Napoleon: A Life

Napoleon: A Life[Read] ➲ Napoleon: A Life ➮ Andrew Roberts – The definitive biography of the great soldier statesman by the New York Times bestselling author of The Storm of War—winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography and the Grand Prix of t The definitive biography of the great soldier statesman by the New York Times bestselling author of The Storm of War—winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography and the Grand Prix of the Fondation Napoleon   Austerlitz Borodino Waterloo his battles are among the greatest in history but Napoleon Bonaparte Napoleon: A PDF/EPUB or was far than a military genius and astute leader of men Like George Washington and his own hero Julius Caesar he was one of the greatest soldier statesmen of all times Andrew Roberts’s Napoleon is the first one volume biography to take advantage of the recent publication of Napoleon’s thirty three thousand letters which radically transform our understanding of his character and motivation At last we see him as he was protean multitasker decisive surprisingly willing to forgive his enemies and his errant wife Josephine Like Churchill he understood the strategic importance of telling his own story and his memoirs dictated from exile on St Helena became the single bestselling book of the nineteenth century An award winning historian Roberts traveled to fifty three of Napoleon’s sixty battle sites discovered crucial new documents in archives and even made the long trip by boat to St Helena He is as acute in his understanding of politics as he is of military history Here at last is a biography worthy of its subject magisterial insightful beautifully written by one of our foremost historians From the Hardcover edition. “Napoleon Bonaparte was the founder of modern France and one of the great conuerors of history He came to power through a military coup only six years after entering the country as a penniless political refugee As First Consul and later Emperor he almost won hegemony in Europe but for a series of coalitions specifically designed to bring him down Although his conuests ended in defeat and ignominious imprisonment over the course of his short but eventful life he fought sixty battles and lost only seven For any general of any age this was an extraordinary record Yet his greatest and most lasting victories were those of his institutions which put an end to the chaos of the French Revolution and cemented its guiding principle of euality before the law Today the Napoleonic Code forms the basis of law in Europe and aspects of it have been adopted by forty countriesNapoleon’s bridges reservoirs canals and sewers remain in use throughout France The French foreign ministry sits above the stone uays he built along the SeineThe Legion d’Honneur an honor he introduced to take the place of feudal privilege is highly coveted; France’s top secondary schools many of them founded by Napoleon provide excellent education and his Conseil d’Etat still meets every Wednesday to vet laws Even if Napoleon hadn’t been one of the great military geniuses of history he would still be a giant of the modern era” Andrew Roberts Napoleon A Life “Power resides where men believe it resides It’s a trick a shadow on the wall and a very small man can cast a very large shadow” Conleth Hill as Lord Varys Game of Thrones Few men or women have towered so completely over their age as the diminutive Napoleon Bonaparte For untold millions he was a trusted leader the man who brought order stability and glory to a France that had been riven by the anarchy of revolution For other untold millions he was a terrifying figure an irrepressible warmonger and uite possibly the antichrist or the first of three antichrists for you Nostradamus fans out there There were times when Napoleon seemed to bend the arc of history to his will He pulled off dazzling military victories that captured the imagination of generations of military leaders He seeded the thrones of Europe with his family members He appeared a man of unmatched ability and intellect And yet he is interesting because he also made mistakes Huge mistakes Huge obvious never start a land war in Asia type mistakes As far as he rose he fell in an instant and died in lonely exile on a South Atlantic volcano The type of man who could do these things – who could dazzle at Austerlitz yet fail to recognize the manifest shortcomings of his siblings; who could believe deeply in the law yet also slaughter thousands of captured Ottomans – is exceptionally complex indeed To attempt to understand this man this Napoleon is a very tall task So tall a task in fact that Andrew Roberts barely tries Roberts’s Napoleon A Life is incredibly entertaining and overstuffed with events At eight hundred pages of text it is a veritable literary behemoth yet it is briskly paced and reads effortlessly The prose is not fancy but clear and Roberts does a good job narrating the many set pieces of Napoleon’s life It also gamely tries to touch on every aspect of Napoleon’s multi faceted being Ultimately however in attempting to encompass so much there is very little space for breath and almost none for reflection This is an artful recounting of facts and chronology with little by way of judgment Roberts is very much an old fashioned “great man” biographer and Napoleon is very much an old fashioned biography As he did in Churchill Walking With Destiny Roberts presents an epic cradle to grave retelling of a polymath genius with autocratic tendencies and he does so with unconcealed relish that borders on boyish zeal It is not that he hides Napoleon’s warts because he does not Those warts are there whether we’re talking about the atrocities he perpetrated in Egypt his racist beliefs regarding Haitians or his apparent awfulness at sex the phrase “Three Minute Monsieur” springs to mind Nevertheless Roberts never hesitates in brushing past these deficits en route to glorious destinations Napoleon is one of history’s greatest military figures Thus it is not surprising that Roberts devotes the largest amount of space to the martial aspects of his subject’s existence There are a lot of battles here many of them receiving an entire chapter in the telling Roberts describes each conflict from on high with a focus on tactical maneuvering that comes at the expense of visceral you are there in the ranks details It can get a bit tedious at times though the maps are a helpful aid in visualizing the parry and thrust One of the things I appreciated was Roberts’s attempt to capture the lay of the land commenting on how Napoleon used topography to complement his skillful use of combined arms Roberts points out that he visited many Napoleonic locations and throughout the book he drops little footnotes that act as a sort of travel guide He tells you how places look today where to get the best view and the specific artifacts you might find in a certain museum It’s not really fair to criticize the topical imbalance in a single volume biography of Napoleon Whole tomes have been devoted to the smallest details of his life In the introduction Roberts points out that there have been books with “Napoleon” in the title than there have been days since his death As such even though I would have appreciated time spent on Napoleon’s bawdy letters – much time – and less time on the Battle of Jena that’s not really appropriate What this really lacks in my opinion is some statement as to what Napoleon means today What is his place in history beyond his extremely high Score? Obviously he was the dominant figure in his day affecting the lives of millions of people ending the lives of countless thousands How then should we view him two hundred years after his death? This isn’t a rhetorical uestion I don’t have a clue I have barely dipped my toes into the Napoleonic Wars – and I’m still on the fence about whether I’m going to jump in – and it is hard based solely on Napoleon to gauge the extent of his legacy It felt – reading these pages – that he burned meteorically and then went dark; that the France he constructed did not last long beyond his exile This book might have profited from a concluding chapter where this issue was discussed with depth than Roberts’s passing references to the legacy of Napoleonic laws and sewers While Napoleon left me unconvinced about the place of the Little Corporal in history’s firmament there is no doubt he is worth studying if only to gaze in awe at the way his reach exceeded his grasp I finished reading Napoleon while sitting on my porch Winter had broken the sun was shining and I was drinking cheap wine while surveying my modest front yard which I had conuered with a thirty year mortgage It was hard not to reflect on Napoleon’s mighty achievements how he parlayed ambition drive skill and an exuisite sense of timing – to see the opportunity in the world’s convulsions – into a dizzying rise from anonymous artillery officer to emperor It was humbling to be sure Yet I also smiled to see how we had ended up in the same place the both of us on a porch on the continuum of time drinking wine and reading books the masters of not much at allThat’s what makes this such a spectacular tale Napoleon’s rise was tremendous but his fall even precipitous Napoleon’s genius was unsurpassed except by his dimwitted miscalculations He only lost a handful of battles but one of them happened to be the Battle of Waterloo the textbook definition of decisive Napoleon once remarked upon his retreat from Moscow “that from the sublime to the ridiculous is but one step” Importantly for later readers it was a spectacular step The ideas that underpin our modern world—meritocracy euality before the law property rights religious toleration modern secular education sound finances and so on—were championed consolidated codified and geographically extended by Napoleon To them he added a rational and efficient local administration an end to rural banditry the encouragement of science and the arts the abolition of feudalism and the greatest codification of laws since the fall of the Roman Empire Napoleon Bonaparte may never have stalked so largely through the pages of early 19th century history if not for the French Revolution He almost didn’t survive it He was even arrested at one point by the counter revolutionists as a collaborator with Robespierre which even for a man of Napoleon’s self assurance must have been a moment of uncertainty The trials of this period were mere shams so regardless of your level of guilt or innocence it was hard to gauge what would be your fate I was not surprised of course that he did reassure his captors and was liberated In the military he benefited from the mass retirements of many overaged commanders that helped clear the way for his ascension Timing is everything as they say and certainly Napoleon picked a good time for a man to be alive who had aspirations to be the next Julius Caesar or Alexander the GreatNapoleon proved himself than adept on the battlefield even as a second lieutenant and rose uickly through the ranks Being successful in the military was not enough for him With the annihilation of most of the powerful men in France who lost their heads to the guillotine yet again another power vacuum created an audacious opportunity for the young Napoleon Fresh off recent military victories he used that success to propel himself to the forefront of an audacious coup d'etat that put him in the First Consul’s chair at the tender age of 30 Obviously he was a man who by the force of his personality convinced everyone around him of his capabilities The consulship was supposed to be a single term but when the time came for the position to switch to someone else Napoleon remained The administration was disguised as a republican government but in reality it was a dictatorship The men around him forming this new government were older and experienced than he was but they ended up deferring to Napoleon’s wants and desires and by doing so let the last line of defense against his attainment of complete power crumble without a fight I don’t know if I was amazed or baffled at this revelationNapoleon declared himself emperor for life in 1804He certainly did not win all of his battles but he won many of them in spectacular fashion His tactics and the outcomes of his battles still continue to be studied today When people run simulations of his final defeat at Waterloo they show the French winning So why did he lose? The better uestion to ask is Why did he win all those other battles? Yes there were brilliant military decisions made but what really made the difference was the speed with which he implemented those tactics At Waterloo his brilliantly developed battle plan was circumvented by sluggish responses to his commands The command structure was not as well oiled as it had been before his abdication It seems to me that Napoleon might have lost some of his edge as well Long before the Prussians arrived to break his flank he had ample opportunity to rout the Austrians and the British So did Wellington defeat Napoleon or did Napoleon defeat himself? I’d say both which is usually the case of most battles One side makes critical errors and the other side capitalizes on those mistakes The Duke of Wellington on hearing about the death of Napoleon said ”Now I may say I am the most successful general alive” Long before Waterloo Wellington had proven himself one of the greatest generals of that age or really any age Was he being modest or was he uite possibly one of the best ualified men who faced Napoleon to recognize his genius? An odd little tidbit about Wellington that I found amusing was that he slept with two of Napoleon’s mistresses As close as one can come to sleeping with the man himself shiverIn my opinion the Russian campaign should have been the end of his rule as Emperor and in many ways it was The constant wars had weakened not only his army but France as well In 1812 he decided to invade Russia with a massive army He pushed the Russians back at the heavy cost of men and supplies and captured Moscow only to watch the Russians burn their own city There were lots of tactical decisions for burning Moscow to keep the French from using the city to supply their army but when I thought about the long term cost to the Russian people it left me shaking my head The one thing the Russians could count on was that the winter would prove to be their best defense They could lose all the battles and they generally historically did but the cold would destroy their enemies By the time Napoleon extracted his men from Russia he had left over 500000 of them as frozen corpses behind him France was weary of war and this defeat truly showed his vulnerabilities He was no longer seen as invincible In his conuests for the edification of France Bonaparte he was a burden France was not able or willing to bear any longer Sensing correctly that the timing was right a massive coalition of European powers attacked and despite a series of losses inflicted upon them due to sheer numbers they steadily pushed Napoleon’s dwindling forces back to Paris Now as defeat seemed eminent French generals started defecting to the Coalition but this might have been Napoleon at his best He was outnumbered and outgunned and was still managing to find ways to win battles Strictly from a historical perspective I do wonder if France hadn’t turned against against him what would have happened if he had managed to keep finding ways to win?Napoleon abdicated and accepted exile to Elba but it was a short lived stay Most men would have been content with their place in history They would write a few books enjoy the company of fawning women drink too much wine tell outrageous stories of their conuests to groups of adoring fans become corpulent and dream about how close they came to world domination But then few men were Napoleon Napoleon escaped raised an army and made one attempt to win back all that he had lost The fascinating thing was that he was even able to make a comeback at all Given the mental state of the French at this stage they would have to be insane to let this “madman” have another army So certainly my view of Napoleon had changed I have a deeper understanding of the man beyond just his characteristics that created the term Napoleon Complex I liked some of the humane innovations that he introduced to French law such as getting rid of torture Introducing meritocity was seen as dangerously progressive by all of Europe and obviously one close to his own heart Under the aristocracy he would have never seen the success he saw under a fractured republic but he seized the opportunity that was there Part of his success in war was also due to how draconian he was at replacing generals who proved incompetent He didn’t give a fig about who their ancestors were or how accomplished their family line He was certainly cultured than I expected He was an ardent bibliophile and assembled many libraries over his lifetime He amassed an art collection that gave the world the Louvre He changed warfare which still has influence on its application today Napoleon Bonaparte and Abraham Lincoln are two of the most written about men in history So how does one decide which biography to read? One of the reasons I was attracted to Andrew Roberts’s biography was the access he had to 33000 recently published letters written by Napoleon Needless to say an archive like this will reveal the inner man often hidden beneath the public man Roberts also visited 53 battlefields 16 countries and pillaged 80 archives to bring a comprehensive refreshing view of one of the most controversial figures in history I thoroughly enjoyed reading a chapter every morning with my first cup of tea until I became so gripped by the narrative that I set all other books aside to finish the last 200 pages in one epic reading bout Especially if you are planning to read only one Napoleon biographyin my opinion this is the one Highly recommendedIf you wish to see of my most recent book and movie reviews visit also have a Facebook blogger page at This is a life so big that 800 pages can hardly contain it Full books have been written about single weeks in his life Philip Dwyer started a feasible series format in Napoleon Vol I The Path to Power 1769 1799 Path to Power 1769 1799 v 1 several years ago For this book Andrew Roberts is to be saluted for his ability to condense the outsized story of Napoleon Bonaparte into one book as well as for his researchRoberts brings out the best in his subject He shows Napoleon's acts of empathy his ability to converse with the distinguished thinkers of his day his Code and its long lasting effects his connection with his troops and brilliance on the battlefield He abbreviates the bad for instance writing that he left his troops in Egypt without orders rather than say he abandoned themI was struck on how well Napoleon fits Malcolm Gladwell's theory expressed in Outliers The Story of Success The Story of Success While experienced in political turmoil Napoleon's family was distant from France wherewhen standing with one side meant persecution when the other side came to power His dubious noble status could be played either way he could promote his nobility when it was a reuirement of generalship and show that he wasn't noble in times such status was uestioned With his education ambition and determination he was able to excel in a career generalemperor that could only be obtainedcreated by commoners in Europe in this sliver of timeWhile the actual battles are the least of my historical interests the story can't be told without them Roberts does a good job with context logistics although he along with everyone else leaves to the imagination what is done with 20000 POWs and strategy There are clear maps of campaign routes and battle positions The discussion culminates with Waterloo where after you understand the brilliance of Napoleon's previous career you understand logistically what went wrong This leaves you to guess about Napoleon's health you learn of his weight gain on Elba and perhaps a hemorrhoid problem that interferes with his horsemanship and mental state he has only 3 Marshalls from the past the others have died or betrayed himI learned a lot from small things Napoleon wrote novels in his youth and Josephine's teeth were black from sugar cane to large the unusual friendship of Napoleon and Alexander I and the unforced errors of Waterloo While the section on the Louisiana Purchase in only 2 3 pages I know clearly his motives which show the far reach of his thinking distant colonies will only rebel better to let the Americans drain the British with them The treatment of Spain and Portugal is the best I've read The Moscow episode and retreat is so heart wrenching you forget that Napoleon was the aggressor The cast is so large that in the Epilogue there were so many whose names I'd forgotten I stopped checking the indexWhile the character of Napoleon remains cryptic the excerpts from his letters and diaries are helpful From the preface you learn that newly available primary sources were used The layout of the Notes makes it difficult to find which ones the new ones are andor to use the Notes in generalThere are many color plates including portraits of the principals and renditions of the battles treaty signings buildings caricatures possessions The Index got me everywhere I needed to goI could spend a year finding sources and reading biographies of the colorful people of this era Of the French the most intriguing are Talleyrand and Marshalls Nye and Bernadotte; of the Corsicans any member of Napoleon's family; and of the opponents the Duke of Wellington and Alexander IThis is a notable assemblage of the life of Napoleon I am uncertain if its positive spin is the result of weeding out a lot of previously covered material or the weeding out of previous bias Writers of these big biographies have to make decisions on how to present facts to make them readable In this bio sometimes the facts won making many areas a cumbersome read; nevertheless I stayed with it and I am glad I did Read by John Lee 33hoursDescription Austerlitz Borodino Waterloo his battles are among the greatest in history but Napoleon Bonaparte was far than a military genius and astute leader of men Like George Washington and his own hero Julius Caesar he was one of the greatest soldier statesmen of all timesAndrew Roberts’s Napoleon is the first one volume biography to take advantage of the recent publication of Napoleon’s thirty three thousand letters which radically transform our understanding of his character and motivation At last we see him as he was protean multitasker decisive surprisingly willing to forgive his enemies and his errant wife Josephine Like Churchill he understood the strategic importance of telling his own story and his memoirs dictated from exile on St Helena became the single bestselling book of the nineteenth centuryAn award winning historian Roberts traveled to fifty three of Napoleon’s sixty battle sites discovered crucial new documents in archives and even made the long trip by boat to St Helena He is as acute in his understanding of politics as he is of military history Here at last is a biography worthy of its subject magisterial insightful beautifully written by one of our foremost historians Picked this one up to coincide with the 200 anniversary of Waterloo Fantastic The most comprehensive biography of Bonaparte that I have had the pleasure to encounter Fully recommended The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday 18 June 1815 near Waterloo in present day Belgium then part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands A French army under the command of Napoleon was defeated by the armies of the Seventh Coalition comprising an Anglo allied army under the command of the Duke of Wellington combined with a Prussian army under the command of Gebhard von Blücher wiki sourced Napoleon A Life written by Andrew Roberts is an absolutely astounding biography on one of modern history's greatest conuerors Napoleon Bonaparte Born in Corsica and resentful of French rule over the island he eventually gave up his nationalist views and joined the French army as an artillery officer Rising through the ranks during France's bloody Revolutionary period Napoleon eventually become the centre of a coup d'etat attempt by a number of conspirators to overthrow the ineffective and chaotic French revolutionary system Napoleon outfoxed his co conspirators and took full military control of France eventually proclaiming himself an Emperor What followed was a whirlwind of political reform French expansion and military victory Italian German and Austrian states were all defeated by Napoleons armies and the geopolitical situation of Europe was drastically changed Multiple coalitions consisting of almost every European power were allayed and defeated 5 times until the disastrous Russian campaign and Napoleon's Hundred Days out of political exile He ended his life in captivity on British owned St Helena far away from the political gambit of EuropeNapoleon was an energetic meticulous and rebellious figure He did away with most established conventions dismissed most religious traditions at times dabbling in Islam and considering marrying a Russian Orthodox princess He took personal control over much of the facets of his Empire simultaneously fighting major campaign battles while engaging in reforms at home offering advice to his subordinates and involving himself in minute disputes and issues He married for love and was with his wife Empress Josephine for 13 years before divorcing and marrying an Austrian princess in a political move to try and end Austria's stringent opposition of French power Napoleon was also Machiavellian to his core Nothing was done if not for political gain Every victory became a grandiose tale and every defeat what few there were was played down or exaggerated He arranged spectacles with his soldiers awarded them for bravery on the battlefield once uipping about how men would live or die for a bit of metal and eating and sleeping in their camps on the battlefield His long memory served him well as he would remember details about individuals he had crossed briefly years before He stacked the European states with his own family much to his detriment and espoused his liberalrevolutionary ideals only as long as it served He uickly disposed of them after he became Emperor Roberts biography is similarly glowing Was Napoleon perfect? Obviously not If he was he would not have ended his days on St Helena He often insulted others behind their backs had a long memory for slights took meticulous control of everything around him and of course lost it all due to his grandiose ambitions Even so his large number of military victories his complete reform of the European system with liberal ideals surpassing even Britain and the United States of the time in some respects and the lasting impact of these changes cannot be renounced Roberts does a fantastic job showcasing the life of an Enlightened Despot or a cheeky Corsican Jacobite depending on how you see it This book is well researched and brimming with detail right down to some of Napoleon's odd uirks such as his poor French his feverish disregard for sleeping his poor ways with the women in his life or his incessant need to involve himself in the love affairs of his family members The book also gives detailed blow by blow accounts of the famous battles he fought such as Austerlitz with troop movements battle maps and casualty figures The political system Napoleon set up is examined in detail and its successes and flaws noted I could write suffice to say that Napoleon A Life stands out as a fantastically detailed account of the life of one of Europe's most influential historic figures Napoleon left an impact on the European state system which was felt for years after his death His Napoleonic code was in force until early in the 20th century in some parts of Germany His political reorginizations of Italy Germany and Poland helped stoke nationalistic movements in each of the countries that would have drastic impacts on Europe's political borders His defeat marked the hegemonic achievements of the British Empire which would last right up till 1945 His charismatic charm and leadership capabilities became legendary and continue to influence people to this day Napoleon's grand ambitions to be Europe's modern Julius Caesar or Alexander the Great were almost achieved save for the fact that he eventually lost and Napoleon will surely be remembered as one of histories greats Roberts biography is a fantastic and detailed look into the life of Napoleon Bonaparte It should not be missed Gushing bio unusual for an Englishman Roberts claims that newly available letters present a vastly favorable portrait than previously available to scholars All too often historians have taken at face value the biographies written by people around Napoleon whereas many of them were deeply compromised to the point of being worthless unless co firmed by as second source The problem is that although Roberts tries to be balanced and points out the warts his over the top admiration for his subject distorts the lens of otherwise excellent researchOne example Roberts extols Napoleon's re created nobility Unlike anywhere else in Europe a French family's noble simply lapsed if the next generation hadn't done enough to deserve its passing on A paragraph later however he describes the new hierarchy a complete reordering of the system from top to bottom without placing the new peers Instead he digresses into a discussion of the exact mix of liberty euality and fraternity the new scheme supplied Similarly Roberts's discussion on Napoleon and the Jews is muddled On one page he touts reasonably enough the Decree on Jews and Usury A page later Napoleon is upholding prosecutions of Jewish moneylenders and the best Roberts can manage is that Napoleon was personally prejudiced against Jews to much the same degree as the rest of his class and backgroundWhile the book is readable the writing is not page turning Lots of facts; snippets of stirring writing the best of which is when Roberts called something yet another example of the luck that Napoleon was starting to mistake for Fate So far most interesting thing I've learned is that Napoleon's autobiography Le Mémorial de Sainte Hélène was the bestseller of the 19th Century topping Uncle Tom's CabinIn sum Roberts is unparalleled as a researcher But he doesn't provide the reader reasons why any particular piece of previously accepted Napoleonic legend should be rejected in favor of his new interpretation And although is writing is good enough he's hardly a compelling read like a Ian Toll Corrigan Nicolson Stephen Taylor or Donald Thomas; better than NAM Rodger howeverBorn in uasi obscurity on Corsica Napoleon a native Italian and Corsican speaker was trucked off to learn French then to a military academy Napoleon not only was an excellent student but ill dressed and awkward with plenty of time on his hands he read of heroes and conuerors past Caesar Alexander the Great etc Napoleon's fascination for the non French is in part because he may have been history's most successful autodidact For that reason alone bios and reading are justifiedNapoleon represented the Enlightenment on horseback The ideas that underpin our modern world meritocracy euality before the law property rights religious toleration modern secular education sound finances and so on were championed by Napoleon An astonishing number of his letters throughout his career refer to providing footwear for his troopsOne of the reasons why he maintained such a fluid campaign in Italy was that he had no resources for anything else'The strength of the army' he stated 'like power in mechanics is the product of multiplying the mass by the velocityNapoleon was capable of compartmentalizing his life so that one set of concerns never spilled over into another probably a necessary attribute for any great statesman but one he possessed to an extraordinary degree'Severe to the officers' was his his stated mantra 'kindly to the men''I have no doubt there will be lively criticism of the treaty I've just signed' Napoleon wrote to Talleyrand the day after signing the treaty of Campo Formio but he argued that he only way to get a better deal was by going to war again and conuering 'two or three times provinces than Austria Was that possible? Yes Probable? No' He sent Berthier and Monge to Paris with the treaty to expound its merits They did such a good job and so enthusiastic was the public enthusiasm sic for peace that the Directory ratified it swiftly despite several of its members privately regretting the lack of republican solidarity shown to Venice It is said that when asked about the Venetian clauses Napoleon explained 'I was playing vingt et un and stopped at twenty'Napoleon's general orders for army behavior in Egypt 'Every soldier who shall enter into the houses of the inhabitants to steal horses or camels shall be punished' he instructed He was particularly careful to give no cause for jihad 'Do not contradict them' he ordered his men with regard to Muslims 'Deal with them as we dealt with the Jews and the Italians Respect their muftis and imams as you respected rabbis and bishopsThe Roman legions protected all religions The people here treat their wives differently from us but in all countries the man who commits rape is a monster'Soldiers You came to this country to save the inhabitants from barbarism to bring civilization to the Orient and subtract this beautiful part of the world from the domination of England sic England was not running Egypt at the time From the top of those pyramids forty centuries are contemplating youThe closest Napoleon came to being killed was in Israel while crossing the Red Sea as the tide came in They got lost as night fell and wandered through the low lying marshy sea shore as the tide rose 'Soon we were bogged down to the bellies of our mounts who were struggling and having great difficulty in pulling themselves free It was nine at night and the tide had already risen three feet We were in a terrible situation when it was announced that a ford had been found General Bonaparte was among the first to cross; guides were situated at various points to direct the rest We were happy not to have to have shared the fate of the Pharaoh's soldiers'Even if Acre had fallen and the Druze Christians and Jews had all joined him the logistics and demographics would not have permitted an invasion of either Turkey or IndiaLong accused afterwards of deserting his men in fact he was marching to the sound of the guns for it was absurd to have France's best general stuck in a strategic sideshow in the Orient when France itself was under threat of invasionThe greatest long term achievements of Napoleon's Egyptian campaign were not military or strategic but intellectual cultural and artistic The first volume of Vivant Denon's l'Égypte was published in 1809 it's title pag proclaiming that it was 'published by the order of His Majesty Emperor Napoleon the Great'although not politically triumphalist the multiple volumes of the Description de l'Égypte represent an apogee of French indeed Napoleonic civilization and had a profound effect on the artistic architectural aesthetic and design sensibilities of Europe Tragically the Institut near Trahir Suare in Cairo was burned down during the Arab Spring uprising on December 17 2011 and almost all 192000 books journals and other manuscripts including the only handwritten manuscript of Denon's Description de l'Égypt were destroyedhe forgave Josephine totally and never made allusion to her infidelity again either to her or anyone elseonly two letters of his survive for the twenty three days between his arrival in Paris on October 16 and the 18 Brumaire when the coup was launched neither of which was compromising For a man who wrote an average of fifteen letters a day this time everything was to be done by word of mouthThey put the orders of the officers under which which they had served before those of their elected officials When it came down to a choice between obeying those giants of their profession or the politicians baying for their arrest in the Orangerey there was simply no contestTalleyrand was characteristically profiting from the situation When Napoleon years later asked him how he had made his fortune he insouciantly replied 'Nothing simpler; I bought rentes government securities on the 17th and sold them on the 19th'In his first week as First Consul Napoleon wrote two letters proposing peace to Emperor Francis of Austria and to Britain’s King George III ‘I venture to declare that the fate of all civilized nations is concerned in the termination of a war which kindles a conflagration over the whole world’ he told the latter When the British foreign secretary Lord Grenville responded by saying that Napoleon should restore the Bourbons Napoleon replied that if the same principle were applied to Britain it would result in the restoration of the Stuarts'A newly born government must dazzle and astonish' he told Bourrienne at this time 'When it ceases to do that it fails'Within a week of Brumaire as a result of the new sense of stability efficiency and sheer competence the franc dollar and franc pound exchange rate rates had doubledThe art of policing is punishing infreuently and severelyIn November 1799 some 40 percent of France was under martial law but within three years it was safe to travel around France again and trade could be resumed Not even His Italian victories brought Napoleon popularityNapoleon took a deep personal interest in the strategic dissemination of news ‘Spread the following reports in an official manner’ he once instructed Fouché ‘They are however true Spread them first in the salons and then put them in the papers’All the leading French admirals Genteaume Eustche Bruix Laurent Trugent Pierre de Villeneuve as well as Decès opposed the English expeditionIIIThe duke d'Enghien had offered to serve in the British army was receiving large amounts of money from London was paying British gold to other émigrés and was hoping to follow the Austrians into France should they invade He had also corresponded with William Wickham that is the British secret service Although he was not specifically aware of the Cadoudal Pichegru plot to assassinate Napoleon he was clearly holding himself in readiness It hardly constituted strong enough grounds to have him executed however except as a ruthless message to Louis XVIII to call off my further plotsRoberts's absurd justification for Napoleon's becoming Emperor France was de facto an empire by 1804 and it was only acknowledging that fact that Napoleon declared himself an emperor de jure just as ueen Victoria would become for the British Empire in 1877 Roberts ignores what made Napoleon an illegitimate ruler much less Emperor the regicide the phony plebiscites and the fact that at the time France had little territory beyond today's hexagram part of the Rhineland and Northern Italy the latter of which hardly counts since it was stolen from the chinless HapsburgsThe Emperor took the somewhat convoluted and seemingly contradictory style 'Napoleon through the grace of God and the Constitution of the Republic Emperor of the French'Preparing for the coronation Napoleon ordered his officials to treat the pontiff as though he had 200000 troops at has back just about his greatest complementRoberts says contrary to most other sources Although Napoleon lifted the Charlemagne replica over his own head as previously rehearsed with the Pope he didn't actually place it on top because he was already was wearing the crown of laurels meant to invoke Rome He did however crown JosephineHe never did understand that a fleet which spent seven eighths of its time in port simply could not gain the seamanship necessary to take on the Royal Navy at the height of its operational capacityThe fall of Berlin came so uickly that shopkeepers did t have time to take down the numerous satirical caricatures of Napoleon from their windowAfter the battle of Friedland Soldiers On 5 June we were attacked in our cantonments by the Russian army which misconstrued the causes of our inactivity It perceived too late that our repose was that of the lion now it does penance for its mistake From the shores of the Vistula we have reached those of the Nieman with the rapidity of the eagleIn establishing brother Jérôme as King of Westphalia Napoleon wrote It is essential that your people enjoy a liberty an eually a well being unknown in GermanyThe population of Germany anxiously awaits the moment when those who are not of noble birth but who are talented have an eual right to be considered for jobs; for the abolition of all serfdom as well as intermediaries between the people and their sovereignAs the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars progressed the casualty rates in battles increased exponentially sic at Fleurus they were 6% of the total number of men engaged at Austerlitz 15% at Eylau 26% at Borodino 31% and at Waterloo 45%At the famous meeting in the middle of the river at Tilsit The Tsar's first words were ' I will be your second against England'Napoleon immediately appreciated that a wide ranging agreement would be possible indeed as he put it later 'Those words changed everything'It was the late night conversations about philosophy politics and strategy that shaped Napoleon's relationship with the TsarYears later Napoleon said Perhaps I was happiest at Tilsit I had just surmounted many vicissitudes many anxieties at Eylau for instance; and I found myself victorious dictating laws having emperors and kings pay me courtThe simple fact that Napoleon had missed was also the most obvious one its vast size made Russia impossible to invade much beyond Vilnius in a single campaign His military administration was incapable of dealing with the enormous strain that he was putting on it Each day in his desperation for a decisive battle he had fallen further into Barclay's trapIn retrospect it would have been better for the French had Moscow been razed to the ground as that would have forced and immediate retreatNapoleon eventually chose what turned out to be the worst possible option to return to the a Kremlin which had survived the fire on September 18 to see whether Alexander would agree to end the war The real significance of the rain was that his artillery commander General Drouot suggested waiting for the ground to dry before starting the battle the next day so that he could get his guns into place easily and the cannonballs would bounce further when fired It was advice that Drouot was to regret for the rest of his life'If it had not been for you English I should have been Emperor of the East; but wherever there is water to float a ship we are sure to find you in our way' A magnificent biography The author notes that he has access to thousands of previously unavailable letters of Napoleon These letters add a great richness to this volume and provides a somewhat different picture of Napoleon than I had had before One of the strengths too is that Andrew Roberts has a cool eye toward Napoleon He speaks highly of his major accomplishments such as a massive change in the legal system and he criticizes him for his weaknesses such as the Russian campaign his lethargic performance at Leipzig leaving his best field commander Davout on garrison duty with a large force when he was badly outnumbered and his subpar performance at Waterloo Hence a nuanced biographyThe book takes a chronological perspective on the life of Napoleon Bonaparte We follow the trajectory of his life from his youth on Corsica to his developing military career to his first experiences in battle to his rapid rise in the military hierarchy to his leading of armies to his accession to leadership of France to his reforms to his leadership in wars Over time his victories became labored think Wagram and then he suffered reverses as he began to forget some of his own maxims of war and battle The arc from the Russian campaign to Leipzig to Waterloo shows him performing with little brilliance as he had for instance at Austerlitz His best generalship in the late period in fact was his fighting retreat from Waterloo The book discusses his short exile on Elba and his return to France as well as his longer and miserable exile to St HelenaOn a personal level we see the tensions within his own family his relationship with Josephine his children the varying relationships with his top commanders Davout Oudinot Ney Murat Bernadotte Kellerman and so on And so on The book also details his reforms in administration his interest in science and literature his intellectual curiosity We see a complex and intriguing human being flawed but also a major force within FranceSome pluses numerous maps to provide perspective on campaigns and battles although some are not as useful as others; nice slick pages of paintings of key actors of the eraOverall a major look at Napoleon and well worth reading After reading his excellent account of the Storm Of War I had high expectations of Robert's newest release his biography of Napoleon I was not dissapointedI suspect you can fill half of the New York's library with books dealing with Napoleon and as I understood these can be divided in two sorts you either hate him or you love himAndrew Roberts is comfortably between these two camps He does not praise him but is here and there rather critical of Napoleon's decisions He is unbiased and stays to the facts but while reading the book my admiration for Napoleon has grown uite a bit I mean who can compare his self to this guy who was emperor at 38? I'm 38 and all that I've managed is to become a consultant at an energy company As a novice reader in the Napoleon subject I am ashamed to admit Andrew stays to the facts which is uite comfortable in that respect He does deliver his tale with objective reasoning introduces a lot of names that I've never heard of but this is not a hinderance Andrew Roberts seems to have had access to a lot of letters from Napoleon to various friends and relatives which gives you the feeling that you to get to know Napoleon uite personally Also here and there you can't supress a uick smile if Andrew mentiones some nice anecdotes and some interactions between Napoleon and the common soldierSo this book met in all aspects my expectations I can imagine that for the experienced Napoleon reader this will not hold many suprises but for a beginner in the Napoleon subject this is an excellent introduction Al in all 5 stars Confession off the bat This is a great biography Well written well researched Hagiographic perhaps but not in a way that makes your teeth chatter Maps are a little shaky at the beginning but become better throughout All in all head and shoulders above almost all modern biographiesBut this is Andrew Roberts here writing about Napoleon his hero As such let's hold him to a higher standard and see if he succeeds Roberts openly admits that Napoleon is a hero of his The book as such is five parts biography one part advocacy Roberts wants to save Napoleon from the likes of Alan Schom whose 1998 biography painted the Little Corporal as the predecessor to the Nazis Fascists and Stalinists who did so much to paint the last century in blood No Roberts tells us Napoleon was not Hitler Napoleon was a combination of Washington Jefferson and Hamilton in one man He is the uintessential self made man The slayer of the Old Regime Certainly he deserves our respectIt's a credit to Roberts's ability as biographer as opposed to hagiographer that I dislike Napoleon after reading this book than before though my sympathies are aroused for the Young Werther wannabe that Bonaparte sometimes inhabited First off Roberts's emphasis on Napoleon being self made are overrated The dictators of Nazi Germany and the USSR had eual claims on being self made than Messers Churchill and Roosevelt ever could claim Who cares about being self made if one's accomplishments are treacherous? So what were Napoleon's accomplishments? Those of the military variety scarcely need be mentioned; he was a genius on par with Caesar and Alexander But military genius is not inherently good or bad; how can we deny that the men running the Wehrmacht were geniuses if not only for our moral revulsion? Thus I found it very interesting to read about NB's behavior in Egypt and Palestine As Roberts tells us Bonaparte was actually considering converting to Islam and joining the Ottomans in order to fulfill his dream of conuering India and fully imitating Alexander This is astounding Napoleon the paragon of rationality the guardian of the French the expounder of the Enlightenment was ready to join one of the most backwards empires in Europe in order to uench his desire for glory Forget Caesar Napoleon could have very easily reenacted the tragedy of Coriolanus Roberts's writing about the Levant also gets tedious in a modern fashion With respect to the slaughter of Turks at Jaffa there was of course a racial element to this; Napoleon would not have executed European prisoners of war 190 Of course the fact that the French opponent Jezzar was in the habit of sewing Christians into sacks described on page 191 for goodness' sake probably has as much explanatory power as the racial element The fact that NB treated his non white non Christian enemies 201 with greater cruelty is owing to the barbarity of the Turks than anything else I bring up this scene because the book is thankfully free of most of the ugly bugaboos of modern academia Roberts here dabs his toe into race as everything explanations but elsewhere they are absent Absent too are the sub Freudian explanations which at times characterize other biographiesWouldn't Napoleon have been better if he hadn't suffered from a Napoleon Complex? Roberts lets Napoleon be a man and not a symptom of a nagging disease or aggregation of a million social variables This is much appreciated The problem with Roberts is that he is still a modern through and through a man born of the world Napoleon created if you will Napoleon's most important contribution after all was the creation of the technocratic liberal state Roberts never passes up the chance to laud Napoleon's belief in the meritocracy and eual political rights The politics of the Revolution are forcibly applied across Italy and Germany and Roberts never uestions the rightness of this once After all who can argue with the euality of man? Then again what was the difference between the terror practiced by the French army and that practiced by the rolling Soviets in 1948? What is the difference between ISIS now? It would be nice if Roberts considered the perspective of well the rest of the whole of Europe at the time France was a revolutionary terrorist state with no little respect for national sovereignty and none for kings Perhaps the Czar of Russia is not the best representative of the Old Regime but certainly there were civilized Prussians and Austrians who might have stood in as a counterpoise to French terror? Certainly Edmund BurkeThis is the main problem with the book Roberts is a great author of military battles and lifetimes but he is lousy as an author of ideas Roberts seems to consider himself above ideology a man so certain in progress that he need not consider alternatives At times his political analysis is so inept and unctuous you'd think you were reading The Economist Roberts lauds the fact that Napoleon instituted meritocratic reforms throughout his rule; he also notes that these reforms were in part to resemble NB's modern military Napoleon modernized and made efficient the French state again like the military Does anyone else see a pattern here? One has to wonder if the liberated peasant or Jew would not have preferred his former servitude to freezing to death outside Moscow But progressprogressNaturally Roberts hates the Church above all things NB's cruel and stupid invasion of Iberia is justified by Roberts as an act of you guessed it modernization The backwards Spaniards were lagging on the long arc of history still adhering to the Inuisition fatalities of which couldn't hold a flame to Wagram Borodino etc In all the 800 pages I don't think I can remember Roberts criticizing Napoleon's Spanish policy but for the fact that he should have been severe and gone to the peninsula himself This is astounding From 1795 onward Spain was an acuiescent weak power and posed no serious threat to French interests Beyond raw lust for power and cruelty there was no reason to subject Spain to the lawless treatment she received at the hands of the French Why is there no voice condemning this tyrannical despicable course or action? Roberts provides us with no countervailing voice and becomes sycophantic in his praise or accurately lame criticism of NB But the Iberian policy was a failure at every level Morally militarily and politically let us remember that the illegal and unscrupulous Louisiana Purchase did about as much for European decline as any other one act The reason Roberts can't come to criticize Napoleon for his mass slaughter of men is that he doesn't seem to realize the possibility for another side ie that the Old Regime had a right to defend itself or at least to not be destroyed at the price paid It's hard to read this and think that Roberts has not been struck by the worst of revolutionary impulses ie that the ends justify the means Hundreds of thousands killed but isn't the Code Napoleon nice? States destroyed cultures ruined but the Jews They're free There are even some homosexuals working in Provence How can you argue with Progress?Beyond political naivitee Roberts contradicts himself in his descriptions of his hero However much he may like to twist it the Peace of Amiens was broken by Napoleon Yes the later coalitions formed and waged war on him but only after his tyrannical decrees made war all but inevitable Napoleon was a bully and this trait served neither him nor the citizens of Europe well There is something of the swash buckler in such behavior which is intriguing and captivating but again is such decadence worth the hundreds of thousands rotting across Europe? And so while Roberts has saved Napoleon from the pathetic over analyzers and the postmodernists he has not moved on to perform the greatest task of the historian To make us understand Napoleon's time and context Without an understanding of the appeal and fault of the Old Regime we can never be sure what NB is really up against or if the wars he waged to defeat its tenets were really worth it Perhaps such consideration is not necessary Napoleon was intriguing enough without such considerations perhaps But Roberts cannot succeed in his larger project convincing us that Napoleon was of another league than Hitler Stalin etc without convincing us that his wars were worthwhile And he simply hasn't done this He's only succeeded in forgetting the dead These considerations aside Roberts does a nice job of letting us inside the mind of this great genius Most interesting are Napoleon's letters to Josephine and his other ruminations on the romance The image of NB waiting on Elba rooms reserved for his son and empress is incredibly moving no matter who the tyrant His letters are funny his personality is affable his heartache is sincere Proust said that falling in love is the only poetic thing most men ever achieve Greater than his faux royal processions and bloody military feats his success and failure in romance stuck with me the most throughout readingNonetheless I still can't help but think that Roberts has not achieved his goals Yes Napoleon was a great man in the Carlyle sense but by creating the modern state he ruined the conditions whereby later men might become great He modernized his country but so did Jefferson and Hamilton without the bloodshed He led an army but led it to endless war unlike General Washington who led his to peace and prosperity Even America's murderer tyrant Abe Lincoln attempted no coup and wouldn't even disallow the 1864 election which may have ruined his war These are acts of true character; acts of true moral courage Napoleon as one men may have bettered this group but his faults and crimes loom much larger His hubris alone killed than his weak principles Roberts never captures Napoleon's strange contradictions the mix of the sualid and the grand in the man For now it does us readers well to remember how many of the great patriots we dote upon might have just as well become our oppressors lashing us alongside of the Turks Okay I know a biography of Napoleon is going to have a lot of detail about battles in it after all he conuered Europe so yeah but I just couldn’t take it any and stopped reading somewhere around page 100 One page and I would have fallen on my sword