Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Battle of Waterloo

The Battle of Waterloo reenactment is an annual recreation of the 19th Century Battle of Waterloo on the original battlefield in Waterloo, Belgium. I am usually not a fan of the military, but I didn't want to miss this historic re-enactement of the Waterloo battle, with ca 1,200 re-enactors coming from some 15 countries. I hadn't heard about the event until late last Friday night at a diner table full of American expats who always seem to know more about your country than you know about it yourself.

The historical society who organizes the re-enactement is so concentrated on the historical side of the event, that they tend to forget to think about the comfort of the visitors. I think there must have been at least 10.000 people lined up along the battlefield, in the burning sun, many of them on a steep slope to be able to see something over the heads of the people in front of them. Tip for the society next time: MOW the slope!

I developed an interest in the army because of the specific leadership culture in such an organization. I am planning to roll out a 'WSJE Management and the Military Lab' in a couple of months at The Wall Street Journal Europe. It will be a research project looking into the transfer of coaching techniques from the military commanders to the industry.

The Battle of Waterloo took place at 18 June 1815, 15 years before Belgium came into existence in 1830. The Battle ended the Napoleonic era. Napoleon's dream to unify Europe under French leadership died at Waterloo after his troops were beaten by an alliance of UK and Prussian troops under the command of Lord Wellington. It was actually the second time that Napoleon was defeated. In 1813 he lost the Battle of Leipzig and also some campaigns of 1814 in France after which he was exiled to the Island of Elba. Ironically, the EU has nowadays her headquarters about 8 kilometers from the battle field.