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Napoleon: A Political Life Paperback – April 4, 2005
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Top Customer Reviews
The great strength of the book is its writing style. Englund really captures the drama of the Little Corsican's life, and he sweeps the reader up in it. All of the politics of Napoleon's life is, as you would expect, well covered, but so is his personal and military life. Never did I feel overburdened with detail, and never was the text wanting for humour.
There is, however, some merit in the argument posted by some of the other reviewers that the book assumes too much in the way of background knowledge. This is not an introduction to Napoleon for the novice. While I would not go so far as to say that you need have already read another book on Napoleon to enjoy Englund's work, you should certainly have a reasonable idea of the political zeitgeist he worked in, particularly the French revolution and the foreign (especially British) reaction to it. Ideally, you should also have taken a course in French at some point in your life (and not completely forgotten it). Englund has a somewhat irritating habit of dropping les mots francais at random, and often without translation (although most of the more important French phrases are translated, most of the minor ones are not). C'est la vie.Read more ›
It will satisfy the lay person because it tells a fascinating story about one of history's most interesting and influential human beings, and it tells it exceptionally well. In the process, the reader will gain insights into how a topflight scholar advances his or her field of knowledge.
It will please academics because Englund presents a nuanced revision of the current myths about Napoleon, who, after two hundred years, still stirs passions among his admirers and detractors as though he were living today. The author focuses on Napoleon's evolving political thought and strategy and how his contemporaries actually responded to him, not how we wished they had responded to him. A virtue is that Englund avoids smoothing out Napoleon's past choices and actions through hindsight: Englund emphasizes that actual history is messy; it doesn't come in tidy packages.
The greatest of men, the very few like Napoleon, leave behind an altered world. Englund draws on Christian Meier's masterful biography of Caesar. He frequently compares Napoleon to Caesar, but Napoleon left behind many more permanent structures in France and across Europe thna Caesar did Rome: law code, a system to govern the localities from the center, the Legion of Honor, and in Paris, monuments and buildings and sewer system and roads.
People who won't like the book will most likely object to two things.
(1) It's not a history primer. Englund assumes the reader is conversant with eighteenth-century history history though not at the level of the professional historian.Read more ›
While exposing many of Napoleon's faults as a ruler, Englund makes no qualms about also recognizing the successes he achieved, first as consul, and later as Emperor. The end result seems to cover both viewpoints effectively. All the better is that Napoleon becomes "human," and like all of us, he has his triumphs and his faults. While one can easily want to yell at the dead Emperor for his persistent antagonizing of the European continent, one can also see him as a man who feels as though he carried the weight of France on his shoulders, and his alone. Englund does a fantastic job attempting to balance the pro/con approaches to Napoleonic study. Great read. Definitely worth checking out for anyone wanting a fresh look at l'Empereur.
As one reads the book we are reminded of Napoleon's virtues. He was a brilliant general, obviously, such as the quartet of victories he won in five days a few months before his first abdication. He was capable of genuine love (unlike Mussolini and Hitler). He was willing to listen to the advice of people who disagreed with him, he was capable of being calm and reasonable towards people who had crossed him. (Indeed one future conspirator was automatically promoted to general while imprisoned for another plot.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book is a struggle. Gave up after 80 pages. This is an ongoing confluence of lengthy, meandering and vague thoughts, exponential use of adjectives, over use of the... Read morePublished 6 months ago by E2Rose
Awful. This book is about the author who enjoys his own thoughts and thinks he is also writing prose. Nothing about how Napolean became who is or his influences.Published 8 months ago by dreaming of beaches
Book arrived without dust cover. Since it was for a gift, I was disappointed. Book description did
not indicate this. Otherwise, your service is excellent. G. Olmos
It was interesting to learn more about how the man made laws of the land enduring to this day. More than just a great general.Published on May 13, 2013 by jay padgett
hard to make a biography of Napolean boring, but this book managed it spectacularly. got about a third of the way through and quit.Published on April 25, 2013 by CyberSquirt
I take clients on history tours in France and it has always been a problem recommending a good book for them to read. Read morePublished on March 16, 2013 by DEB H
Englund's book is excellent dealing with the subject that the book implies. I bought this book because most books on Napoleon deal with his military career or 80% of the book may. Read morePublished on January 29, 2013 by Nicholas Roberts
I have read numerous books on Napoleon, and I feel that this book does the best job of capturing the man. Read morePublished on January 16, 2013 by Kevin