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Napoleon Comes to Power: Democracy and Dictatorship in Revolutionary France, 1795-1804 (Past in Perspective) Paperback – 19 Mar 1998

3 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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"A clear and reliable approach to an episode . . . not otherwise well served by works in English." -- French History

About the Author

Malcolm Crook is a Reader in History at the University of Keele.

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By A Customer on 19 April 2001
Format: Paperback
Malcolm Crook, author of the very interesting Elections in the French Revolution (1996), has produced a short study of Brumaire. Those already well familiar with Brumaire and the events leading up to it will probably not learn very much new reading this book. Those who would like an overview of the advent of Napoleon, as well as a précis of current historical thinking on Brumaire and the Directory will benefit from Crook's work.
This volume is obviously intended for use by university students. It opens with a brief factual recounting of the events of the coup and an examination of the varying interpretations of that event, including the Bonapartist legend, the Republican tradition, the Marxist interpretation and an overview of current perspectives. This is followed by a concise history of the Directory, a lengthier exposition on Brumaire itself and a short history of the progress from Brumaire to Consulate to Empire. 40 pages of 'Illustrative Documents' that include extracts from representative historians, proclamations, memoirs, laws, letters and other documents allow the reader to get a feel for the tenor of the times and perhaps form his own opinions of these events. These documents are all keyed to appropriate sections of the main text. Also included is a glossary of terms and a useful eight-page bibliographical essay. There are no footnotes and, at times, quotes in the text are inadequately identified. The volume is indexed.
The "meat" of Crook's book, of course, is Brumaire itself. Crook manages to produce a largely dispassionate and factual account of the coup.
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By A Customer on 3 Sept. 1999
Format: Paperback
As physicists know from quantum theory, anything can be observed either as a particle or as a wave - it all depends what way you want to measure it. Schom dismantles Napoleon into his numerous particles, but fails to put him back together and observe him as a wave. Herold, in his "Mind of Napoleon" introduction, asks "the only really important question: which is the deeper reality, the whole or the parts? If the answer is the parts, then all greatness stands diminished." Chateaubriand, one of Napoleon's severest critics, called him "the greatest breath of life to have ever quickened human clay." Wading thru Schom's TV biopic (it reads like Dynasty or Dallas), one would never have guessed it. If you want to make your own mind up about Napoleon, I suggest reading Herold's anthology (still in print), or else "Napoleon's letters" - a selection of 350 from over 40,000 that he wrote (how did he have time to win all those battles as well as set up the Code Napoleon, which Schom ignores??)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9cbc75c4) out of 5 stars 2 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9c103288) out of 5 stars Napoleon's Gamble 28 Mar. 2001
By Tom Holmberg - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Malcolm Crook, author of the very interesting Elections in the French Revolution (1996), has produced a short study of Brumaire. Those already well familiar with Brumaire and the events leading up to it will probably not learn very much new reading this book. Those who would like an overview of the advent of Napoleon, as well as a précis of current historical thinking on Brumaire and the Directory will benefit from Crook's work.
This volume is obviously intended for use by university students. It opens with a brief factual recounting of the events of the coup and an examination of the varying interpretations of that event, including the Bonapartist legend, the Republican tradition, the Marxist interpretation and an overview of current perspectives. This is followed by a concise history of the Directory, a lengthier exposition on Brumaire itself and a short history of the progress from Brumaire to Consulate to Empire. 40 pages of 'Illustrative Documents' that include extracts from representative historians, proclamations, memoirs, laws, letters and other documents allow the reader to get a feel for the tenor of the times and perhaps form his own opinions of these events. These documents are all keyed to appropriate sections of the main text. Also included is a glossary of terms and a useful eight-page bibliographical essay. There are no footnotes and, at times, quotes in the text are inadequately identified. The volume is indexed.
The "meat" of Crook's book, of course, is Brumaire itself. Crook manages to produce a largely dispassionate and factual account of the coup. Naturally, a book entitled Napoleon Comes to Power is going to focus primarily on Napoleon's role in the events, but this to an extent de-emphasizes the fact that this was a conspiracy undertaken by a number of individuals who had varying interests and ambitions. Nor could Bonaparte have accomplished the change of regime single-handedly. By focusing primarily on Bonaparte the reader doesn't truly get a good feel for how a conspiracy of these diverse opponents of the Directory became Bonaparte's bid to "come to power." This is presented as the natural outcome of the coup yet one doesn't really get to know why this became so -how Bonaparte went from one element of a broader conspiracy (and a late-comer, at that) to the primary beneficiary of that conspiracy. Although Crook doesn't mention it, perhaps Bonaparte's fellow-conspirators let him take the leading role so that if the coup failed Bonaparte would be the leading fall-guy (Crook fails to emphasize the risk the conspirators were taking in the event of failure; success was not assured). Then again, perhaps it was Bonaparte's personality as a man-of-action that led him to eventually take the leading role. Or that perhaps it was the public, identifying the coup as Bonaparte's, that thrust him so firmly into the leading position.
Crook, following current trends, downplays the threat to Bonaparte in the Council of Five Hundred, referring to Bonaparte being "jostled." D.J. Goodspeed in Bayonets at St. Cloud (London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1965, p. 147) says that several of the deputies rushed him and that the burly deputy Destrem caught Bonaparte by the collar and shook him, pushing him "to and fro." Nor does Crook mention the fistfights on the floor of the Council or the cries of "Vive Bonaparte!" from the public in the gallery. Not attempting to write a narrative history, Crook downplays the drama of the event. Crook takes no stand on the controversy over Bonaparte's fainting spell in the Orangery, whether from nervous exhaustion or from fear or some other cause. Crook also fails to make clear that the grenadiers, who cleared the Orangery and sent the toga-clad deputies scrambling from the windows, were not from the regular army but were actually Grenadiers of the Legislative Guard. These men owed their loyalty not to Bonaparte but to the Councils. They had no real self-interest in supporting a coup. This is why these troops had to be convinced, one way or another, to forget their duties as the guardians of the assemblies (Sièyes believed at one point that the grenadiers were about to seize Bonaparte).
Crook has produced a balanced treatment of the rise of Napoleon. Napoleon Comes to Power presents a clear and concise overview of the Directory and of the coup itself. The lengthy section of documents translated by Crook gives the reader a real feel for the times and affords one the opportunity think for one's self. The modest price of this volume is also a plus. A Napoleon buff who wants a good summary of the events of Brumaire or a relative newcomer who is just starting to discover the era would both profit from purchasing this little volume. As Goodspeed's Bayonets at St. Cloud is out of print and Albert Vandal's L'Avenement de Bonaparte is unavailable in English Crook's is the best book available on Napoleon's coming to power.
HASH(0x9d11c9a8) out of 5 stars Some of the Hows of Brumaire 16 Feb. 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Crook, author of the excellent Elections of the French Revolution, presents a short, concise look at Napoleon's coming to power in 1799. Although Crook explains how the coup was organized, exactly how Napoleon, who was a late-comer to the conspiracy, managed to wind up with all the power remains something of a mystery. The book includes as a "bonus" a lengthy section of translated documents to let you study the events first hand.
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