Napoleon: A Life

Napoleon: A Life

by Adam Zamoyski


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The definitive biography of Napoleon, revealing the true man behind the legend

"What a novel my life has been!" Napoleon once said of himself. Born into a poor family, the callow young man was, by twenty-six, an army general. Seduced by an older woman, his marriage transformed him into a galvanizing military commander. The Pope crowned him as Emperor of the French when he was only thirty-five. Within a few years, he became the effective master of Europe, his power unparalleled in modern history. His downfall was no less dramatic.

The story of Napoleon has been written many times. In some versions, he is a military genius, in others a war-obsessed tyrant. Here, historian Adam Zamoyski cuts through the mythology and explains Napoleon against the background of the European Enlightenment, and what he was himself seeking to achieve. This most famous of men is also the most hidden of men, and Zamoyski dives deeper than any previous biographer to find him. Beautifully written, Napoleon brilliantly sets the man in his European context.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780465055937
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication date: 10/16/2018
Pages: 784
Sales rank: 152,962
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 2.50(d)

About the Author

Adam Zamoyski is the author of numerous books about Polish and European history, and has written for publications including the Times (London), the Times Literary Supplement, and the Guardian. He lives in London and Poland.

Table of Contents

List of Maps ix

Preface xiii

1 A Reluctant Messiah 1

2 Insular Dreams 9

3 Boy Soldier 23

4 Freedom 35

5 Corsica 46

6 France or Corsica 57

7 The Jacobin 67

8 Adolescent Loves 79

9 General Vendémiaire 96

10 Italy 110

11 Lodi 123

12 Victory and Legend 139

13 Master of Italy 158

14 Eastern Promise 174

15 Egypt 189

16 Plague 203

17 The Saviour 215

18 Fog 230

19 The Consul 243

20 Consolidation 258

21 Marengo 276

22 Caesar 290

23 Peace 305

24 The Liberator of Europe 321

25 His Consular Majesty 337

26 Toward Empire 349

27 Napoleon I 364

28 Austerlitz 383

29 Emperor of the West 400

30 Master of Europe 415

31 The Sun Emperor 432

32 The Emperor of the East 451

33 The Cost of Power 470

34 Apotheosis 489

35 Apogee 503

36 Blinding Power 521

37 The Rubicon 533

38 Nemesis 548

39 Hollow Victories 566

40 Last Chance 582

41 The Wounded Lion 598

42 Rejection 614

43 The Outlaw 630

44 A Crown of Thorns 650

Notes 671

Bibliography 705

Illustration Credits 729

Index 733

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Napoleon: A Life 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
sumit Rk 11 months ago
"What a novel my life has been!" ~ Napoleon Napoleon, A life, is an interesting take on Napoleon and his life. Mr. Zamoyski has crafted an intriguing account of Napoleon's life, relying mainly upon the accounts and impressions that he left upon his contemporaries. The focus of this work is more upon social and political history of the Emperor and is less on battles and campaigns. The book traces Napoleon’s rise from his not so humble beginnings in Corsica & his education at the military academy of Brienne to his rise as a military star, his military campaigns of Italy, Syria and Egypt, his coronation as Emperor and his many campaigns incl the disastrous one against Russia. We finally conclude with his banishment to Elba, his final defeat at Waterloo and death in 1821. The story of Napoleon has been written many times before. So, What makes this biography different? I would say two major things in particular; Firstly, Adam Zamoyski works to discover the man behind the legend. He discards the mythology and hero worship and aims to get as close as possible, to Napoleon the man. Napoleon is instead presented as a flawed human with both genius and faults, both an extra-ordinary general and at times a coward, at times a calculated genius and a whimsical dictator at others. There are many shades to the enigma, which is perhaps why he is still so fascinating even today. Throughout the book, Zamoyski tells the personal side of Napoleon’s life—his complicated relationship with his family, his relationship, his friendships his political rivalries, his hopes, his triumphs and his failures. This book does not hesitate to be critical if needed. So, if you are looking for a glowing tribute to Napoleon, this book may not be the answer. Secondly, Instead of focusing on his military campaigns, the author chooses to focus on the prevailing situations which influenced his decisions. Zamoskyi warns readers in his introduction that he examines the military aspects of Napoleon's life only as he feels they effected his political and personal situation. This leads to an uneven study of the military aspect of Napoleon, heavily emphasized in the beginning and much less so by the 1812 campaigns in Russia. Waterloo receives barely a page and a half. Personally, I thought this aspect was disappointing. Napoleon’s battles and his military achievements formed a much important part of his life than any other modern ruler. It’s much like reading a biography of Alexander the great, without focusing of his military campaigns. Overall, at 500 pages, it’s a detailed and well researched book. The author was able to deconstruct Napoleon’s life piece by piece, separating myth from reality. A good read for those interested in learning more about French history and those who want to learn more about Napoleon.
CharJones2525 More than 1 year ago