Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-08-10
- Reviewer: Staff
Relying heavily on a newly released body of Napoleon Bonaparte’s personal correspondence, Oxford historian Broers (Napoleon’s Other War) brings Napoleon to the brink of mastery of Europe in this first of two projected volumes. Recognizing the “cynical and manipulative” elements of his subject’s character, Broers also emphasizes Napoleon’s “positive, optimistic mind.” A visionary with his feet on the ground, Napoleon absorbed and synthesized the era’s vibrant intellectual trends and translated them into systems. War, administration, justice, education—all still bear Napoleon’s stamp. He navigated the Revolution’s turbulent waters, becoming a general in the process. It was in Italy, however, that Napoleon first demonstrated the “verve and genius” that in these years informed his military, diplomatic, and political judgment. Broers remarks that Napoleon “lost his way” in Egypt, but recovered his equilibrium in the 1799 coup of 18 Brumaire, consolidating his position with iron self-discipline until the constitution of the year 10 (1802) opened the way for the administrative reforms that established the parameters of empire. The major unresolved issue remained: a conflict with Britain, which Broers aptly dubs “a dialogue of the deaf,” wherein each party saw the other as fundamentally committed to expansion and exploitation. That perspective underwrote the creation of the Grande Armée. Broer calls this motivated by “the realpolitik of survival,” a point he’ll have to prove in his next volume. (Oct.)