with an in-depth study of the broader consequences (and national interpretations) of Waterloo for Europe and the wider world, in the immediate aftermath and longer term.

Programme details

Course begins: 2 Oct 2024

Week 1: The French Revolutionary Wars 1789- 1803.

Week 2: The Napoleonic Wars 1803-1814.

Week 3: The Emperor and the Public Servant – Napoleon & Wellington

Week 4: Napoleonic armies, weapons, and tactics.

No class on Wednesday 30th October

Week 5: The Interlude: April 1814 – March 1815.

Week 6: The Opening Battles – Ligny and Quatre Bras.

Week 7: The Battle of Waterloo ~ An epic victory or a series of blunders?

Week 8: The Race for Paris – Abdication and the Treaty of Paris.

Week 9: The Legacy of Waterloo.

Week 10: Eyewitness to Waterloo, different national perspectives.


To complete the course and receive a certificate, you will be required to attend at least 80% of the classes on the course and pass your final assignment. Upon successful completion, you will receive a link to download a University of Oxford digital certificate. Information on how to access this digital certificate will be emailed to you after the end of the course. The certificate will show your name, the course title and the dates of the course you attended. You will be able to download your certificate or share it on social media if you choose to do so.


Description Costs
Course fee £285.00
Take this course for CATS points £30.00


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit, you are a full-time student in the UK or a student on a low income, you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees. Please see the below link for full details:

Concessionary fees for short courses


Mr Nick Lipscombe

Colonel Nicolas Lipscombe MSc, FRHistS is a historian. He has written several books including; two award-winning works on the English Civil War and the Peninsular War, as well as Waterloo a Decisive Victory, Wellington’s Guns, Wellington’s Eastern Front. He is currently working on a book on Victoria’s Wars. He is a well-known tour guide and tutor at University of Oxford DCE.

Course aims

To develop an understanding of the decisiveness of the Battle of Waterloo; the final destruction of Napoleon’s Grande Armée, the end to nearly a quarter of a century of continuous warfare and the ushering-in of nearly half a century of peace.

Course Objectives:

  1. To examine the key aspects of, and players in, the Napoleonic Wars up to Napoleon’s first abdication in April 1814.  A brief examination will also be made of the French Revolutionary Wars.
  2. To consider the situation in 1814/early 1815, and to study the Waterloo Campaign and battles in detail.
  3. To investigate the decisive consequences of the outcome of the Battle of Waterloo for Europe, and beyond, in the immediate aftermath of the battle and for much of the nineteenth century.

Teaching methods

The weekly two-hour sessions will consist of an initial lecture (supported by PowerPoint presentation) to cover the key aspects of the week’s topic followed by syndicate discussion of a key/related theme culminating in a group discussion to gauge group and/or individual viewpoints. At the end of each week students will be given some background reading for the following week, as well as direction for further reading and encouragement to use the department’s library resources in order to broaden their knowledge and understanding through self-study.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

  1. Have an outline understanding of the situation in Europe, and warfare, at the start of the nineteenth century.
  2. Have a good understanding of the causes, campaigns, consequences and crucial characters of the Battle of Waterloo.
  3. Demonstrate an ability to identify, analyse and evaluate a variety of (primary and secondary) sources and, from that process, be able to express their views in a group environment and in written form.

Assessment methods

Assessment of learning will take place through classroom discussion and the evaluation and marking of a written assignment (1500 words) submitted sometime after half the seminars have been completed and the end of the course. The title for the essay/book review/written exercises will be chosen from a list supplied by the tutor, or by individual agreement between the student and tutor.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work the required standard.

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form - Declaration of Authorship form


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £30 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

The Department's Weekly Classes are taught at FHEQ Level 4, i.e. first year undergraduate level, and you will be expected to engage in a significant amount of private study in preparation for the classes. This may take the form, for instance, of reading and analysing set texts, responding to questions or tasks, or preparing work to present in class.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £30 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online. Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from the January 1st after the current full academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.