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1812: Napoleon's Fatal March on Moscow Paperback – 4 Apr 2005


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Product details

  • Paperback: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (4 April 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007123744
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007123742
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 4.4 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 20,218 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Adam Zamoyski was born in New York but has spent most of his life in England. He was educated at Downside and Queen's College, Oxford. A freelance historian with a singular command of languages, he has written a bestselling history of Poland, as well as three books of military history and three biographies. These include the widely acclaimed and bestselling '1812: Napoleon's Fatal March on Moscow' its sequel 'Rites of Peace: The Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna', 'Holy Madness: Romantics, Patriots and Revolutionaries, 1776-1871', 'Warsaw 1920: Lenin's Failed Conquest of Europe' and most recently, 'Chopin' published by HarperCollins in 2010. He is married to the artist Emma Sergeant and lives in London.

Product Description

Review

‘So brilliant that it is impossible to put the book aside … A master craftsman at work.’ Michael Burleigh, Sunday Times

‘Zamoyski’s book is a brilliant piece of narrative history, full of sparkling set-pieces, a wholly fascinating account of what must be reckoned one of the greatest military disasters of all time.’ Sunday Telegraph

‘No review can do justice to the scholarly integrity and human sensitivity of this book, or to the horror is describes … “1812” is one of the greatest stories ever told.’ Christopher Woodward, Spectator

‘An utterly admirable book. It combines clarity of thought and prose with a strong narrative drive.’ Daily Telegraph

‘A gripping tale.’ Economist

‘The best non-fiction version to be written so far … Zamoyski is brilliant at explaining what it must have been like to be a foot soldier.’ Mail on Sunday

From the Publisher

The saga of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia and the catastrophic retreat from Moscow has fascinated not only military historians; Tolstoy’s War and Peace demonstrates the dramatic appeal of those events at a universal human level. This is the story of how the most powerful man on earth met his doom, and how the greatest fighting force ever assembled was wiped out.
By 1810 Napoleon was master of Europe, defied only by Britain, which he could not defeat because he had no navy. His intention was to destroy Britain through a total blockade, the Continental System. But Tsar Alexander of Russia now refused to apply the blockade, and Napoleon decided to bring him to heel.
Napoleon quickly realised that nemesis awaited him, and the events of 1812 had a colossal impact on the fate of Europe: a great patriotic surge helped turn the Russians into a nation (hence Tchaikovsky’s ‘1812’ overture) and led them to reject Western values; the Germans began their fateful ‘Prussification’; the French lost their cultural dominance. And Napoleon’s legend – as man of destiny – began to exert its insidious fascination. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

67 of 71 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 7 May 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book offers a lucid account of both the military and diplomatic aspects of Napoleon's disastrous Russian campaign. Its greatest strength lies in an exceptionally graphic account of the experience of the Napoleonic soldiery on the march to, and in the retreat from, Moscow. We are not spared harrowing details of suffering from heat and cold, but we also meet many examples of heroism and generosity, most movingly told. Many of the details have an almost hallucinatory vividness. It has greatly enriched my own sense of the pathos of history and of the potentialities of human nature in conditions of extreme trial.
My one criticism of the book is that, if one compares it to Antony Beevor's classic book on Stalingrad, which pays equal attention to the experience of the Russian and of the German soldiery, this book is one-sided. Zamoyski, as a learned and judicious historian, has a right to argue that the standard Russian account of the campaign is a patriotic myth and that the weather did more than the Russian army to defeat the French, but the focus remains too strongly on the invaders: the heroism and suffering of the ordinary Russian soldiery is not treated with the same sympathy and attention to detail as is accorded to the French (and the Poles). This book remains, however, a masterpiece of story-telling. It deserves the huge success one may confidently predict for it.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 15 Dec. 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a superb read - very hard to put down - as it provides an absorbing mix and insight into the historial/ military tactical/ human interest issues of 1812 to really understand and, yes, experience one of the most important and tragic events in European history in the last 200 years.
As a read it is in turn heart-breaking, in the detail of the suffering of soldiers and civilians, awe-inspiring in the descriptions of the heroics, and fascinating in its insights into the commanders, especially Napoleon - with all his flawed genius.
The tactical military stuff is v well described and dealt with - with sufficient detail to understand and be interested, without being swamped with data and having to keep checking previous sections and the maps.
The only Downside was when the book ended!
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Didier TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 30 Oct. 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm really not sure if I can do this book enough justice in the space of a tiny review. Before reading it I was, like many others perhaps, very much aware that Napoleon's march on Moscow was a turning point in his career and in European history, but apart from that, well... largely ignorant. Reading Zamoyski's book changed all that, and the only regret I have is not having read it earlier.

"1812" is a stunning history book! The 25 chapters are 'bite-size', just the right size to read at least one chapter each evening before going to bed (or two, or three... I found it very hard to put this book down), and in them Zamoyski gives a fascinating account of the entire campaign (beginning with the reasons why, and ending with the aftermath). In doing so he strikes a perfect balance between on the one hand a crystal-clear analysis of the broader political/military scene and motivations of the principal actors, and on the other hand lots of small but telling anecdotes.

One of the things that struck me most is how (as Zamoyski clearly demonstrates) few of the events were the result of intelligent, strategic decisions taken with clear goals in mind, but rather how one thing led to another and decisions were often reduced to the choice between the lesser of two evils. It's astonishing really, and all the more so if you come to realize the enormous cost in human misery and lives resulting from these decisions.

Zamoyski includes literally hundreds of extracts of private correspondence, notes, diaries, etc. from Napoleon and Tsar Alexander themselves down to foot soldiers, which don't detract from the main story but always succeed very well in illustrating the point Zamoyski is trying to make.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jacks on 6 April 2010
Format: Paperback
This book is not so much about the particular battles of this conflict (they are covered very well), but the suffering and human tragedy that hundreds of thousands of people experienced.

This book is entirely made up and put together with the diaries and memoirs of hundreds of people whom where on the campaign or eyewitnesses that experienced it first-hand. From peasants, to foot soldiers, to generals. The author does an excellent job of piecing and weaving these all together into a story. It is a story told through there eyes for all extends and purposes, this is what makes it ever more interesting.

There's many details of the suffering from frostbite, starvation, murders and cannibalism. Of leadership that was egotistical, paranoid and indecisive and ultimately contributed and lead to so many deaths.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Basileus on 27 Feb. 2009
Format: Paperback
"1812" tells the breathtaking story of Napoleon's invasion in Russia and the subsequent destruction of his Grande Armée. The invasion, the battles, the total destruction of whole areas and the suffering of soldiers and civilians was on an unprecedented scale and heralded the beginning of the end for Napoleon. As a result, more than one million people would perish in nine months.

Zamoyski's style of writing is utterly compelling, as he has found the perfect balance between the big picture and the stories of the daily deprivations from individual participants on both sides. The result is that the writer had me glued to the book until the last page. "1812" is high in my Top 10 of history books. His descriptions of the disintegration of Napoleon's army when it straggles from city to city in search of food, clothes and shelter are fascinating. The treatment of prisoners, wounded and even weakened comrades is shocking. De abandonment of all humanity in the drive to survive is haunting.

From a Dutch perspective, the Dutch play a side role, but are mentioned amongst others as heroes in the construction of the bridges over the Berezina. Only eight from the 400 pontoon builders will eventually return to the "Bataafse Republiek".

March with the Grande Armée into Russia and stumble back with the stragglers: "1812" has all the high drama epic events in history should have. This is one of the most entertaining history books I have ever read and I cannot praise Zamoyski's "1812" highly enough.
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