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.
"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 ReviewsMost Helpful
By RD on 20-07-15
Napoleon pyscopath or hero?
Would you listen to Napoleon the Great again? Why?
Notwithstanding other criticisms of the narratorI enjoyed his reading, this is a long book, get ready for dull bits! And I forgive his mis pronunciation. if any body should be criticised its the editor. A great listen authoritative informative. You wont even think of buying this unless you like history and want to know Napoleons role in shaping the world, which emerges as the book unfolds. If you fit this its worth it.
What three words best describe Stephen Thorne’s voice?
informed, well researched
8 of 9 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Annette on 12-05-15
An In-Depth Account that Humanizes Bonaparte
This book makes no claim to be anything but a defence of Napoleon Bonaparte as someone deserving the title "Great." While never failing to highlight Napoleon's mistakes or weaknesses, the author certainly does make the case for his greatness. He does so with loads of factual information, including many telling and surprising comments from Bonaparte himself taken from some of his thousands of letters.
Roberts' biography serves to dispel the various, often inane historical caricatures of Bonaparte and draws the listener into appreciating the compelling, enigmatic nature of a brilliant man with unsurpassable charm, energy, leadership skills, strategic vision, a ridiculous attention to details, a manic desire for knowledge, and of course a longing to rule and mould society.
My main criticism of the book is that the author continually introduces new characters of which there are many, often with only a fleeting description, and then refers to said characters over and over again without ever referencing his original description; this left me almost continually uncertain of the identity of many individuals whom the author referred to, particularly pertaining to those in the military and government. More frustratingly, I often didn't even know which countries these men represented. Perhaps this is one "flaw" that is made less evident by reading the book instead of listening to it.
Still very much worth the read. I learned a great deal about the main character, and about French and European history that I was previously unaware of.