‘It feels like detective work:’ Yuhan Kim ’24 publishes book on Napoleonic Wars
Yuhan Kim, a senior in Berkeley College, wrote and published a book in August on the military administrations and victories of Louis Suchet, a French Marshal from the Napoleonic wars.
David Zheng, Contributing Photographer
Yuhan Kim ’24 published “To Conquer and To Keep,” a two-volume history book detailing and analyzing French Marshal Louis-Gabriel Suchet’s campaign in Eastern Spain during the Napoleonic Wars.
The book, which was published in August, overviews the military operations of Marshal Suchet, a French general famously favored by Napoleon and a leader of France’s effort to conquer and maintain territory in Eastern Spain. Kim said the book was a “self-directed project” that arose from his curiosity in Napoleonic history.
“Suchet is brought up a lot as an example of a good general,” Kim told the News. “He was the only French general to be promoted to marshal during the Spanish war, the only one who did fairly well in the conflict. But no one could really explain why he was the only one.”
This passion is far from new for Kim. Since middle school, Kim said he has dove into investigating and researching his favorite areas of Napoleonic and military history. At Yale, he studies political science and history and he leads the Military History Society.
While the book started as a vague idea, Kim said he began devoting more time to it during the winter break of his first year at Yale.
He added that the idea of focusing on Suchet came from what he views as “gaps” in the English-written history of the individual.
As the COVID-19 pandemic began and students were sent home, Kim took the year off and spent his time sitting down for eight hours a day doing research. This research, he said, involved scouring through books and the Internet as well as bringing books from Yale home with him.
Kim told the News that he received guidance from professional historians, including José Arcón, an expert on the 1811-12 Valencia campaign, as well as Jonas de Neef, who has authored history books on the Napoleonic wars.
“[Arcón] went out of his way to help edit [the book] … and provide me with new information,” Kim said. “He really gave me a new perspective … It was really thanks to him and Jonas [de Neef] that my research was able to expand a lot.”
The two-volume book was originally meant to be a single volume at 200 to 300 pages, according to Kim. However, as Kim researched further, he said the page count approached 500.
The editor, according to Kim, wanted to refrain from cutting down quality information for the sake of maintaining a more slim page count, so they recommended the book be broken into two volumes.
“Also, my editor figured people were more likely to buy two cheaper volumes than one really expensive one,” he said. “That was the logic behind it.”
As Kim read the memoirs of French and Spanish soldiers, Kim said he began to understand each one’s thought process and reasoning for their actions, piecing them together in order to reveal the context and motivations for larger military decisions.
Kim called this element of his work “the fun part.”
“It feels like detective work,” Kim said.
Kim said he wants readers of his book to find interest in history. He said that history is “hard to read, even for [him],” and thus focused on making the material “readable” and detailed, including interesting facts so as to humanize historical figures.
He said that he also included elements of each person’s personality and their actions in an effort to unravel the events of the Peninsular War, one of the wars in Eastern Spain which Kim details in the book.
Yuhan’s sister, Yeji Kim ’25, told the News that she admired her brother’s progress along his book-writing journey.
“Yuhan always had deep passion about history,” Yeji Kim said. “Seeing it come through in his book was an amazing process to watch.”
Both volumes of “To Conquer and To Keep” also incorporate work from Yale student artists.
Various illustrations of Suchet as well as French and Spanish soldiers are scattered throughout the book.
One of the illustrators, Sammi Kwon ‘25, told the News that illustrating helped her learn about history.
“The artwork demanded detailed correctness and technical knowledge, so when working on it I ensured that I knew what I was illustrating,” Kwon said.
Yuhan Kim ’24 is holding a book launch and signing for “To Conquer and To Keep” on Friday, Sept. 22 in Berkeley College.