Napoleon by Timothy Wilson-Smith
Man of War, Man of Peace

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Synopsis

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.
 

About Timothy Wilson-Smith

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Timothy Wilson-Smith is the author of the prize-winning Delacroix (1992), Napoleon and his Artists (1996), Caravaggio (1998) and Napoleon: Man of War, Man of Peace (2002). He has been a Chief Examiner at A Level for Renaissance Art, has lectured at the National Portrait Gallery and has broadcast on the BBC. The author is a master at Eaton.
 
Published October 22, 2002 by Carroll & Graf. 320 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Travel, War. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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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 (...

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Publishers Weekly

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They established a newspaper, filling it with fictitious stories of French glory, and a theater company devoted to French classics.

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Open Letters Monthly

The traditional recipe of Napoleon Bonaparte’s war against Russia calls for several pounds of bone-chilling winter weather, some choice cuts of tactical incompetence (French and Russian varieties, depending on the season), and a pinch of imperial overreach – add serfs as needed.

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Open Letters Monthly

Revolutionary Iran is what happens when conspiracy theory becomes official government policy, and as we shall see, it is arguable that the Mr Ahmadinejad has not simply replaced Uncle Napoleon – he is Uncle Napoleon.

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Open Letters Monthly

The key to truly understanding Napoleon is to understand his personal evolution (or devolution), an example of which is captured in this story, told by Alistair Horne in his excellent survey of the period, The Age of Napoleon: In Vienna, Beethoven composed a symphony, the Eroica, for Napoleon – ...

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