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Paris in July, 2023 - Napoleon, A Concise Biography by David A. Bell

We are nearing the end of Paris in July, but I will post a wrap-up shortly. Many thanks to Emma @ Word and Peace who skilfully guided us through Paris this year. I will end my posts about Paris and France this year, with a man who is probably, one of the most famous French people, Napoleon.

I have a general knowledge about the man, but was intrigued when I was recommended this concise biography of him by David A. Bell. I think it was through Jared Henderson's youtube channel, but am not able to find the recommendation. Anyway, it is a rather short biography of the main parts of Napoleon's life. It is only 152 pages long, and around 4 hours to listen to, which I did. The biography is divided into five chapters plus an Epilogue:

  1. The Corsican, 1769-1796

  2. The General, 1796-1799

  3. The First Consul, 1799-1804

  4. The Emperor, 1804-1812

  5. Downfall, 1812-1815

Epilogue: 1815 - the Present

An excellent book if you want to dive into Napoleon's life and legacy as a start. Written with insight and a grasp of Napoleon's place in the world and European history. It almost reads like a thrilling fiction book, where we follow the rise and fall of this self-made man, who had a career like nobody else.

In his late twenties he was one of the greatest generals in Europe. From there he went on to master the politics of France, and extending its borders to become the most powerful country in Europe. He was a man of great power and movements, and did not hesitate to pronounce himself Emperor, putting the crown on his own head. His power, however, was based on wars and misery, which brought death to millions of soldiers. There is a very interesting part on the disastrous Russian campaign. In the end this led to his downfall and exile. Not giving up he fled Elba, came back to fight for France during 100 days, which ended with defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, on 18 June, 1815.

David Bell puts Napoleon's character and career in a historical context, with some very interesting conclusions. Unfortunately, I don't have the e-book or physical copy, so can't relate to them here. You just have to read the book. An important one though, is the fact that Napoleon's career should be seen in the light of the French Revolution. The chaos that followed in the aftermath paved the road to the throne. One has to acknowledge that not anyone could have done what he did. He was a master in mobilising human and material resources. He was one of the best war strategists in history, and his power was based on wars. Although one can say that Napoleon was a revolutionary at heart, he betrayed the ideals of the Revolution, like liberty and equality, through his dictatorship.

I found the book fascinating, as an introduction to the man, and am eager to read more about Napoleon, and his impact on European history. When we visited Martinique a couple of years ago, we visited the house where Joséphine was born, and I would like to know more about her as well. They did not have any children together, be he adopted her son, Eugène de Beauharnais. With his second wife Austrian princess Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma, he had a son, Napoleon II. He was born in 1811 and died of tuberculosis in 1832.

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wow, a biography of Napoleon in 152 pages? That's quite a tour de force ! Emma @ Words And Peace


Yes, Emma, can you believe it. It was very good though, and I immediately wanted to read a longer one. Maybe for next July? I am now waiting for the new film about Napoleon. Maybe it has already been premiered?

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