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The Rise Of Napoleon Bonaparte Hardcover – November 21, 2000

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (November 21, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 046504879X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465048793
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #446,134 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Asprey, a former marine officer and military historian (Frederick the Great), has produced the first volume of a new two-volume biography of a man who was not only one of the greatest generals in history, but also instrumental in the formation of modern Europe. Covering the period from Napoleon's birth in 1769 to his brilliant victory at Austerlitz in 1805, Asprey charts his subject's rise through military school and his path through the treacherous byways of the French Revolution. Though there is a tendency in the earlier portions of this book to reduce the Revolution to a reign of terror, making it difficult to explain why Napoleon would have been such a fervent follower of the radical Jacobins, Asprey generally provides clear explanations of the political environment in which Napoleon acted. The story of the campaign in Italy that brought the young general his first fame is well told in its military, political and diplomatic aspects, and Asprey's fascinating account of the campaign in Egypt is particularly valuable. Here the author corrects misconceptions of Napoleon's actions, such as the notorious "abandonment" of the French army in Egypt. The military aspects of the story tend to overwhelm the narrative in the final chapters, and a summary chapter would have been helpful. But the chapters are bite-sized, and the text is easy, so this book should find a wide readership among those who enjoy biography, history and military history. Illus. (Dec.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

It is not easy to write an objective biography about a historical giant like Napoleon. His admirers hail his military genius and his indispensable role in destroying the tottering ancien regime throughout western Europe. His detractors emphasize his fatal conceit, his contempt for those who did not share his vision, and his perversion of republican ideals for his own aggrandizement. Asprey is a marine veteran and military historian. However, in this first installment of a projected two-volume biography, Asprey concentrates as much on Napoleon's personality development as he does on his military exploits. Asprey is clearly fascinated by his subject, but he reveals Napoleon to be a remarkable but deeply flawed man. Both his arrogance and his deviousness are evident here, but so are his extraordinary talents, including an uncanny ability to understand and to connect with the concerns of ordinary soldiers. This is a superbly written and exciting chronicle of the rise of a historical figure who remains a fascinating, compelling enigma. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

Thus the main historical question should be, shouldn't Napoleon have been more of an aggressor than he in fact was?
R. A Forczyk
Anyway, for anyone who simply wants to learn more about Napoleon and the times in which he lived, this is a fine book to read.
C. Monk
Although a great book, packed with military campaign detail, I was looking for more of a Biography of Napoleon's life.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 54 people found the following review helpful By David G. Bradford on November 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Few historians could write this most impressive and thoroughly researched work about Napoleon Bonaparte. Written in a clear and insightful style, Asprey has mined sharp insights, shrewd observations, and new understanding of one of history's greatest (and most complex) leaders, from a gold mine thought long paid out. What readers should gain from this important biography, that is also a political-military-economic history, is that there are distinct doctrines for war, peace, and more importantly, intervention to impose the will of peace, law, and government upon nations which threaten another's security. Asprey accomplishes this by using a very well written and interesting story line that chronicles Napoleon's life in a manner used all too infrequently by other writers of historical lives. It is never dull, often revealing, and thoroughly fascinating. The reader finds the secrets of Napoleon's great abilities by understanding his childhood, his youth spent in bookstores, and his lust for reading and writing. Like Asprey's "War in the Shadows," this book will enlighten, infuriate, and hopefully inform a whole new generation of 21st century historians, members of the armed forces, and business leaders to understand that genius come from knowing, doing, and believing in one's innate abilities. Napoleon Bonaparte certainly understood his and Robert Asprey reveals all in this first of two volumes. The next volume, The Fall of Napoleon, will be eagerly anticipated.
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46 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Tom Holmberg on February 14, 2001
Format: Hardcover
In what is perhaps the first full-length biography of Napoleon in English of the twenty-first century, Robert Asprey turns to the nineteenth century for his inspiration. Asprey, a former U.S. Marine captain, has previously written on military topics. The present volume covers Napoleon's life up to his stunning victory at Austerlitz. Primarily a military history, in spite of Asprey's apparent aspirations as revealed in his "Note to the Reader," Asprey glosses over lightly Napoleon's political achievements. The political changes wrought by Brumaire as quickly dealt with in one short chapter. The Rise of Napoleon Bonaparte therefore does not replace other biographies of Napoleon, such as Vincent Cronin's, that gives more attention to the political and cultural aspects of Napoleon's life. Asprey points out Napoleon's egoism, his ambition, his quick temper, all of his faults, but does not dwell on them unduly. The events of Napoleon's life are given precedence over moralizing about or psychoanalyzing that life. Generally Asprey avoids trying to divine what Napoleon was thinking and instead tries to explain Napoleon's actions in the context of the times and of Napoleon's life.
Written in forty-eight short chapters, the book is based entirely on secondary sources, both in English and in French. Asprey relies largely on the classic work of historians of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries for his sources, though he does make extensive use of research done by modern historians in journals and in papers presented to the Consortium on Revolutionary Europe. And Asprey often lets Napoleon speak for himself through liberal use of the Emperor's voluminous correspondence.
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64 of 71 people found the following review helpful By R. A Forczyk VINE VOICE on July 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Robert B. Asprey, a former US marine officer, has set out to write a two-volume history covering the rise and fall of Napoleon Bonaparte. In this first volume, Asprey covers Bonaparte's career from his birth in Corsica in 1769 to his triumph at the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805. This two-volume effort is not based on any newly-unearthed primary sources or recent archaeology. Rather, Asprey seeks to provide a balanced account of Napoleon's rise and fall using standard sources such as his correspondence, while avoiding the hero-worship or tyrant-bashing style of so many other accounts of the French emperor. In great part the author succeeds, making this volume an excellent introduction to Napoleon's life.
Organizationally, the book is divided into 48 short chapters that generally cover 2-6 months of Napoleon's life. Each chapter is succinct but well-written, although the author does tend to over-use modern colloquialisms. Readers seeking in-depth analysis of battles or political and economic decisions will be disappointed by this approach, which tends to scratch only the surface of key events, but the editor may be more responsible for brevity than the author. Ending this volume at Austerlitz is an odd choice, since the victories of Jena and Friedland were yet to come. Probably the Brumaire coup of 1799 would have been a better place to conclude the rise of Napoleon, with a middle volume to cover 1800-1812 and a third volume to cover his fall in 1812-1821. The lack of any kind of summation or commentary chapter as conclusion to this volume is also odd.
The only significant historical error in the book is the confusion over the Caffarelli brothers, both of whom were French generals who served under Napoleon in this period.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Emmy on January 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is a beautifully written, excellently researched book on Napoleon Bonaparte's rise to power, from the perspective of his military leadership. Although a great book, packed with military campaign detail, I was looking for more of a Biography of Napoleon's life. I suppose you can argue that his battles were his life, but I wanted more his life, and less battle detail! I still give this five great stars, it deserves it, but let you know that if you are looking for a standard biography and not a military history, this one isn't it. Well done, nonetheless.
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