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Napoleon: A Political Lifeby Steven Englund
"Steven Englund is something of a popularizer himself, but in the older and more estimable fashion of the man of letters....[H]e has serious and suggestive points to make, and he makes them in a luminous prose that few professional historians can match. His book is by far the best of the recent batch of Napoleoniana, and the best biography currently available." David A. Bell, The New Republic (read the entire New Republic review)
Synopses & Reviews
This sophisticated and masterful biography, written by a respected French history scholar who has taught courses on Napoleon at the University of Paris, brings new and remarkable analysis to the study of modern history's most famous general and statesman.
Since boyhood, Steven Englund has been fascinated by the unique force, personality, and political significance of Napoleon Bonaparte, who, in only a decade and a half, changed the face of Europe forever. In Napoleon: A Political Life, Englund harnesses his early passion and intellectual expertise to create a rich and full interpretation of a brilliant but flawed leader.
Napoleon believed that war was a means to an end, not the end itself. With this in mind, Steven Englund focuses on the political, rather than the military or personal, aspects of Napoleon's notorious and celebrated life. Doing so permits him to arrive at some original conclusions. For example, where most biographers see this subject as a Corsican patriot who at first detested France, Englund sees a young officer deeply committed to a political event, idea, and opportunity (the French Revolution) — not to any specific nationality. Indeed, Englund dissects carefully the political use Napoleon made, both as First Consul and as Emperor of the French, of patriotism, or "nation-talk."
As Englund charts Napoleon's dramatic rise and fall — from his Corsican boyhood, his French education, his astonishing military victories and no less astonishing acts of reform as First Consul (1799-1804) to his controversial record as Emperor and, finally, to his exile and death — he is at particular pains to explore the unprecedented power Napoleon maintained over the popular imagination. Alone among recent biographers, Englund includes a chapter that analyzes the Napoleonic legend over the course of the past two centuries, down to the present-day French Republic, which has its own profound ambivalences toward this man whom it is afraid to recognize yet cannot avoid. Napoleon: A Political Life presents new consideration of Napoleon's adolescent and adult writings, as well as a convincing argument against the recent theory that the Emperor was poisoned at St. Helena. The book also offers an explanation of Napoleon's role as father of the "modern" in politics.
What finally emerges from these pages is a vivid and sympathetic portrait that combines youthful enthusiasm and mature scholarly reflection. The result is already regarded by experts as the Napoleonic bicentennial's first major interpretation of this perennial subject.
"The central question of any study of Napoleon is whether he saved the French Revolution or buried it....Napoleon emerges from this study not as a great leader but as a lucky one." Publishers Weekly
"Englund should be commended for frequently challenging us to reconsider Napoleon and his turbulent era." Washington Post, Book World
"An all-encompassing study . . . Englund is a stylish writer . . . A rigorous contribution to the literature surrounding Bonaparte and his time." Kirjus Reviews
"[A] lively biography . . . [Englund] provides readers with a fuller view of the man and his actions." New York Times Book Review
"Remarkable . . . Englund has produced a definitive work that belongs in every European history collection." Library Journal
About the Author
Steven Englund earned his Ph.D. at Princeton University. He has taught courses on French history and on Napoleon at UCLA, the University of Paris-VIII (Saint-Denis), and Paris's prestigious School of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences. He is the author of The Inquisition in Hollywood (with Larry Ceplair), Man Slaughter: A True Story of Love, Death and Justice in America, and Grace of Monaco. He lives in Paris.
Table of Contents
Book I: Allons enfants de la Patrie
I. Napoleone di Buonaparte
Unsceptered Isle: Corsica in the Eighteenth Century
The Buonapartes of Ajaccio
II. The Making of the Patriot
To France (Autun and Brienne)
Gentleman and Officer
Enfant de la Patrie (Psychology)
Enfant de la Patrie (Ideas)
III. The Unmaking of the Patriot
Annuit Coeptis: The French Revolution and the Emergencen of "the Political"
Divergences: Corsica and Napoleon in the Revolution
Styles of Patriotism: Paoli versus the Bonapartes
Interlude: Writer in the Making?
Napoleon in France (May-October 1792)
Forced Departure (1793)
IV. Robespierre on Horseback
"The Supper at Beaucaire"
The Dinner at Ancona
The Spinner's Plans
Vendémiaire, Year IV
Book II: Le jour de gloire est arrivé
V. Love and War
Clisson in Love
A Rose by Any Other Name
The Improviser of Victory: The First Italian Campaign (1796-1797)
"Three to One": The "Moral" Elements of Victory
VI. Apprenticeship in Statecraft: Italy and Egypt
Death in Venice (of a Jacobin Reputation)
France Seen from the Army of Italy
A Passage to India: Egypt, 1798-1799, the Military Operation
Sultan El-Kebir — Governing Egypt
Egypt: A Balance Sheet
VII. Power (I): Taking It (Brumaire)
"Politics" and "the Political"
"The National Mess": The State of France, 1798-1799
The Return of the Prodigy
Brumaire: An Actor's Nightmare
VIII. Power (II): Using It (The Consulate)
The Pastiche of the Year VIII
War in Italy (Again): The Second Italian Campaign, 1800
The Blocks of Granite: Le Politique
Economy, State, and Society: Bourgeois Consolidation?
The Politics of Depoliticization...
...and the "National" Fix
Napoleon and the Bonapartes
Book III: Contre nous, de la tyrannie
IX. Power (III): Naming It (From Citizen Consul to Emperor of the French)
Parallel Lives, Parallel Plots (1800-1802)
Consul for Life (1802-1804)
The War of Dirty Tricks
Getting Worse: The Coming of the Empire
Stupete Gentes!: The Republican Emperor
Legitimacy: The Never-Ending Quest
X. La Guerre — Encore (et pour toujours)
The Failure of the Peace
Forming the Third Coalition
The Great Campaign (1805)
From Grande Nation to Grand Empire
The Fourth Coalition (1806-1807): The Prussian and
the Russian Campaigns
XI. The Empire — and Its Fissures (1807-1810)
Imperator and Imperium
The Janus Face of the Grand Empire
The War of the Fifth Coalition: 1809
The Pope and the Emperor
Book IV: L'Etendard sanglant est levé
XII. The Great Unraveling (1810-1812)
Highwater: Divorce, Remarriage, Heir
The Crisis of 1810-1811
The Blockade (II)
The Napoleonic Dream: Political Economy as National
The Flight Forward
The Leader and His Men
His Master's Voice
XIII. The Collapse (1812-1814)
Pius and Impious (The Pope and the Emperor Again)
1813: The Crusade of the Sovereigns
The National Revival Manqué
The Lion in Winter: The Champagne Campaign (1814)
XIV. Nation-Talk: The Liberal Empire
"Vesuvius Next Door to Naples": Napoleon on Elba
(May 1814-March 1815)
The Kingdom of the Weather Vane: Restoration France
The Eagle Has Landed
The Hundred Days (March 20-June 29)
Sub specie aeternitatis...
The Jacobin Specter
The Nation-Talker: Napoleon Chameleon
Waterloo: Vae Victis
Abjection (II), Abdication (II)
XV. Shadows: "The Liberal Empire"
The New "Saint"
Sickness unto Death
The Napoleonic Tradition(s)
Map on page
Art following page
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