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Napoleon: Man of War, Man of Peace
     

Napoleon: Man of War, Man of Peace

by Timothy Wilson-Smith
 

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Napoleon as a man of war was perhaps the cause of more men's deaths than any other martial leader before him. As Timothy Wilson-Smith writes in his introduction, "The paths of glory Napoleon trod led possibly one million Frenchmen, and maybe as many as four million men from other lands, to their graves." His peacetime accomplishments, however, still stand. Indeed,

Overview


Napoleon as a man of war was perhaps the cause of more men's deaths than any other martial leader before him. As Timothy Wilson-Smith writes in his introduction, "The paths of glory Napoleon trod led possibly one million Frenchmen, and maybe as many as four million men from other lands, to their graves." His peacetime accomplishments, however, still stand. Indeed, some credit him with having a vision for a united Europe that has been achieved with the European Union. In meticulous, sometimes harrowing detail, Wilson-Smith surveys Napoleon's liberation of the continent from the old social order and the chaos he caused through years of warfare. Across Europe, in the wake of his armies, villages and cities were destroyed by cannon and fire, and thousands of people turned into refugees. The men who eventually brought Napoleon down, chief among them Castlereagh and Metternich, had a fear of social unrest and an innate conservatism. They failed to grasp that one of Napoleon's most remarkable gifts was bringing about social changes that would outlive his own defeat. Against the horrors of Napoleon's wars, Wilson-Smith outlines such public achievements as the Code Napoleon. Similarly, a passion for the arts led Napoleon to become a great patron of David, Ingres and Gros, and to create various societies and learned institutions that continue in his name. Capturing these contradictions, Napoleon: Man of War, Man of Peace reveals him to have been a man of truly impressive stature. Sixteen pages of black-and-white photographs add to this illuminating and lucid biography that uniquely separates and compares the Emperor's achievements in war and his legacy in peacetime.

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A familiar, cursory look at Napoleon's accomplishments and failures: martial, civil, and cultural. The British author of several painters' biographies, Wilson-Smith has written about Bonaparte before from that point of view (Napoleon and His Artists, not reviewed). Here, he divides his brief work into two principal sections. The first summarizes Napoleon's rise to power, his stunning series of military victories, the growth and decline of the French empire, Waterloo, Elba, St. Helena, and death. (The author takes no position on the question of murder by poison.) For those who have read elsewhere of Napoleon or paid attention in Western Civ, there is not much new save an occasional gripping detail—e.g., the forces of Wellington and Napoleon camped only about 5,000 yards apart the night before the Big One. Too often, Wilson-Smith reaches into his analogy kit and comes up with the unremarkable: "The last and most terrible person to try to play a Napoleonic role in Europe was Adolf Hitler." The second half points out Bonaparte's other well-known achievements: stimulating scholarly interest in Egypt (the author cracks wise, noting that Napoleon "looked ridiculous" in a kaftan and turban), establishing and perhaps even perfecting the French bureaucracy, creating and formalizing the Code Napoléon, doing good deeds in public finance and education, building roads, and supporting some artists and writers. Once again, an occasional detail with a keen edge or a crisp sentence animates the text: Wilson-Smith notes that the French killed some 15,000 wolves between 1805–15 to protect their livestock and observes that Bonaparte "disliked clever women and suspected that those who could look afterthemselves were not truly feminine." He ends by expressing a more-than-grudging admiration for the general responsible for some five million deaths and unimaginable destruction. Of genuine interest are Wilson-Smith's analyses of the various 19th-century paintings of the Emperor. Stale loaf from a famous French bakery. (16 pp. b&w photographs, not seen)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780786710898
Publisher:
Da Capo Press
Publication date:
10/28/2002
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
6.49(w) x 9.53(h) x 1.18(d)

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