Wars Against Napoleon: Debunking the Myth of the Napoleonic Wars

Wars Against Napoleon: Debunking the Myth of the Napoleonic Wars

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by Michel Franceschi, Ben Weider
     
 

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Popular and scholarly history presents a one-dimensional image of Napoleon as an inveterate instigator of war who repeatedly sought large-scale military conquests. General Franceschi and Ben Weider dismantle this false conclusion in The Wars Against Napoleon, a brilliantly written and researched study that turns our understanding of the French emperor on its…  See more details below

Overview

Popular and scholarly history presents a one-dimensional image of Napoleon as an inveterate instigator of war who repeatedly sought large-scale military conquests. General Franceschi and Ben Weider dismantle this false conclusion in The Wars Against Napoleon, a brilliantly written and researched study that turns our understanding of the French emperor on its head.

Avoiding the simplistic clichés and rudimentary caricatures many historians use when discussing Napoleon, Franceschi and Weider argue persuasively that the caricature of the megalomaniac conqueror who bled Europe white to satisfy his delirious ambitions and insatiable love for war is groundless. By carefully scrutinizing the facts of the period and scrupulously avoiding the sometimes confusing cause and effect of major historical events, they paint a compelling portrait of a fundamentally pacifist Napoleon, one completely at odds with modern scholarly thought.

This rigorous intellectual presentation is based upon three principal themes. The first explains how an unavoidable belligerent situation existed after the French Revolution of 1789. The new France inherited by Napoleon was faced with the implacable hatred of reactionary European monarchies determined to restore the ancient regime. All-out war was therefore inevitable unless France renounced the modern world to which it had just painfully given birth. The second theme emphasizes Napoleon’s determined efforts (“bordering on an obsession,” argue the authors) to avoid this inevitable conflict. The political strategy of the Consulate and the Empire was based on the intangible principle of preventing or avoiding these wars, not on conquering territory. Finally, the authors examine, conflict by conflict, the evidence that Napoleon never declared war. As he later explained at Saint Helena, it was he who was always attacked—not the other way around. His adversaries pressured and even forced the Emperor to employ his unequalled military genius. After each of his memorable victories Napoleon offered concessions, often extravagant ones, to the defeated enemy for the sole purpose of avoiding another war.

Lavishly illustrated, persuasively argued, and carefully illustrated with original maps and battle diagrams, The Wars Against Napoleon presents a courageous and uniquely accurate historical idea that will surely arouse vigorous debate within the international historical community.

REVIEWS

“Weider and Franceschi’s outstanding new “must read” book shatters the myth of the so-called “Napoleonic Wars” and compels a long-overdue reevaluation of the image of Napoleon as simply a “war loving conqueror.”
Jerry D. Morelock, PhD, ARMCHAIR GENERAL Editor in Chief (May 2008 issue)

"... the authors argue strongly, persuasively, and intellectually for what is, essentially, the other side of the usual story. They will surely provoke debate within the historical community wherever there is interest in this period. Recommended for all libraries adding to their Napoleonic collections.”
D. Poremba, Library Journal, 01/2008

"supported with maps and diagrams, this courageous book is a very intriguing read."
Skirmish Magazine 04/08

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Franceschi, a retired French army officer and special historical consultant to the International Napoleonic Society (INS), and Weider (The Murder of Napoleon), a businessman and founder of the INS, seek to recast Napoleon Bonaparte as a "peaceful creative genius"-even a "pacifist"-in this provocative apologia. The authors set out to debunk the "myth" that Napoleon's "inexhaustible ambition" was responsible for the eponymous wars that marked his rule in France. Rather, the authors argue, Napoleon was not only "the person least responsible" but also the victim of Revolutionary France's enemies. The authors' favorite villain is the "warmongering" British, but they also apportion blame among Prussia, Spain, Austria and Russia. Napoleon's only ambition was the "great work of reconstructing France," and "the unchanging foundation" of his foreign policy was "the principle of preventing war." They also excuse him for French battlefield losses and attribute the Waterloo defeat to "the most inopportune of thunderstorms." Franceschi and Weider's one-sided, revisionist defense of Bonaparte as "a sensitive soul" with a "pacifist disposition" promises to be controversial. Illus. (Jan. 31)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Skirmish Magazine
supported with maps and diagrams, this courageous book is a very intriguing read.

War Books Out Now
thought-provoking, stimulating and challenging
Library Journal

According to these authors, it is a myth of the Napoleonic wars that Napoleon was a megalomaniacal conqueror who bled Europe dry in order to satisfy his insatiable love for war. Certainly, such is the most widely printed and accepted description of Napoleon's motive. After all, history is written by the victors. In this book, however, retired French general Franceschi and Weider (coauthor with Sten Forshufvud, Assassination at St. Helena Revisited) present a compelling revisionist portrait of Napoleon as fundamentally pacifist. They base this on three sound themes: first, that the European monarchies were thoroughly opposed to the continuance of revolutionary France; second, that Napoleon made constant determined efforts to avoid the inevitable conflicts; and third, that Napoleon never declared war, as he himself stated in exile on St. Helena. In each of these areas the authors argue strongly, persuasively, and intellectually for what is, essentially, the other side of the usual story. They will surely provoke debate within the historical community wherever there is interest in this period. Recommended for all libraries adding to their Napoleonic collections. (Illustrations not seen.)
—David Lee Poremba

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781932714371
Publisher:
Savas Beatie
Publication date:
03/04/2008
Pages:
264
Sales rank:
1,023,262
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.00(d)

What People are saying about this

Jerry D. Morelock
"Weider and Franceschi's outstanding new "must read" book shatters the myth of the so-called "Napoleonic Wars" and compels a long-overdue reevaluation of the image of Napoleon as simply a "war loving conqueror."--(Jerry D. Morelock, PhD, ARMCHAIR GENERAL Editor in Chief.)

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The Wars Against Napoleon: Debunking the Myth of the Napoleonic Wars 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hyperbole and diatribe rather than history. The author has strong opinions but mostly uses Napoleon's own propaganda to prop his arguments.
GlennC1 More than 1 year ago
I read this book over a 3-day period. It is well written and provides an interesting view of Napoleon as a brilliant leader whose military exploits were driven by the need and desire to protect the "new France" against the rest of Europe. As the rest of Europe was still led by monarchs that perceived France as a threat to their possessions and well-being, they (especially England) teamed up against France to quell the French experiment and Napoleon in specific. The authors employed a variety of correspondences and time sequences from the period to paint the picture that Napoleon acted in self-defense for many of his battles and campaigns. I enjoy books that cause me to see or think of things from multiple perspectives and this surely is/was one of those type books. Whether Napoleon really was driven to conquer Europe or whether he just conquered because of a brilliant military mind will never be 100% clear in all respects, but I'd recommend this book to anyone that is willing to consider the premise and wants to read a solid presentation of the "other side" of the Napoleon picture. I'll read it again which is the best recommendation I can make for a book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The president of the International Napoleonic Society, Canadian entrepreneur Dr. Ben Weider has done it again. The world¿s foremost Napoleonic expert took on ¿ and beat! -- the entrenched battalions of the ¿Napoleon-istas¿ 'French academics who consider anything even remotely Napoleonic to be their exclusive ¿turf¿' with his 1982 book, The Murder of Napoleon, and the society¿s 20-page, 2004 report, The Poisoning of Napoleon: The Final Proof, that proved beyond any reasonable doubt through exhaustive scientific testing that the emperor¿s 1821 death was indeed due to systematic arsenic poisoning. The Napoleon-istas fumed and howled, yet Weider¿s overwhelming evidence 'which includes solid confirmation by the FBI¿s forensic crime lab in Washington, D. C.' makes their stubborn refusal to accept what Weider has clearly proven seem merely the ranting of spoiled children. Unable to refute Weider¿s findings with scientific evidence, they have been reduced to periodically waging a sort of last-ditch guerrilla war through specious ¿press releases¿ that present no new evidence but only recycle their warmed-over claims that stomach cancer did in the emperor. Now, in his latest book, The Wars Against Napoleon: Debunking the Myth of the Napoleonic Wars 'Savas Beatie, 2007', Weider teams up with General Michel Franceschi to take on and destroy an even bigger Napoleonic myth. The authors explain, ¿Among the numerous conventional images concerning Napoleon, that of the megalomaniac conqueror drunk on glory is fixed in the collective imagination. Indefatigable warrior, Napoleon supposedly sacrificed world peace to his insatiable personal ambition. ¿ But is this historically accurate? We do not believe that it is.¿ In fact, as Weider and Franceschi prove, even the long-entrenched term ¿Napoleonic Wars,¿ itself, is not only misleading, it¿s downright wrong! Instead, the authors clearly demonstrate that the armies amassed by the reactionary monarchies of Europe literally fought ¿wars against Napoleon¿ to counter the threat he posed to maintaining their l¿ancien regimes. Horrified at the prospect of the progressive ideals let loose by revolutionary France in 1789 spreading throughout Europe to infect their own subjugated masses, Europe¿s monarchs marshaled their forces to strangle the infant revolution in its cradle. When that failed ¿ and especially after Napoleon emerged and began to regularly thrash the monarchies¿ armies ¿ Europe¿s frightened kings and princes formed a series of military coalitions that waged ¿wars against Napoleon¿ for nearly two decades. The authors set about methodically to destroy long held assumptions about Napoleon, and lay out their argument in three sections. The first part of the book is vital to understanding the context within which Napoleon emerged, as it ¿presents the intractable belligerent situation toward which the First Consul found himself inexorably forced upon his arrival in power, and from which he was never able to escape.¿ As Weider and Franceschi show, ¿Napoleon was already condemned to perpetual warfare from the moment of his arrival in power.¿ Once this fundamental characteristic of the political situation in Europe is understood, the explanation of why Napoleon found himself at war during most of his reign is self-evident. In Part Two, the authors delve deeper into Napoleon¿s own personality and beliefs as it ¿brings to light the fundamentally pacifist character of Napoleon¿s politics, founded on his intangible principle of avoiding conflicts.¿ Skeptics may raise an eyebrow at Napoleon being called a ¿pacifist¿, but they should reserve judgment until after reading the authors¿ persuasive arguments that support their claim. And lastly, battle enthusiasts will find plenty of action in Part Three, since it covers the wars Napoleon fought from 1794 until 1815. Yet, the authors¿ purpose is not principally to examine the emperor¿s unequalled strategic and operational battlefield brilliance -- the se