Synopses & Reviews
From Alan Forrest, a preeminent British scholar, comes an exceedingly readable account of the man and his legend
On a cold December day in 1840 Parisians turned out in force to watch as the body of Napoleon was solemnly carried on a riverboat from Courbevoie on its final journey to the Invalides. The return of their long-dead emperors corpse from the island of St. Helena was a moment that Paris had eagerly awaited, though many feared that the memories stirred would serve to further destabilize a country that had struggled for order and direction since he had been sent into exile.
In this book Alan Forrest tells the remarkable story of how the son of a Corsican attorney became the most powerful man in Europe, a man whose charisma and legacy endured after his lonely death many thousands of miles from the country whose fate had become so entwined with his own.
Along the way, Forrest also cuts away the many layers of myth and counter myth that have grown up around Napoleon, a man who mixed history and legend promiscuously. Drawing on original research and his own distinguished background in French history, Forrest demonstrates that Napoleon was as much a product of his times as their creator.
"As an exemplary military leader and self-crowned emperor, Napoleon capitalized on his mastery of manipulating traditional media, says Forrest, director of the Centre for 18th Century Studies in England: 'He surrounded himself with journalists and spin-doctors long before it became a tradition of politics....' His savvy in trying to establish his image among all sectors of the population is illustrated by the fact that, during his Italian campaign, he simultaneously published both a revolutionary-minded newspaper and one appealing to worried royalists. Forrest glosses over Napoleon's military exploits and legendary romances to highlight the strategically brilliant Corsican's attention to image and legacy. Napoleon attempted to create a political dynasty, rewarding loyalty from three of his four brothers with kingdoms (the fourth received nothing). Surprisingly, Forrest devotes few words to trusted followers or even the influential women in Napoleon's life; he quickly portrays Josephine as a decadent Creole Eva Peron, primarily enchanted by Napoleon's potential for success and wealth, and his sisters and Marie Louise receive scant attention in spite of their contributions to his empire. With his emphasis on the construction of the Napoleonic myth, Forrest offers an introduction to a fascinating figure that should whet readers' appetites for more on this mesmerizing and complex figure but won't satisfy them. 8 pages of color illus." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
ALAN FORREST is a professor of modern history and director of the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies. He works on modern French history, especially the period of the French Revolution and Empire, and on the history of modern warfare. He serves on the editorial boards of French History and War in History, and is a member of the advisory committee for Annales Historiques de la Revolution Francaise. He lives in York, UK.