Napoleon the Great

  • by Andrew Roberts
  • Narrated by Stephen Thorne
  • 37 hrs and 22 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Napoleon Bonaparte lived one of the most extraordinary of all human lives. In the space of just 20 years, from October 1795, when as a young artillery captain he cleared the streets of Paris of insurrectionists, to his final defeat at the (horribly mismanaged) battle of Waterloo in June 1815, Napoleon transformed France and Europe.
After seizing power in a coup d'état, he ended the corruption and incompetence into which the revolution had descended. In a series of dazzling battles, he reinvented the art of warfare; in peace he completely remade the laws of France, modernised her systems of education and administration, and presided over a flourishing of the beautiful Empire style in the arts.
The impossibility of defeating his most persistent enemy, Great Britain, led him to make draining and ultimately fatal expeditions into Spain and Russia, where half a million Frenchmen died, and his empire began to unravel.
More than any other modern biographer, Andrew Roberts conveys Napoleon's tremendous energy, both physical and intellectual, and the attractiveness of his personality even to his enemies. He has walked 53 of Napoleon's 60 battlefields and has absorbed the gigantic new French edition of Napoleon's letters, which allows a complete reevaluation of this exceptional man.
He overturns many received opinions, including the myth of a great romance with Josephine: She took a lover immediately after their marriage, and, as Roberts shows, he had three times as many mistresses as he acknowledged.
Of the climactic Battle of Leipzig in 1813, as the fighting closed around them, a French sergeant major wrote, "No-one who has not experienced it can have any idea of the enthusiasm that burst forth among the half-starved, exhausted soldiers when the Emperor was there in person. If all were demoralised and he appeared, his presence was like an electric shock. All shouted 'Vive l'Empereur!' and everyone charged blindly into the fire."
Andrew Roberts is a biographer and historian of international renown whose books include Salisbury: Victorian Titan (winner, the Wolfson Prize for History); Masters and Commanders; and The Storm of War, which reached number two on the Sunday Times best seller list. Roberts is a fellow of the Royal Societies of Literature and Arts. He appears regularly on British television and radio and writes for the Sunday Telegraph, Spectator, Literary Review, Mail on Sunday and Daily Telegraph.

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Audible Editor Reviews

One of the most influential leaders in history who reshaped France and Europe into what they are today, Napoleon Bonaparte's life and times are explored in Napoleon the Great written by award-winning and best-selling writer, modern historian and biographer, Andrew Roberts. This enlightening historical audiobook edition is narrated by British actor Stephen Thorne. Listeners hear of Napoleons incredible rise to power in France - his battles both in war and in love as well as his fall at the hands of his greatest enemy, the British Empire. Available now from Audible.

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What the Critics Say

"Roberts...writes with great vigour, style and fluency." (Dominic Sandbrook, The Sunday Times)
"Magisterial and beautifully written.... A richly detailed and sure-footed reappraisal of the man, his achievements--and failures--and the extraordinary times in which he lived." (Jeremy Jennings, Standpoint)
"Roberts tells his story with vigour and aplomb. And even critics of the emperor will recognize that there is much new information in Roberts's 814 pages, while the frequent complaint that is made of a tendency among authors to foreshorten the military narrative is not suitable here." (Charles Esdaile, Literary Review)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

A brilliant history

It was a brilliant compelling history. Well told, thorough and enthralling. A must for history fans
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- Simon

Monumental biography of a complex man

This is a very long listen worthy of an academic thesis, but fortunately is also a pacy and lively account an extraordinary life. I hadn’t realized that Napoleon was not just a war-monger but also a scholar and political reformer whose influence is still felt in Europe to this day. The author is obviously an admirer and I felt he glossed over the damage to people and countries, including France, caused by Napoleon’s desire to dominate Europe. Napoleon was obviously an outstanding military tactician, at least until 1812, driven by a sense of destiny to be one of the great men of history like his heroes Caesar and Alexander the Great.

Napoleon waged many battles and the book describes them all: the strategy, ordinance, types and numbers of combatants, fatalities, wounded and prisoners are all logged in meticulous detail that will please those interested in military history. I let much of this wash over me, however, I absorbed enough to get a real feel of what war is like and am left saddened by the hundreds of thousands of young men’s lives sacrificed by Napoleon’s self-confident hubris. Woven into the narrative of continuous military action there are many fascinating details of Napoleon’s personal and political life much of which was gleaned from his prodigious output of letters.

I enjoyed the book and am left with the impression of a complex man full of contradictions in his attitudes and behaviour. I didn't give it 5 stars as for many listeners, including me, there is just too much detail about every battle he fought.

I think the narrator is very good.. My ‘O’ level French from decades ago isn’t good enough to criticise his pronunciation as some have been able to do.
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- Kirstine

Book Details

  • Release Date: 20-02-2015
  • Publisher: Audible Studios