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Nsored words This is the first life of Napoleon in any language that makes full use of After seeing Abel Gance s five hour silent Napoleon in which Napoleon isn t even the ruler of France by the end I realised I knew surprisingly little about his life Most of what I know is gleaned from a Nelson jigsaw from when I was a kid there were battles and the usual broad caricatures from pop culture So I had been looking for a good biography to explain how France went from Revolution to an emperor in fifteen years and how it was such an outsider Which Boers book does perfectlyThe first of a two part biography starts as a pretty standard chronological narrative Broers has all of the papers and previous biographical works to use and is generous both in crediting legions of others works but also clear when those biographies may have had political undertones No apologist for Napoleon what you get is a fascination for the man through each page particularly in the books second half when Napoleon takes charge At this point the book is less narrative taking on areas such as the Civil Code the army his disastrous naval adventures as well as contextualising Europe at the time Broers has an excellent prose style and it is a real disappointment when you get to the end and the Eastern campaigns hasn t started yet The second volume has the wars good and bad exile and which will be well worth waiting for



All previous lives of Napoleon have relied on the memoirs of others than on his own unce I can not say enough good things about this book unlike many history books even though the subject matter Napoleonic Code The Directory s Financial reorganization etc could reasonably be considered dry the author s writing style makes it flow like a novel Well written engaging and full of new information unearthed by the Napoleon Society this book makes use of source material directly from Napoleon himself It uses previously unknown letters and diaries and gives a accurate picture of this powerful man Previous histories have often relied on third party descriptions or other nation s interpretations of Napoleon The author is uite a talented historian and has the skill to put his words to paper where it is approachable to non specialists and non history majors as well as being full of information and details for history majors or buffs of the Napoleonic Period Highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in Napoleon and his impact not only on France but on all of Europe

Michael Broers Ì 1 CHARACTERS

His newly released personal correspondence compiled by the Napoléon Foundation in Paris It seems rather timely that I should find the energy to write a review on a book about Napoleon Bonaparte Living in the current wave of nationalistic fervor and a kind of search for catharsis in the personage of a strong leader I find myself in a rather dangerous spot where all the liberal ideas born out of the Enlightenment which I treasure are now at odds with the times I live in And the very legacy of the man whom I have always found to embody the Enlightenment itself in its boldest and most daring form seems to now overshadow those idealsNevertheless I am without hesitation to say that there is still to be discovered of the man as the years go by since his final defeat at Waterloo It has been claimed that there are now books and counting written of Napoleon than anyone else in the history of mankind and for every generation there is a version of the Man that fits the spirit of the times In the first half of the 20th Century historians have seen him to be the progenitor of modern tyranny auguring the specter of Fascism and Stalinism that would symbolize the epoch that would define us hence Seen through this prism it is not surprising to find Napoleon s name lumped together with the likes of Hitler and Stalin or even Mao These were men of vision who found in themselves through their ambition to have access to higher truths entitling them to exterminate and shape humanity for a greater good This is scarcely an accurate assessment of Napoleon himself and it is ludicrously unfair As David Chandler writes on the whole Napoleon was inspired by a noble dream wholly dissimilar from Hitler s Napoleon left great and lasting testimonies to his genius in codes of law and national identities which survive to the present day Recent historiography shows this to be true as new evidence sheds light into the muddied legacy of Napoleon whom Andrew Roberts astutely calls the Enlightenment on horseback and it is in these new efforts that we ought to find a truth in which we may be able to grasp the bigger pictureIt is not without reason that I should say that Napoleon Soldier of Destiny is a misnomer of a title As narrative histories go Michael Broers style is that of history written like a novel His research draws heavily from and acknowledges both first and second hand sources the most prominent among them are the imperial correspondences thousands of letters written by the Emperor himself which are now being continuously published through the efforts of the Fondation Napoleon in Paris From these he assiduously deconstructs the Myth from which the Man lays behind Far from being fated to be what he would ultimately become Napoleon the little Corsican Ogre and Thief of Europe as the great Kings of that continent would later call him would indeed trek the tenuous road to power through sheer force of will and determination The Napoleonic Legend actively cultivated by the Emperor and his followers is slowly stripped bare to show a man deeply flawed yet also very lucky as well as very gifted Born on the island of Corsica and of deep Italian roots Napoleon was of a breed of people once thought of and dismissed as nothing but a culture of clannish divides and indeed he was The struggle of the Two Corsicas delineated by a highland interior and the coastal regions from which he would grow up would serve to shape Napoleon in his impressionable youth Broers here paints us a picture of an insular culture that is in conflict with itself and is imbibed with a tradition of vendettas and blood feuds from centuries of history But far from being the ogre he is caricatured to be Napoleon would prove to be a highly cultured European himself indeed the most modern and forward thinking of the age rivaling even Thomas Jefferson perhaps his only intellectual match Though himself once a Corsican Patriot hating France for its imperialism and oppression which he perceived it inflicted upon his homeland Napoleon would eventually turn his back on his country and embrace that colonial power through the forces that governed the French RevolutionNapoleon was a man of the Revolution and of the Romantic and Enlightenment ideals that birthed it through Rousseau Voltaire Goethe and others He found rebirth in its tumultuous events and the paths that were opened by its turbulent force fed his ambitions His education at Brienne and later at the Ecole Militaire would lend to the flower of his intellect to bloom as he engrossed himself in the study of history philosophy and military tactics He actively participated in Corsican politics in an effort to bring the island closer to the sphere of France and its new Republic This would inevitably put him at odds with his hero Pasuale Paoli and he would later find himself and his family effectively banished from their homeland It is at this point when Napoleon becomes truly French albeit awkwardly As if a blind man learning to see with his hands Napoleon would learn to be French and he was determined to do so The Revolution provided him his chance and at the Siege of Toulon in 1793 find his place of solace in the battlefields of Europe As a hard line Jacobin revolutionary Napoleon would nevertheless grow to despise the uncouth mob unchecked by any power and authority as they laid waste to the vestiges of the Ancien Regime He would survive the vagaries of the Revolution from the Reign of Terror to the Thermidorian Reaction that would lead to the fall of Robespierre and his associates at the Committee of Public Safety And from the ruins of a tattered France still embroiled in republican fervor against the monarchies of Europe who despised the Revolution and its dangerous liberal ideals Napoleon would rise to the top both by accident and design as well as the miscalculation of others that would underestimate himA general at 24 and an emperor at 35 Napoleon s exploits are as fascinating as the epic novels that they have since inspired if not so From the Campaigns in Italy to the desert sands of Egypt and the Near East Napoleon would learn his hardest lessons in life that of state building in an age of warfare Through his policy of ralliement to rally and amalgame to co opt Napoleon would establish the Italian Republic later the Kingdom of Italy his personal fiefdom a template for what would later become the First French Empire And yet Broers emphasizes so on what Napoleon did with the power he acuired through his career From the Coup of 18th Brumaire which overthrew the French Directory itself the heir of the once powerful Committee of Public Safety he would maneuver into the best position and place himself as the First among a triumvirate of executive officials called the Consulate and eventually concentrate power on himself But far from the tyrant that many would claim him to be Broers argues that Every step Napoleon took in his public life was imbued with a sense of the political which in hard reality meant extending his personal grip on power in order to turn that power into a creative force for reforming first France and then Europe It is not without tireless effort that Napoleon was able to reestablish order through the creation of French institutions that survive to this day reforming education and culture as well as codifying a set of Civil Laws that we now aptly call the Code Napoleon Through his brother Joseph and the shadowy uisling Charles Maurice de Talleyrand he brokered the Peace of Amien which bought France time to reorder herself and her armed forces for the inevitable wars that would badger her until the fall of Napoleon himself Hand in hand with these were the instruments of repression that would inspire later regimes such as police surveillance and mass censorship as well as the hated blood tax of conscription which would ultimately rend from France her menfolk to litter across the battlefields of EuropeBroers is harsh in his judgment of Josephine de Beauharnais but not without reason It is to the detriment of Napoleon that he would find love in a woman that could not love him back nor reciprocate his needy approach to love Her infidelities would change him from the Romantic idealist of Rousseau s mile to the cynical realist much in keeping with his role as Emperor of the French Nor is Broers any gentler towards the family dynamics that would lead to the sour relationship of the Bonaparte and the Beauharnais families that were only bound together through Napoleon and his love for Josephine and her children It would later prove fatal to him when he gave away the crowns of Europe to his siblings who would all be disappointing failures Napoleon s naval lacuna is also treated with contempt for the waste he had wrought to his own navy moving and ordering them around in maps as though they were units on land taking no account of the differences between sea warfare and land warfare considering them one and the same Such ignorance on Napoleon s part would eventually lead him to lose any chance at destroying his most intransigent of enemies Great Britain at the Battle of Trafalgar Nevertheless such events are in the future as Professor Broers finishes off his volume with the Creation of a Masterpiece the Grande Arm e Broers argues that though the Code Napoleon would far outlive the Empire it is the radical formation of the Grande Arm e that is perhaps of greatest note in his career As the heir to the French Revolution Napoleon would create a staggering force of men and material that would make short work of the empires that surrounded him toppling crowns left and right But far from the elite collective force that we take for granted the Grande Arm e was but a product of ralliament and amalgame enforced through assimilation of a people and a vision Napoleon s tireless efforts to imbue the French people with a collective sense of duty and national identity that centered upon the idea of greatness though merit and perseverance is inflamed by the meritocracy which he promoted throughout his reign Therein lies the genius of Napoleon I Emperor of the French People who not but a decade before had executed a king and abolished hereditary privilegeThe book ends with that fateful march of one of the greatest land armies the world had ever seen throwing itself into the dark come what may It is with apprehension that Napoleon looks towards the future as he leads an untried and untested army of peasants farmers and workers that have so far shaped the destiny of France Before them lie the fields of Austerlitz Napoleon s and indeed the Grande Arm e s greatest triumph Perhaps the title really isn t a misnomer Perhaps it is merely a condensation of that genius and single mindedness that would lead towards EmpireWhen asked about her extreme parsimony despite the vast fortunes lavished upon her by her new imperial brood Letizia Bonaparte Napoleon s mother would say Rings adorn fingers but they may fall off and the fingers remain

10 thoughts on “Napoleon

  1. says:

    I can not say enough good things about this book unlike many history books even though the subject matter Napoleonic Code The Directory's Financial reorganization etc could reasonably be considered dry the author's writing

  2. says:

    This is the first part of a new two volume biography of Napoleon Broers draws extensively from both primary and secondary sourcesHe starts this biography in Corsica with his family history and the material circumstances surrounding his childhood in Corsica This is a necessary and important component Gives a better perspective on the man and his role in the broad Socio historical processesHe goes on to chronicle

  3. says:

    For all of their variety in number size and detail biographies of Napoleon Bonaparte can be grouped into three categories The first are those such as Patrice Gueniffey's Bonaparte 1769 1802 which concentrate on Napoleon the person analyzing

  4. says:

    This new multi volume biography of Napoleon and he certainly was significant and monumental enough to deserve the expansive treatment of multiple books uses the complete personal papers of the emperor for the first time Ending on the precipice of war with the Third Alliance in 1805 the jumping point for some of Napoleon's greatest military triumphs Broers gets us as deeply into the personality of Bonaparte as

  5. says:

    After seeing Abel Gance's five hour silent Napoleon in which Napoleon isn't even the ruler of France by the end I realised I knew surprisingly little about his life Most of what I know is gleaned from a Nelson jigsaw from when I was a kid there were battles and the usual broad caricatures from pop culture So I had been looking for a good bio

  6. says:

    Napoleon Bonaparte is one of history's abiding geniuses and most fascinating personalities He has therefore been one of its most studied characters too and any biographer covering yet again the story of his life has to overcome skepticism about how much new there can possibly be to say about him While I'm certainly no expert on the subject I've read enough to recognize Michael Broers' new book as an exciting fresh contribution to our und

  7. says:

    It seems rather timely that I should find the energy to write a review on a book about Napoleon Bonaparte Living in the current wave of nationalistic fervor and a kind of search for catharsis in the personage of a strong leader I find myself in a rather dangerous spot where all the liberal ideas born out of the Enlightenment which I treasure are now at odds with the times I live in And the very legacy of the man whom

  8. says:

    Of the two full Napoleon biographies I have read the other being Andrew Roberts' this is my favorite It covers the period from his birth to the midpoint of the Third Coalition it goes through Trafalgar briefly but does not get to Austerlitz The book really lets the reader get to know Napoleon but not so much through psychic analysis as much as through selective use of memoirs letters and secondary sources It reveals Napoleon's strengths vo

  9. says:

    Be aware that this is volume one of at least a two volume biography Nowhere on the cover does it indicate the first volume and I purchased the book thinking it was a complete history This book covers his early life up until the beginning of his European campaigns in 1805 The author is interested in why Napoleo

  10. says:

    Meh I think I've read too many biographies on Napoleon or maybe too many in a row Yep that's defenitely the problema geat book just r