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Napoleon in Egypt [Kindle Edition]

Paul Strathern
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $18.00
Kindle Price: $11.84
You Save: $6.16 (34%)
Sold by: Random House LLC


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Book Description

“Europe is a molehill….”
Everything here is worn out…tiny Europe has not enough to offer.
We must set off for the Orient; that is where all the greatest glory is to be achieved.”

Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt was the first Western attack in modern times on a Middle Eastern country. In this remarkably rich and eminently readable historical account, acclaimed author Paul Strathern reconstructs a mission of conquest inspired by glory, executed in haste, and bound for disaster.

In 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte, only twenty-eight, mounted the most audacious military campaign of his already spectacular career. With 335 ships, 40,000 soldiers, and a collection of scholars, artists, scientists, and inventors, he set sail for Egypt to establish an Eastern empire in emulation of Alexander the Great. Like everything Napoleon ever attempted, it was a plan marked by unquenchable ambition, heroic romanticism, and not a little madness.

Napoleon saw himself as a liberator, freeing the Egyptians from the oppression of their Mameluke overlords. But while Napoleon thought his army would be welcomed as heroes, he tragically misunderstood Muslim culture and grossly overestimated the “gratitude” he could expect from those he’d come to save. Instead Napoleon and his men would face a grim war of attrition against an ad hoc army of Muslims led by the feared Murad Bey. Marching across seemingly endless deserts in the shadow of the pyramids, suffering extremes of heat and thirst, and pushed to the limits of human endurance, they would be plagued by mirages, suicides, and the constant threat of ambush. A crusade begun in honor and intended for glory would degenerate toward chaos and atrocity.

But Napoleon’s grand failure in Egypt also yielded vast treasures of knowledge about a culture largely lost to the West, and through the recovery of artifacts like the Rosetta Stone, it prepared the way for the translation of hieroglyphics and modern Egyptology. And it tempered the complex leader who believed it his destiny to conquer the world.

A story of war, adventure, politics, and a clash of cultures, Paul Strathern’s Napoleon in Egypt is history at once relevant and impossible to put down.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In 1797, eight years after the French Revolution, an obscure general, Napoleon Bonaparte, became a national hero after a brilliant campaign in Italy. Equally impressed with his own genius, he formed the idea of conquering Egypt and, like his idol, Alexander, marching on to India. Nonfiction author and award-winning novelist Strathern (Big Idea: Scientists Who Changed the World) turns up plenty of surprises in an enthralling history of the first of Napoleon's world-class debacles. With extraordinary logistical skill and luck, Napoleon led 40,000 men and hundreds of ships across the Mediterranean to Alexandria in 1798. Defeating local armies and occupying the capital, Cairo, proved easy, but difficulties arose despite genuine efforts to replace a corrupt government with French ideals of freedom and justice. A nasty insurgency developed; Admiral Nelson destroyed Napoleon's fleet; and the British also frustrated his invasion of Palestine. Abandoning his tattered army after a year under brutal desert conditions, Napoleon returned to France, pronouncing the invasion an unqualified success. Stories of powerful men making disastrous decisions have an endless fascination, and Strathern makes the most of it in this entertaining account. Illus., maps. (Oct. 21)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Here is a compelling narrative of an epic collision between two civilizations. In May 1798, Napoléon Bonaparte launched his ill-fated invasion of Egypt. Among his 40,000 invading troops (the Army of the Orient) was a small group of French scholars whom Napoléon included in the expedition for the sole purpose of examining all aspects of Egyptian culture. Although the French fought magnificently, the ravages of disease and British naval power brought them to their knees—but not before Napoléon's "savants" unveiled the grandeur of an ancient civilization and changed forever perceptions of the history of humankind. In this riveting account of that colossal campaign, British writer and philosopher Strathern ("Philosophers in 90 Minutes" series) evokes the incredible hardships endured by French soldiers in an unforgiving land. At the same time, he offers a poignant view of a Muslim society overwhelmed by invaders who brought death and destruction in the name of brotherhood and equality. Strathern's skillful use of memoir and other primary sources brings to life one of the most fascinating campaigns in military history. Libraries that have already purchased Juan Cole's Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East should still consider this more cohesive and less didactic account of a long-ignored Napoleonic misadventure. Specialists should also be intrigued by Strathern's analysis of the complex motives for France's invasion of Egypt. Highly recommended for both academic and public libraries.—Jim Doyle, Rome, GA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1243 KB
  • Print Length: 514 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0553385240
  • Publisher: Bantam (October 21, 2008)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001IAE25A
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #586,092 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
35 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Devil is in the Details March 10, 2009
By Diotima
It's the careless statements about collateral details which cast doubt on the accuracy of the main narrative. For example:

page 7: Alexander's "body was brought back to Alexandria to be buried in a magnificent tomb, made of gold and glass". Not the tomb. The original coffin was made of gold and later replaced by Ptolemy X about 89 BC with one of glass (or, more likely, translucent calcite).

page 79: "Dolomieu ... discovered a seven-ton stone sarcophagus covered in hieroglyphs which he took to be the long-lost tomb of Alexander the Great. ... Several decades later this sarcophagus would be identified as that of Nectanebo I". Actually Nectanebo II. (The author might have given us the sequel: that is, the rumour that Napoleon had wanted to be buried in the sarcophagus of his hero, Alexander, and so had it sent off to France in 1801. But the ship was captured by the British and the sarcophagus ended up in the British Museum.)

page 56: "Nelson ... was a battle-scared veteran, having lost his right eye leading his men ashore at Corsica". Not quite. He lost the "sight" of his right eye not the eyeball. (He never wore an eye-patch.)

page 136: Cairo's police chief, Barthelemy, is described as being "habitually dressed in a large white turban". This is unlikely as he was "a Greek Christian". In the Ottoman Empire, only Moslems were allowed to wear white turbans. Greeks had to wear blue and Jews yellow turbans.

page 160: "Nelson watched from the "Vanguard" as the sun sank behind the fort at the end of the Aboukir peninsula..." and the author then goes on to describe a great deal of the "Battle of the Nile" until "around eight p.m." as if the conflict had taken place in the dark.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Flawed Perfection April 26, 2009
This is an exceptionally well done book. The scope of this work is on the mark. It describes the political, military, and scientific aspects of the expedition, giving each aspect its due. It also adroitly covers the other players in the story: the Egyptians, their Mameluke overlords, the Ottoman Empire, and the British Navy.

It offers food for thought on Napoleon's motivations concerning the expedition as well as later after be became ruler of France. There are also insights regarding interactions between westerners and middle eastern people which, depending on your point of view, may have application to the present.

All of the information is relayed in logical, smooth flowing prose that is a pleasure to read. Detracting from this pleasure are errors of fact/terminology that create doubt about the author's accuracy. In addition to errors of fact cited by other reviewers, I would like to point out two:
* Providing background between Egypt and Europe, the author writes "...the charms of Cleopatra, queen of Egypt, proved irresistible first to Julius Caesar and then to Mark Antony, while rivalry between these two ambitious men plunged the Roman Empire into civil war." (pp. 7 & 8). False. Mark Antony was a loyal adherent of Julius Caesar and was one of his most trusted lieutenants. There was no rivalry leading to war between these two men. After Julius Caesar was assassinated, there was a rivalry between Mark Antony and Octavian (later Augustus) which resulted in civil war. The author's confusing Julius Caesar with Octavian is a salient error given this is basic history.

* On page 88 the author writes, "...he supervised the 200 men of his platoon in setting up their camp,...". I don't believe that a platoon comprised 200 men. Platoons are much smaller.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent work November 26, 2008
Illustrated with maps, diagrams and photographs this book looks at Napoleon's ambitious overseas adventure... his invasion of Egypt while he was serving the Republic as a general.

Fresh from his campaign in Italy, Napoleon collected a large fleet, transports and a small army, all with the consent of the Directory. His objective was to take over Egypt, which was nominally a part of the Ottoman Empire, and in doing so spread the ideals of the Revolution and to threaten British holdings in India.

The author does an excellent job of discussing the practical problems involved in collecting the invasion force, the initial campaign for Egypt, Napoleon's attempts to rebuild that ancient country's social structure in accordance with his ideals of liberty and fraternity and his scientific mission to explore the land of the Pharoahs. The book is not only well-researched but it is also a gripping read. I feel that it could have done without intimate details of Napoleon's love life, but that may be just me. Otherwise, this is an excellent military and social study.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars High Adventure! March 27, 2009
The author conveys the drama and adventure of the young Napoleon and his army in Egypt. The prose can't help but grip the reader, even a reader who knows the outcome of the stories, battles and adventures will keep turning pages.

The author describes and documents his take on Napoleon's motives and the political pressures on him. He describes how he acquired his resources, refreshingly with facts and explanations. (The financial end of campaigns is often generalized in this type of narrative.) He follows the chronology of events with a few fittingly placed interludes that span time that give a flavor of the daily life in Cairo. He describes some of the interpersonal differences and loyalties and in the end summarizes what happened to the survivors later in their lives.

By describing how the taxes were collected, how Beys paid their tributes, how "justice" was meted, how trade was insecure and thereby constrained, Strathern showed not just how the Mameluke system worked, but also how Egypt related to the Ottoman Empire.

A few reviewers have noted inaccuracies but none of these will be memorable or relevant to the general reader and none changes my overall response to the work. Paul Strathern can write and bring to life the drama, tragedy and significance of the short incursion.

I highly recommend this book for general readers of history.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Birthday gift for my mother
My mother is a history buff. Loves all things French. I bought it for her birthday; her request. She l-o-v-e-s this book, reads a chapter a day. Can't get enough of it.
Published 7 months ago by Aref Dajani
5.0 out of 5 stars Muy bueno
Es agradable y muestra una fase de la vida de Napoleón desconocida para los lectores desprevenidos !!!. muy buena adquisición.
Published 16 months ago by Marcela Salcedo
5.0 out of 5 stars Great addition to Napoleon's life
Paul Stathern delivers a fascinating account on Napoleon's invasion of Egypt covering the military, political and cultural significance of this historical Middle Eastern invasion. Read more
Published on August 19, 2011 by Lehigh History Student
5.0 out of 5 stars part of my book club
in this book, this guy paul talk about Napoleon as a graffiti writer and how he and his men, his soldiers tag their name in the sarcophaguses of the pharoah!
Published on March 28, 2011 by krs-one
4.0 out of 5 stars All Aspects of Napoleon's Egyptian Campaign
In this book the author Paul Strathern majestically weaves together the military, political and cultural aspects of Napoleon's campaign in Egypt including the scientific... Read more
Published on January 3, 2011 by W. B. Smith
3.0 out of 5 stars Beware of fundamental errors in astronomy by a purported mathematician
Chapter 1 begins with an account of Eratosthenes's measurements of the circumference of the earth and the distance from the earth to the sun. Read more
Published on June 19, 2010 by mortal_wombat
4.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining read
After having my interest stirred by a long ago documentary, I've been searching for just such a book like this, chronicling Napoleon's adventure in the East (or the Orient as he... Read more
Published on January 31, 2010 by A. Woman
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling Read
I chanced upon this book when looking for books on Egypt. The Napoleon connection was intriguing, especially since I knew nothing of this episode in Napoleon's career. Read more
Published on December 16, 2009 by M. Anderson
5.0 out of 5 stars well written historical
In 1797, General Napoleon Bonaparte led a successful campaign in Italy, which led to him becoming a hero in France. Read more
Published on September 19, 2009 by Harriet Klausner
5.0 out of 5 stars Lively account
I enjoyed every page of this superb history. In excellent, entertaining prose we are given the reasons and context for this strange expedition, the many personalities involved, and... Read more
Published on January 8, 2009 by Enslowe
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