NAPOLEON BIOGRAPHY BOOK
When you purchase an independently reviewed book through our site, Andrew Roberts's epically scaled new biography, “Napoleon: A Life,”. Napoleon book. Read reviews from the world's largest community for readers. The definitive biography of the great soldier-statesman by the New York T. Napoleon on Napoleon book. Read 5 reviews from the world's largest community for readers. This is an illustrated autobiography of the Emperor Napoleon.
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The definitive biography of the great soldier-statesman by the acclaimed author of The Storm of War—winner of the LA Times Book prize, finalist for the Plutarch. His other books include Richard and John: Kings at War; Villa and Zapata; ; Heroes & Villains; and Napoleon: A Biography. McLynn is a graduate of Oxford. This book could be called “Pro-Napoleonic” Yet, that term implies bias. Rather, this book is unbiased while illustrating the remarkable, long.
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This has been true over all of history until technology made slaughter of civilians greater than that of soldiers and the immediacy of missile borne nuclear weapons made total destruction likely before people would even know a war is underway, let alone rush out to celebrate it. Napoleon came along at the time when all of the factors that glorify war were present for those in the cities while the chance for heroism at the scenes of battle was high.
He was the man for the time. And what a fascinating man! Read this book to find out why Robert E. Lee said that it is good war is so terrible else we would love it too much. Napoleon was to a great degree self educated. His idols from youth were Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great. This would not distinguish him from many other boys, but his phenomenal talent on the battlefield made him one of a kind.
I cannot understand how in a time before airplanes and instant communication a general could have any idea what tens of thousands of troops were doing and where they were doing it let alone command them in a timely enough manner to counter, even to anticipate what the enemy was doing. It all relied on finding some high ground for an overlook, even if it were only a church tower, and to send and receive messengers on horseback.
This could not be done effectively if the commander were away from the scene, nor could a commander have the respect of his troops were he not seen in action.
Napoleon was heedless of danger. He had horses killed under him and he regularly saw people at his side wounded or killed, on occasion being dismembered or disemboweled in the act of taking his orders. If any environment could bring on post traumatic stress disorder, this would be the one yet he functioned effectively for many years in it, and after, never suffering more than a grazing wound.
His ability as a commander is legendary. The British general, Wellington, who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo, remarked that in battle he would rather hear that tens of thousands of enemy reinforcements had arrived than that Napoleon had come to direct the fight. Andrew Roberts relates how Napoleon achieved this fame. Consider his qualities. He had a compartmentalized mind that could put everything else aside for the subject at hand.
He had a phenomenal memory and a love of detail, particularly helpful on the topography of battlegrounds. He was never emotional in action, remaining cool and collected even when it seemed that everything was going wrong. He did not hesitate to use the lives of his troops as a tool when a costly maneuver was called for as did Grant in the American Civil War.
He continually asked himself "what if" questions. What if another army appears on my left? What is my plan Y and Z if my plan X is not successful? He was incessantly active, never taking a break. He had a sense of humor even under the worst conditions. He verbally encouraged his officers and men and accepted even their negative comments to him without the least resentment. He would not tolerate incompetence and he rewarded bravery and initiative.
He had no vanity on the battlefield, dressed without ostentation with no care for a chest bedecked with ribbons or signs of rank. He routinely interacted with his men, asking them how they were doing, what they needed, and responded by seeing that they were taken care of. His speeches before battle were electrifying. No one could complain that he thought he always had the right idea, because time and again he had proven that he did.
In addition to all of this, he was trustworthy and pleasant to be with, knowledgeable on many topics that would engage intellectuals. He earned the devotion so many felt for him who saw him regularly if not daily. War was an adventure that made life vivid and demanding.
He was not vindictive, even to the point of trusting some, like his foreign minister, Tallyrand, that he should not have trusted. Only his family members would have reason to complain of him ordering their lives.
In short, until the end of his time in power, he was a tyrant whose subjects believed he had earned the right to it. He got things done and put into practice ideas that the French and the rest of Europe had never been exposed to before. For all of the foregoing, it might seem strange that he wanted to be crowned emperor and was anxious to have a son to provide heredity rule. But it was a time when only the United States had a democracy. There appeared to be no other way to keep order than monarchy and royalists who wished to see the return of the Bourbon kings were numerous in early 19th century France and Europe.
To his credit, it has to be said that during the time he was ruler, he gradually relaxed the total hold on power he had when first crowned. You probably know what went wrong: I discovered that Napoleon had intended to overwinter at least once before attempting a march on Moscow, but unfortunately when Moscow did not seem distant, he went for it and succeeded in taking it, undefended, with ease. The famous burning of Moscow took place afterward. The Russians had cleverly removed all firefighting equipment so that when fires started in this city of wood there was no way to keep them from spreading.
The French for all their armed might had to watch helplessly as the city turned to ash. It was winter that brought disaster even though Typhus had decimated the army before it reached Moscow. Improper food given to the horses had them dying at the rate of 1, a month before Moscow was gained. This, even without a serious battle the Russians wisely retreated greatly reduced what began as a force of , at the Russian border.
I had heard that Napoleon took his army in without winter clothing, but this isn't true. In fact they had that clothing but in the late summer when first the army crossed into Russia, the weather was very hot upper 90's F and the troops simply dumped their winter gear. Once snow and subzero temperatures arrived, retreat was the only option and it was too late to prevent tens of thousands dying in the process. The most incredible account in the book is of the construction of two bridges to allow Napoleon's army to get back across the Berezina River, feet wide and with air temperatures well below freezing.
Engineers had to wade in shoulder deep to erect wooden trestles. Of mostly Dutch engineers only 50 survived, but the rickety bridges got the army across even as a Russian army nearby failed to see it happening, a major blunder that if avoided would have ended Napoleon's career, and probably his life, right there.
It was only two years from the retreat from Moscow to the invasion of Paris by the Russian army. Napoleon was exiled to the island of Elba between Corsica and mainland Italy, escaped easily, returned to Paris, and raised another army only to be defeated at Waterloo. He was not a man given to despair or the idea that a thing could not be done. The Allies vowed not to be fooled again and his next place of exile was the island of St.
Helena in the Atlantic thousands of miles from Europe. The man who had conquered Europe and enjoyed the attentions of over 20 mistresses while doing so, was alone with a handful of retainers with nothing to do but write his memoirs. Still he did not collapse, enjoying playing children's games with the kids of the locals, who appreciated him as one would a fun grandpa. Hundreds of thousands died during his time in power, but what a guy!
Napoleon the Great by Andrew Roberts review – a ‘marvellously readable’, if partial, biography
Nov 17, Omar Ali rated it it was amazing. Roberts is an unabashed hero-worshipper when it comes to Napoleon. That can become a little irritating. But he has also done tremendous research and presents a very thorough, very readable and very up to date biography of Napoleon up to date because new information, including s of perviously lost letters, have continued to turn up and all that information is included in this work.
His hero worship does not affect my five star rating because he does not hide any of Napoleon's faults, mistake Roberts is an unabashed hero-worshipper when it comes to Napoleon. His hero worship does not affect my five star rating because he does not hide any of Napoleon's faults, mistakes or disasters.
If you do not share his Napoleon-love, you can still benefit from reading this book. As someone who grew up hearing about Napoleon from Justice Sipra an admirer at the Andrew Roberts level , with several editions of Emil Ludwig's classic biography always present in the house, I am not exactly an unbiased observer, but I think the book really IS worth a read. Factually accurate, extremely detailed and highly readable. Go for it: Best "new thing I learned from this book"?
Exactly how much money the British spent very effectively as subsideies to various European powers to keep Napoleon in check. I knew they spent money but it had never been clear to me how systematic, well thought out, effective and extensive that effort was. That too shows up occasionally in the book: View 1 comment. May 01, Philipp rated it it was amazing Shelves: If you're looking for an overview of Napoleon's life and google around, this is usually the biography you end up finding, readable, engaging, thrilling, more than pages long.
Roberts is a military historian, so the focus is definitely on military action, less on other interesting aspects of Napoleon's life like, for example, the specific art style of the Napoleonic era. The majority of this book's maps are maps of battlefields and positions, the largest part of the text is descriptions of the If you're looking for an overview of Napoleon's life and google around, this is usually the biography you end up finding, readable, engaging, thrilling, more than pages long.
The majority of this book's maps are maps of battlefields and positions, the largest part of the text is descriptions of the various battles, which is perhaps unsurprising for a biography of a man who made his name in war.
Especially in the last chapter Roberts makes a lot of Napoleon's military background, which I'm sure many won't agree with: The focus on war is the trick that makes book so fast-paced, the battles are almost described like sports matches with tactic errors and routes and whatnot, you almost almost! Roberts' viewpoint is, let's say, conciliatory - he likes to look at instances where history judged Napoleon harshly and tries to defend Napoleon, often by assuming the most positive view 'Yes, Napoleon wrote this error in his letter, but he was probably betting on it being intercepted, thereby confusing the English!
There are a few cases where Roberts criticises Napoleon more than other historians: Reading this I learned lots of fun things, Roberts has a knack for finding these small side-actors who deserve their own books: What's ridiculous is how fast-paced Napoleon's life is, you can't help but compare your own life.
He learned French at 9, joined the army as a secondary lieutenant at 16, brigadier general at 24, commander of a whole army at 27, Emperor of France at 35, lost everything and was exiled at 45, died as Roberts is adamant, of stomach cancer like his father, not of any poisonous plot at That to me is the biggest strength here, how Roberts succeeds in depicting Napoleon's sheer energy and speed often by citing from Napoleon's many micro-managing letters.
Another fun thing I learned is that if there are indeed infinite universes where everything possible has happened, then we live in one of the few universes where Napoleon didn't die on the battlefield. I think there are at least 20 sentences like this, perhaps somebody else should count? With the Emperor riding beside him, Desvaux was cut in half by a cannonball.
Overall, very, very interesting reading, I can see why this is generally recommended as the general Napoleon biography. I didn't! Only those openly denouncing Napoleon were liable to arrest, and even this mild crackdown was carried out in a classically French eighteenth-century manner.
Aug 11, Christopher rated it it was amazing Shelves: Full Disclosure: I received an advance uncorrected copy of this book for free through Goodreads' First Reads program. However, the views expressed are my own and do not reflect that of the author, the publisher, or Goodreads.
Like the great ancient conquerors which he admired, Napoleon stands as a colossus on the historical stage. Yet he is little known nor well understood by people today, especially as his reputation has been marred by superficial similarities to Hitler and the "Black Legend" Full Disclosure: Yet he is little known nor well understood by people today, especially as his reputation has been marred by superficial similarities to Hitler and the "Black Legend" of libelous claims made by his detractors after his fall from power.
Enter this wonderful biography by Mr. Roberts, who has written a couple of books on the Napoleonic era and is currently a fellow of the Napoleonic Institute.
Roberts dispels the Black Legends that cropped up and shows Napoleon to be not some kind of proto-Hitler, but as the last and greatest of the Enlightenment despots that appeared on the world stage during the 18th century. Napoleon had all of the admirable qualities of an enlightened dictator including being intimately involved in the regeneration of France after the devastation of the Terror during the French Revolution, being a true patron of the arts, establishing equality under the law through the Code Napoleon that would be copied on every continent except Antarctica, and the establishment of a semi-meritocratic system with the legion d'honneur.
He also had the bad qualities too, including the launching of a coup that overthrew an unpopular, but democratic government, the end of most forms of political freedom, especially press freedom, the rare execution of dissidents, the tacit approval of mass murder tactics in the Peninsular War, and, most famously, his pride.
Of course, what Napoleon is best known for are his battles and Mr. Roberts does not fail to deliver as he describes Napoleon's military reforms and his tactical and strategic brilliance quite clearly. His descriptions of specific battles are almost pulse pounding in their descriptions of cavalry and artillery and acts of bravery.
Robert's also brings two very interesting arguments to the table as well. The first is that Napoleon, in contrast to his portrayal by proponents of the "Black Legend", was actually quite warm and and forgiving to nearly everyone, like his hero Julius Caesar.
Not until the end does Napoleon seem to hold a grudge against anyone, but Napoleon never seems to avenge any slights against himself. The second interesting argument is that, contrary to popular belief, the Russian invasion was not the product of massive hubris and ego, but rather the culmination of a series of miscalculations after the peace at Tilsit that any body in a similar position could have made.
Is there any way Napoleon could have planned for the Typhus fever that would ravage his army? And many of his best advisors had been killed or were unavailable to dissuade him from war with Russia in any meaningful way, though many of his advisors at the time did try to. And, yes, there were a few places where Napoleon could have stopped his army and gone into winter quarter before arriving in Moscow, but he reached those sites so early in the campaign that he could be forgiven for wanting to drive into Moscow and seek out a decisive victory.
Certainly Napoleon was a proud, perhaps even egotistical man, but Mr. Roberts ably argues that Napoleon was just as brilliant as Napoleon thought himself to be.
Napoleon's personal life is also given equal weight and one feels a sense of sadness from Josephine's infidelities at the start of their marriage, the pain of their divorce for dynastic reasons, and the fact that though his second marriage to Marie Louise seemed a happy one and would produce a son whom Napoleon would dote on, after leaving her for the front in Napoleon would never see his second wife or son again and Marie Louis would soon cheat on him and seemingly hate him so soon afterwards, even going so far as to trying to turn their son against him after his death.
And speaking of his death, the last chapter of the book describing Napoleon's exile on St. Helena is almost excruciating as the great man seems to slowly dissolve away within a few years after his death.
Roberts brings Napoleon to life quite well. The only black mark I have against this book is that Mr. Roberts argues that Napoleon was a witty tease and that many of his more eyebrow raising quotes were made in jest. But this is one area where Mr.
Roberts fails to make that case convincingly as some quotes would have a remark that this was said in jest and others wouldn't. However, this is a rather small mark against an otherwise great biography. I highly recommend this to anyone who is interested in knowing more about the great Emperor of the French Empire. Nov 26, Jean rated it really liked it Shelves: I have been fascinated with Napoleon for as long as I can remember. Needless to say I have read extensively about him.
This new book about Napoleon was given to me by a friend who knows of my obsession. He was a general by age 24 an emperor at age He promoted on merit not birth ran I have been fascinated with Napoleon for as long as I can remember.
He promoted on merit not birth rank or political favor and changed the French military and government accordingly. In research for this book Roberts walked almost everyone of the 60 battlefields. The effect is a huge, deep, witty, humane, and admiring biography of pages.
The Napoleon painted here is a whirlwind of a man, not only a vigorous and supremely confident commander, but an astonishingly busy governor, and correspondent. Roberts points out that Napoleon was a master of multitasking, had a great sense of humor and was a great negotiator. Throughout his life, Napoleon wrote and spoke of himself as though he was already an immortal: Napoleon would therefore be delighted to know that he is the subject of historical obsession nearly two centuries after his death.
Robert has been indefatigable in tracking down memorabilia and visiting sites of battles, palaces and places of exile. This is all richly depicted and woven into a narrative that is told with the aplomb of an accomplished historical storyteller.
Roberts points out that the laws and structure of modern France, indeed, to a significant degree, of all Europe, derive from those created by Napoleon. If you are interested in Napoleon I would recommend this book. View all 4 comments.
Oct 22, Leah rated it it was ok Shelves: Abandoned at a third of the way through.
Napoleon on Napoleon: An Autobiography of the Emperor by Napoléon Bonaparte
The book's getting great reviews so it must be one of those cases where the author and reader simply don't 'gel' but I'm finding it as turgid as wading through treacle. After reading some truly great, well-written histories and biographies over the last few years, this one is simply failing to inspire my interest - despite the fact that Napoleon must surely be one of the most fascinating characters in history. Oh well! Mar 02, John Blumenthal rated it liked it. One more page and I would have fallen on my sword.
This review and others can be found on BW Book Reviews. Basically, I literally know nothing about Napoleon.
For most of the book, I legitimately thought that Napoleon was a part of the original Revolutionary government and then he weaved through to the top or was at the top for a while. That's why I was always super confused when I read about Marie Antoinette and why they never mentioned Napoleon.
All because I never really looked into post-revolutionary topics since I just like dear Marie. This book, alas, is not for a noob such as myself. It's about pages long and I listened to it. If I had been reading it, I may have given up and shelved it under a book I'm pausing for whatever reason.
Follow the Author
There were just so many names, some were important and some weren't. It covered basically everything about Napoleon. I would have been much happier with a book only about his childhood or rising through the ranks or his downfall or his marriages and affairs.
It came down to me literally knowing no names and having to try to get everything down. My caveat is that this book is well-written. It truly is, and Roberts tackles this huge topic very well. Even though I had no clue who some people were, I could keep track of most things and make some connections to an earlier part of the book.
The biggest thing was that this book challenged my view of Napoleon. I've always heard of him as a horrible man and no one really liked him, but, really, he seemed pretty decent and respected people no matter what rank they were. Sure, I don't agree with his land grabs, but he wasn't some demon antichrist I've heard for most of my life. While I wouldn't recommend this book for a beginner, I do think it's something valuable that people who actually have background knowledge to read or have in their collection of books about him.
I sat before this very daunting looking book, coming in at over pages, feeling slightly excited as my expectations where high after Dr Roberts last offering. I have read a few books about Napoleons campaigns before but never had I taken a look at the entire life of the man. I am pleased to write that this book delivers an informative and enthralling read that sees the pages melt away as you are pulled into Napoleons life. This book is very balanced, with the author trying to peel back the st I sat before this very daunting looking book, coming in at over pages, feeling slightly excited as my expectations where high after Dr Roberts last offering.
This book is very balanced, with the author trying to peel back the stories and legends around the man to tell as best as possible the real story behind the man. This book is a must read for anyone that loves history. Feb 17, Antenna rated it it was amazing. I embarked on this great slab of a historical biography - pages excluding sources and notes - in an attempt to understand to what extent Napoleon was truly "great", particularly after reading a popular biography of Josephine which seemed to sell him short.
In the course of wading through the mud and slaughter of his interminable military campaigns, I concluded that he was a remarkable man whose greatness stemmed from enormous energy and vision, insatiable curiosity, the capacity to absorb a h I embarked on this great slab of a historical biography - pages excluding sources and notes - in an attempt to understand to what extent Napoleon was truly "great", particularly after reading a popular biography of Josephine which seemed to sell him short.
In the course of wading through the mud and slaughter of his interminable military campaigns, I concluded that he was a remarkable man whose greatness stemmed from enormous energy and vision, insatiable curiosity, the capacity to absorb a huge volume of facts, the confidence to take risks in putting ideas into practice, great tactical skill, flexibility and speed in conducting campaigns - when he had a single enemy to contend with and a small enough army to control personally - undeniable courage, a keen sense of self-publicity and understanding of how to motivate men at all levels - this sometimes deserted him - through a mixture of praise, rewards and decisive orders when needed.
He was also capable of moments of refreshing candour and regret as to his shortcomings, and possessed a sense of humour and charm which captivated even some of his enemies. On the downside, his desire to emulate Caesar and Alexander the Great may have led to megalomania, his attention to detail made him a control freak, as Emperor he made himself an unbridled political dictator, although he listened to the opinions of others and adopted a more democratic approach towards the end when he was fatally weakened.
His continual exaggeration of enemy losses and playing down of his own may have been judicious PR, but suggests a failure to face up to his frequent squandering of the lives of the men he had inspired to follow him. He was a male chauvinist - although perhaps most men were at the time - and he made some major errors.
The most costly of these was the attempt to fight on two fronts simultaneously - Russia and Spain, and to allow himself to be lured as far as Moscow, over-extending his supply lines and then underestimating the time needed to limp back to France before the onset of winter.
The shocking death toll of more than half a million soldiers, and the destruction of his horses made it hard to put up an effective defence with fast-moving cavalry when the extent of his conquests set most of the rest of Europe against him.
He picked the wrong issues for stubborn obsessions, such as an unworkable scheme to block trade with Britain with which he annoyed the Tsar by trying to impose it on Russia, or the rejection of fairly reasonable peace terms when his luck had run out. In an academic yet mainly very readable text, the author fired me with some of his own enthusiasm for Napoleon.
I found myself rooting for him and wishing he had desisted from some campaigns to build his reputation as a social reformer - even as a prisoner on Elba, he arranged the provision of fresh water, improvement of roads, irrigation schemes, etcetera.
He may of course have been in a cleft stick, in that he had to wage war to avoid being overrun by belligerent neighbours outraged by his assumption of a crown. I realise that many chapters on military campaigns are unavoidable, and was impressed to learn that the author had clearly tramped many of the sixty main battle sites in person, but I found the information perhaps inevitably too condensed with indigestible lists of names of commanders, companies, details of troop movements, villages and rivers.
It is frustrating that maps are not always supplied, and when included, often omit place names mentioned in the text, an indication of location, topography and scale to help one understand the course of events. I did not want to interrupt my reading to go and search for these details elsewhere. It would have been helpful to include more of the factual information in clear tables, charts and timelines - together with better maps- for easier reference.
Overall, this is an impressive work which has increased my understanding and appreciation of a fascinating historical figure. I think a man like Napoleon deserves a book as big as this. People still laud him and scorn him in equal measure. His enemies in battle decided to study his methods of warfare just to be able to fight him.
He set precedents in military strategy that were adopted by his peers and successors. He constantly read and studied war strategy, topography. He left nothing to chance. He believed wars and battles could won and lost due to the finest detail. The downside of the book is his self praise and exaggeration on a lot of issues: The author has visited various battlefields won and lost in the pursuit of Imperial France. May 03, Andy Miller rated it it was amazing.
This fine biography is as thorough as it is balanced. The exhaustive research by Andrew Roberts included thousands of letters written by Napoleon that were not available to other biographers as well as letters written by others and memoirs of many people from the day. The balance comes from critical examination of the sources, Roberts discusses whether certain letters and memoirs were self serving or accurate and looks to other sources to aid in that balance The biography adds not often found nua This fine biography is as thorough as it is balanced.
The balance comes from critical examination of the sources, Roberts discusses whether certain letters and memoirs were self serving or accurate and looks to other sources to aid in that balance The biography adds not often found nuance to Napoleon. As a soldier he witnessed the surrender of the Swiss Guards by Louis XVI, Napoleon remembered that when he later ruthlessly crushed citizen resistance in Paris before he went to Egypt.
Shortly before the fall of Robespierre, Napoleon was plotting with Robespierre's brother, after the fall, Napoleon was justifiably concerned that his involvement would be discovered The biography recounts Napoleon's victorious Italian campaign giving credit to Napoleon's superior strategy and military reforms. The Egyptian campaign is detailed and is an example of Roberts' balance. Napoleon brought many writers and scientists with him and Roberts shows that Napoleon's intellectual curiosity and respect for Egyptian history was sincere, but Roberts also contrasted Napoleon's record of respect and magnanimous treatment of defeated soldiers with his barbaric treatment of the defeated soldiers in the Egypt and Palenstine campaigns with Roberts concluding was due to the color of their skin The biography follows Napoleon's return to France when he learns of military advances against France.
This included Napoleon's coup to become ruler. It was not democratic, the legislative assemblies were against it but were intimidated by Napoleon's injection of military force but Roberts notes that such force was unsuccessful earlier in the French Revolution due to citizen revolt, but by this time the citizens were tired of the upheaval and welcomed Napoleon's ascension to power. Roberts describes Napoleon's victories against France's enemies, not only eliminating threats to France but expanding terrority and gaining allies through force and intimidation.
Roberts gives credit for defeating superior forces to Napoleon's superior tactics and reformed, modern armies. He also gives credit to Napoleon's easy rapport with his soldiers something his rivals would never even consider Roberts spends much time on Napoleon's political, social and legal reforms which had impacts long after his defeat.
Even while Napoleon became more and more of a dictator, he instituted egalitarian and republican reforms which were welcomed not only by the French people but also the people of defeated countries. Contrary to much of our history, even the dictator Napoleon was not simply another Bourbon king, his reforms were real and may well have prevented a long time Bourbon restoration after Napoleon's defeat.
Roberts makes a convincing argument that Napoleon was just as interested in reforming France and Europe as he was in making war The lead up to Napoleon's defeat is of course recounted. Roberts notes that many of his enemies eventually copied Napoleon's military reforms such as younger generals, merit promotion and modern strategies. Napoleon also made mistakes, his attempted blockade against England may have lead to his war with Russia and while Napoleon did not initially plan on going to Moscow in that war he later made misteps which caused him to change his mind and go there with disastrous results.
Napoleon needlessly added enemies and a draining and dilution of his armies, he did not have to make Sweden an enemy and his campaigns in Spain and Portugal took needed soldiers and resources against the real threats to France The biography intersperses the military campaigns and political reforms with Napoleon's personal life. He initially loved Josephine and was faithful to her only to learn of her infidelity.
But Napoleon forgave her though he went on to a series of mistresses and his eventual divorce from her for a male heir and political alliance pursuant to new marriage was done so with tempered feelings, they maintained a long and warm correrspondence long after the divorce.
His marriage to the Austrian princess was not just of convenience but the one woman who repeatedly appeared in his life, even in his defeat, was his Polish mistress.
NAPOLEON: A Biography
There is much in this thorough and complete biography that is not touched upon in this review; all the more reason to read it yourself! Mar 05, Jerome rated it really liked it.
In this rich, vibrant, engaging, and accessible biography, Napoleon comes off as a soldier-statesman who had just the right balance of skill and luck and was always astute and flexible enough to come out on the winning side of pretty much everything and anything. Napoleon was nothing if not energetic and ready to tackle whatever problems arose, and Roberts does a great job fleshing out this side of him.
A lot of times, Napoleon seemed to have a perfect grasp of both the big picture and all the d In this rich, vibrant, engaging, and accessible biography, Napoleon comes off as a soldier-statesman who had just the right balance of skill and luck and was always astute and flexible enough to come out on the winning side of pretty much everything and anything.
A lot of times, Napoleon seemed to have a perfect grasp of both the big picture and all the details that made it upa quality that was obvious on the battlefield but one that, remarkably, he demonstrated as a statesman as well of course, luck had much to do with it as well. Napoleon also had a vengeful streak that could be petty; his will stated that he would leave money to a wannabe Wellington assassin.
Roberts is a gifted writer, and his biography is brisk and very readable, and the balance of detail ensures that the narrative never bogs down or becomes superficial. The narrative starts off a little slow, but soon becomes thoroughly enjoyable.
Also, it often seems like Roberts credits Napoleon for trends that had begun without his direct involvement the Napoleonic codes, for example. Needless to say, the book is fairly admiring for the most part. Well-paced, well-researched, readable, and comprehensive. Jan 09, Keenan Johnston rated it really liked it.
Prior to reading this, I had the perception that Napoleon was a vicious conqueror who ravaged his way through Eastern Europe. While not a saint though he did try canonizing himself , Roberts paints a very fair, balanced and detailed account of his ascent to power, leadership abilities, governing philosophy, personal life, and ultimate demise.
This book has meticulous detail of major campaigns in Egypt, Austria and Russia, much of which can be skimmed over, but I appreciate the amount of researc Prior to reading this, I had the perception that Napoleon was a vicious conqueror who ravaged his way through Eastern Europe.
This book has meticulous detail of major campaigns in Egypt, Austria and Russia, much of which can be skimmed over, but I appreciate the amount of research that went into this book, and I would put Napoleon as one of the great leaders of all time for both his ability to inspire a country and his governing philosophy. I really liked the account of his youth and teenage years where his ambition really developed. He was antisocial and got picked on a lot for being from the French conquered island of Corsica with lesser nobility.
To compensate, he read voraciously and excelled in school. His remarkable memory for military history and geography influenced his philosophy for military tact, employing armies that were extraordinarily mobile and quick to strike and which could live self-sufficiently off of the land versus relying entirely on supplies.
Napoleon was also before his time in his ability to manipulate the media and create a celebratory aura and illusion of decided victory in every battle.
He closed 60 newspapers and built incredible national unity by controlling the media. Any newspaper that published articles disrespectful of the social authority or armies was suppressed. He also blockaded the circulation of foreign newspapers to foster national French unity. As a military general and governor he was beloved. He was approachable with all ranks of the army and would remember obscure facts about everyone he met, including the lowliest soldiers. He endeared himself to the military and created lifetime pensions for veterans and widowed families.
He abolished tariffs which helped stimulate economic development, ended feudalism, financially restructured the government by bringing down state debt, and imposed toleration of all religions, though he himself was not a religious man. I also enjoyed the account of his love life, particularly with Josephine to whom he wrote love letters every day from the battlefields. Despite his confident demeanor, he felt tremendous heartbreak at hearing about Josephine's affair.
Though he forgave her, Napoleon went on to have many affairs and at least 2 illegitimate children after divorcing Josephine once she was unable to produce a male heir. While in exile, he wrote that during his entire life, he was never in love, except to Josephine for perhaps a little while. Roberts remains impartial throughout the biography and equally acknowledges Napoleon's military blunders which eventually led to his demise and exile on St. Helena where the final 5 years of his life were lonely and wrought with disease and solitude.
Mar 07, Kinksrock rated it really liked it. This biography has much in common with its subject in that it is great but flawed. The Napoleon presented in this book is indisputably great.
He is recognized as one of history's great generals, with an impressively strategic mind until he made the mistake, later repeated by Hitler, of invading Russia , but he is more than just a military man.
He was incredibly progressive for his time, passing laws to expand the civil rights of minorities, such as Jews, and taking steps to harmonize weights and This biography has much in common with its subject in that it is great but flawed.
He was incredibly progressive for his time, passing laws to expand the civil rights of minorities, such as Jews, and taking steps to harmonize weights and measures. He was also a lover of the arts. There is much about him to admire. But "great" does not mean everything he did was "good". Rather than cast Napoleon as an "Anti-Christ," butcher on the battlefield, or a bloodthirsty ego-maniac, Roberts casts Napoleon in the same vein that Napoleon saw himself as, one of the great individuals of history: Upon the eve of the twin battles of Jena and Auerstedt, in which Napoleon's forces would utterly devastate the Prussian armies and lead to the emperor's swift capture of Berlin, forcing a Russian intervention, the German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel wrote of his encounter with "The World Soul" speaking of Napoleon whom sent shockwaves through Hegel's body.
Napoleon, likewise, as Roberts' shows throughout his work, thought of himself as a great "World Soul" pushing the progress of humanity forward. Rather than an usurper and tyrant, as Anglo-American scholars have often depicted Napoleon for us, Napoleon himself saw himself as the embodiment of French Enlightenment philosophy. Any student of the French political philosophers would naturally agree, the Enlightenment philosophes were extremely elitist and saw institutional absolutism as the only avenue for the progress of humanity since the normal peasant was a brutish animal by their very nature.
In this same tradition, Napoleon truly did see himself as the pinnacle of the Enlightened absolutist political tradition, and paradoxically for many, saw himself as the protector of the French republican tradition despite becoming an emperor.
Contrary to Anglo-American scholarship, Napoleon isn't a pseudo-republican despot, but the very epitome of Enlightenment republicanism, or better, Enlightened Absolutism. Roberts highlights some of the battlefield brutality that Napoleon was capable of committing. He has no apologetic defense for Napoleon's invasion of Russia and the fallout that ensued, Roberts equally makes clear that many Europeans, but especially Frenchmen, died in Napoleon's gambit to wrangle Europe under his boot.
Yet, at the same time, Roberts doesn't shorthand Napoleon's battlefield brilliance, his ability to inspire friends and foes alike, but more importantly, does not attempt to destroy Napoleon's Legal reforms: Napoleon, as a Law Giver, is perhaps the most successful legislator or administrator of any figure in Europe in the last years. Napoleon's institutions that embodied meritocracy, religious tolerance and pluralism, and a legal structure that certainly curbed the influence of favoritism in politics due to one's noble birth rank have remained, at least structurally, the mainframe of modern European law ever since Napoleon's ride across Europe.
His armies may have failed to conquer Europe, but his legislation, in bitter irony, conquered his conquerors. Roberts' chapter on the Napoleonic Code is where his work shines most brightly, even if it is a short chapter--for Napoleon himself saw his civil code as his greatest accomplishment nearing his deathbed p. Upon reading Roberts' book, while it seems impossible that a figure as towering as Napoleon can ever have "the definitive one-volume biography," Andrew Roberts comes as close as it can get.
One is left only to awe at Napoleon's meteoric rise to power, his battlefield ability, his own egoism, his political ability as lawgiver and administrator which is where Napoleon has been most successful, now, almost years after his death, his legal reforms still have more widespread influence than his armies ever died , and at the same time, one can see the propaganda machine and battlefield brutality hard at work.
Roberts has written a biography of Napoleon not casting him as "Great" in the sense that Americans view the deified trio of Presidents: Washington, Lincoln, or FDR, but "great" in the historiographical sense--no other figure from held the world in his hand, and moved almost 20 years of European history with a single breath, or had the rest of a continent trembling in their boots and reacting to his every move.
Andrew Roberts's biography is titled Napoleon the Great in the UK, so one would expect nothing but uncritical praise. On the other hand Roberts is British and one would expect the scorn reserved for tyrants and demagogues. What we get in fact is a deep analysis of the man, of his times, of his accomplishments, and of his failures and while there is praise aplenty, there is no shortage of criticism and myth busting.
The first hint that this will not be a hatchet job comes from Roberts's life itself: And Napoleon promoted soldiers to general if they won battles, he appointed civil servants that could deliver results. He destroys the British myth that Napoleon was some sort of ogre. His portrait shows readers a charming man who instantly commanded the love of the crowds he addressed and who encouraged frank and forthright speech.
An ogre would have executed an innkeeper who overcharged him for breakfast, but Napoleon laughed at the innkeeper's quip on why he overcharged him.
Another myth to go is that of the great love affair between Napoleon and Josephine. Roberts replaces that romance with a more realistic assessment. Napoleon held a deep affection for Josephine and he came to realize she had been his good luck charm.
And perhaps she was first amongst all his loves. But for Napoleon, destiny and legacy came first. And Napoleon's legacy did not emerge from Austerlitz or Rivoli or from any of his battles. Roberts makes a perfect case that his greatest achievement was without a doubt his Civil Code. He did not actually write the code, that was the work of one of the many men he appointed because of their abilities, but only Napoleon could have pushed it through a throng of competing interests. With it, he standardized all the different legal customs in force in different regions of France.
He forced his Code upon Germany, Spain, Italy and interestingly no one got rid of it after Napoleon was overthrown. Oh, and Napoleon also standardized weights and measures.
Would we use the metric system today without him? But Roberts is not all praise. He faults Napoleon when he needs to and Napoleon did make mistakes. Those he made at Waterloo cost him his throne for good. That loss was his own fault, brought about through series of mistakes and bad judgement that cannot be blamed on weather conditions or his own health on that fateful day.
Napoleon bashers are quick to point out the lavish sums and titles Napoleon bestowed on members of his family, and in one of this book's few shortcomings, Roberts shies away from the obvious explanation, or at least doesn't emphasize it enough: Napoleon was Corsican and Corsicans, like Sicilians and Sardinians, find it difficult to trust those outside the family.
Given that background, one ought to be astonished at how many appointments were made outside Napoleon's relatives and Corsican friends. During his exile on St Helena, Napoleon recounted his glory days for the benefit of his biographer.
Looking back on all he had experience, he supposedly said "Quel roman que ma vie! Critical but fair and sympathetic.
Vincent Poirier, Quebec City. Interesting enough edited version of Napoleon's writings on St Helena. Oct 03, Joshua Neil rated it really liked it. It's hard to review a book which is effectively Napoleon's autobiography: But I'll do both anyway. Regarding the layout and publication of the notes: Napoleon's thoughts are well arranged into chronological sequence, simplified and clarified with minor footnotes and appropriately titled. That said, th It's hard to review a book which is effectively Napoleon's autobiography: That said, there are a number of spelling mistakes throughout the book - I'm not sure whether these are in the original notes or are simply the error of a terrible proofreader - and the pictures which are dotted throughout the book seem sometimes suitable, sometimes entirely random.
Judging the notes themselves, the bulk of the book is also a mixed bag. Napoleon's memories are at times fascinating and emotive descriptions of events and battles we often only see in statistics and lists - his early child, Toulons and Waterloo are particularly vividly brought to life here. At other times, it devolves into a bland and turgid list system itself, narrating troop numbers at length or giving over to pointless recriminations.
Napoleon is, of course, something of an unreliable narrator of his own life, with the suspicion often occurring that he is using his famous self-promotion and putting down his enemies even when they won; that said, at times he is admitting of mistakes, glowing in his recommendations of individuals, and when discussing the Legion d'Honneur, moving. The book, then, is very much a mixed bag: Adina rated it really liked it Dec 13, Dipesh Suthar rated it it was amazing Oct 16, Inti Willka rated it really liked it Jun 09, Stephen Walton rated it really liked it Jul 26, Aaron rated it it was ok Oct 13, Lakshmi Naidu rated it it was amazing Mar 06, Larissa H rated it really liked it Feb 19, Com rated it did not like it Dec 02, Julianne rated it really liked it Jul 21, Ibru Sidd rated it it was amazing Mar 02, Mohd Tarique rated it really liked it Apr 27, Jovany Agathe rated it liked it Sep 30, Pratibha Pandey rated it it was amazing Apr 24, Isabellah Hamilton rated it it was amazing Jun 29, Joe Amber rated it it was amazing May 31, Abhishek Kumar rated it liked it Sep 28,
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