Napoleon's Wars: An International History

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Penguin, Oct 27, 2009 - History - 656 pages
2 Reviews
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A glorious?and conclusive?chronicle of the wars waged by one of the most polarizing figures in military history

Acclaimed on both sides of the Atlantic as a new standard on the subject, this sweeping, boldly written history of the Napoleonic era reveals its central protagonist as a man driven by an insatiable desire for fame, and determined ?to push matters to extremes.? More than a myth-busting portrait of Napoleon, however, it offers a panoramic view of the armed conflicts that spread so quickly out of revolutionary France to countries as remote as Sweden and Egypt. As it expertly moves through conflicts from Russia to Spain, Napoleon?s Wars proves to be history writing equal to its subject?grand and ambitious?that will reframe the way this tumultuous era is understood.

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User Review  - Hae-Yu - LibraryThing

General histories of the age focus about 80% on Napoleon, throw in some Nelson and Wellington, and round out with the other players - Russia, Austria, Prussia, etc. This telling focuses from the ... Read full review

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An overall excellent book on the strategy, politics, and major events of the Napoleonic Wars. Esdaile is careful not to delve too deep into individual battles whose historical analysis as he states has been endlessly reviewed but focusing on the themes, general developments, and personalities involved at the time. It is a critical history that challenges the arguments of whom he deems "apologists" of Napoleon by noting Napoleon's seemingly endless ambition for victory that eventually doomed his empire to a massive alliance dedicated to destroying him. Of great benefit to the historical reader is that Esdaile rightly points out his avoidance of succumbing to the "great man" theory of history involving important figures like Napoleon, Napoleon is important but he is not the centre of all the causes and effects of the war. Esdaille gives important analysis of other figures such as the emperors of Russia and Austria, the diplomats, lobbyists such as Polish nationalists, and the situations facing soldiers on the move.
The book is generally a bit dry, the reader will not find any of the stories of sensuous relations involving Napoleon as in other books involving him, as it is focused on the more sober issues of Napoleon's career as a military commander and head of state. It may be criticized for focusing too much of the blame of the wars and France's failure to win on Napoleon's vain ambitious behaviour. Also the density of information covered in each page means that this book is best for an advanced reader or a reader who is very interested in this topic, while it may be difficult for the casual reader who does not have background in the topics described in the book. But overall the detail of this book provides excellent insight into the Napoleonic Wars.

Selected pages


List of Maps Preface and Acknowledgements Maps
The Napoleonic Wars in Historical Perspective
The Origins of the Napoleonic Wars
From Brumaire to Amiens
The Peace of Amiens
Towards the Third Coalition
Zenith of Empire
Across the Pyrenees
From Madrid to Vienna
The Alliance that Failed
The Congress of Vienna
Glossary of Place Names

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About the author (2009)

Charles Esdaile is Professor of History at the University of Liverpool. His The Peninsular War was acclaimed by many reviewers, including Andrew Roberts and Bernard Cornwell.

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