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Napoleon : A Political Life - Steven Englund


A Political Life

eBook Published: 11th May 2010
ISBN: 9781439131077
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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.

Industry Reviews

Pierre Sorlin University of Paris-VIII (Saint-Denis) Let me put this bluntly: I have never before read a book that simultaneously impressed me for its scholarly brilliance yet read like a novel. Englund's examination of Napoleon's apolitical politics of la Nation is must reading for historians, yet his opening description of the Emperor's tomb at Les Invalides is worthy of Balzac.



Book I: Allons enfants de la Patrie

I. Napoleone di Buonaparte

Unsceptered Isle: Corsica in the Eighteenth Century

The Buonapartes of Ajaccio

Napoleon's Childhood

II. The Making of the Patriot

To France (Autun and Brienne)

Gentleman and Officer


Enfant de la Patrie (Psychology)

Enfant de la Patrie (Ideas)

Corsican Junkets

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)

Beyond Patriotism

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

"Cister" Republics

Death in Venice (of a Jacobin Reputation)

France Seen from the Army of Italy

Paris Interlude

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

Blockade (I)

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


1812 Overture

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)

Introduction (Misplaced)


Bibliographical Comments



Map on page

Art following page

ISBN: 9781439131077
ISBN-10: 1439131074
Audience: General
Format: ePUB
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 592
Published: 11th May 2010
Publisher: Scribner