Historians of Napoléon Bonaparte must assess his role in causing the wars named after him. Esdaile assigns heavy responsibility to the first consul and self-crowned emperor yet declines to analyze the period in exclusively personal terms. Rather, he develops the intersection between Napoléon’s militaristic proclivities and the international relations on which he dreamed of hammering his name into history. Much of Esdaile’s narrative recounts conflicting agendas of the European powers and dwells particularly on suspicions of Britain by Austria, Prussia, and Russia. In degrees, these powers all pursued their traditional foreign objectives, sparking several wars entirely unrelated to France’s territorial expansion. In consequence, France, spurred by its leader’s lack of political restraint and thirst for conquest, was able to war advantageously against one or two powers at a time until the formation in 1813–15 of the alliance that finally defeated Napoléon. Recapturing the flux of international diplomacy and Napoléon’s congenital rejection of compromise, Esdaile persuasively places the diplomatic foundation to popular military histories about the Napoleonic wars. --Gilbert Taylor
Deft, authoritative, often strikingly counter-intuitive, this is the definitive word on the subject.