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Napoleon: Soldier of Destiny Hardcover – 6 Mar 2014

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (6 Mar 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571273432
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571273430
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 4.8 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 219,719 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


This is a masterly biography, both critical and empathetic. (Financial Times)

Stimulating and genuinely innovative. (Times Literary Supplement)

Judicious and magisterial ... Broers' grasp of 'violently changing times' is unimpeachable. (Daily Mail)

Book Description

The first volume of a majestic new biography of the great ruler told with energy, style and brand new research.

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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By NMS1975 on 8 May 2014
Format: Hardcover
Napoleon: Soldier of Destiny is the first of two volumes on the life of Napoleon Bonaparte and covers the years 1769 to 1805. The title is a hefty tome of almost 530 pages plus an additional 55 pages for the notes, bibliography and index. A number of colour and black and white images are also included. Broers himself is a Professor of Western European History at Oxford University and, therefore, well placed to produce a work on a subject that is as demanding as the man who it is written about. Most importantly Broers has heavily drawn on Napoleon’s correspondence compiled by the Fondation Napoléon in Paris.

The book itself charts the unfolding life of Napoleon from his birth, examining his somewhat humble origins in Corsica to his grandiose coronation as Emperor of the French in 1804. While the rise of Napoleon to power may be well known to some Broers has managed to shed new light on events drawing on the uncensored thoughts of Napoleon himself, thus offering the reader a greater insight into the man than has been previously available. Both Napoleon’s professional and personal life are explored, including his military career, from the siege of Toulon through to the War of the Third Coalition, and his complicated romance with Joséphine de Beauharnais. The author also goes into some depth exploring Napoleon’s relationship with other key players in French history at this time, including politicians, military leaders and fellow family members.

There are a large number of books already on the market regarding Napoleon Bonaparte, and one often wonders what any new title can bring to the subject. However, Broers work certainly sheds much new light on the life of this huge historical figure.
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8 of 15 people found the following review helpful By J. W. Mokken on 6 May 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
“The first volume of a majestic biography of the great French ruler, written with energy and style, and based on new research.” This is the start of the blurb/flap text of this book. Is this even proper English? Doesn't really matter.
In my opinion there is nothing majestic about the book. I stopped reading at page 209 and I assure you I rarely ever stop in the middle of a book. So, what is wrong?
1. The book is very badly edited. A few examples: page 193 “On 21 October, Cairo rose in mass revolt.” Four lines below: “Disturbances broke out in Cairo on 21 October.” On page 197: “where Murat’s cavalry began to learn Bedouin tactics.” Two pages further: “Murat learned much from Mameluke cavalry tactics.”
2. The index does not work. Example: Carnot is mentioned on pages 109-110, 111 (sic!) and on 117, 121, 128, 165 and more. On page 156, when there have been quite a few mentions of Carnot already I read: “ ’this is a very good man who wants his country to be free and happy’, he told Carnot, a skeptical French Director.” Is this not the same Carnot that was mentioned before? Why is he not in the index? If it is the same Carnot why reintroduce him as a skeptical French Director?
3. Worse I find that Broers continuously adds subjective, unfounded qualifications. This, in my view, should not happen in a majestic biography. Here is what he writes about Napoleon’s exit from Egypt: “However ignominious, even cowardly, Napoleon’s sordid departure from Egypt, it at least served as a coming down to earth.” Cowardly? Sordid? Says who? Did Napoleon have reasons to leave in this way? Was he really a coward that day? How do we know? Explain why his exit deserves these qualifications, please.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By james murdoch milne on 7 Sep 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Good book. Recommended for all Napoleonic fans
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By trevor sargeant on 10 May 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Following my having read the first few chapters of this splendid new biography, and look forward to the developing journey of this special odyssey to cover two more volumes. Already there are all the hallmarks of what will be an exceptional work with two more volumes to come. I have always been something of a Napoleonist, and so look forward to the wealth of new knowledge which will be uncovered by the new treasure trove of correspondence, which will provide new insights into our knowledge of this remarkable man. I proffer my congratulations to Mr. Broers.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 6 reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Excellent revisionism 28 April 2014
By Joseph Devita - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
Napoleon is one of those mythologized figures who evokes a visceral image of a tyrant in most people. That is unfortunate because he was one of the most accomplished and, even his detractors admit, brilliant people who ever lived and has had a major influence on our history and the world as we today know it. Fortunately this new book by Michael Broers, using newly available sources, can help to rectify the one sided picture of Napoleon that is so prevalent by helping us to see the man behind the legend.

Broers by no means can be accused of hagiography here- he presents a well balanced, nuanced and insightful study beginning with the Corsican world in which Napoleon was born and ending (in this volume) in 1805 as the world is about to see his military genius in full bloom.

Having read about forty books about Napoleon, I nonetheless found myself learning new things about him personally and the political and military milieu he operated in; things which present a talented and gifted Bonaparte with very human flaws but also with virtues as well. The standard image of the monomaniacal conqueror is replaced by a multifaceted and gifted politician, statesman and general who is also subject to irrational rages and unreasonable demands. And the detail with which the author describes his efforts in basically creating every aspect of modern France is breathtaking. No one who reads this will ever be able to demean Napoleon's accomplishments again.

Even more impressive is the analysis of the reasons for the initial wars which began with the Third Coalition in 1805. It has become routine to blame Napoleon and his expansionist desires, but Broers destroys that narrative by showing how in many respects the Allies were more to blame for the hostilities than the French. Reading this chapter was truly eye opening and enlightening.

What comes across from the book as a whole is how different Napoleon actually was from the tyrants he is usually compared to, especially Hitler. Whereas Bonaparte was the epitome of the Enlightenment in many respects, operating under the belief that applied reason can solve all problems and seeking to institutionalize many of the goals of the French Revolution, especially the equality of all men and the importance of private property (yes, this was an underlying foundation of the revolution as they sought to undo the hereditary and ecclesiastical hierarchies), while Hitler was something very different- an avatar of the Romantic movement who channeled the rage and hatred of the German people who felt betrayed during WWI.

And anyone who has read about the Nazis knows that Hitler actually did very little other than present an example to whom the rest of the regime and country could aspire to (he was a notorious late riser who seemed to do very little productive work. His military success was that of the fanatic who pushed against enemies who were willfully blind and reluctant to go to war. His tactics and strategy initially worked because of this but eventually they resulted in the German's defeat as he refused to allow for strategic withdrawals to consolidate and hold his advances).

Was Napoleon an authoritarian? Absolutely, but not a totalitarian as was Hitler. Napoleon created a strong central system using technocratic and meritocratic criteria to advance the aims of society- not unlike the ideas espoused by Progressives in the US in the early 20th century and even today (see Thomas Friedman's admiration for the Chinese government's efficiency). Was this a government I would want to live under- no, not at all. But to blindly condemn it as a brutal dictatorship after this book will not be possible.

So I would highly recommend this book- with a caveat. This work is like a post graduate course in Napoleonic history- to truly be appreciated I think you have to have some familiarity with the subject or you may very well get lost in the details. Which book would I recommend to prepare you? There are too many to list and I will leave that up to the reader. But for anyone with the interest and desire to understand this historical time, this book must ultimately be read if you want to get beyond the surface and explore the depths of one of the most intriguing people who ever lived.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Napoleon: soldier of Destiny 27 May 2014
By william mees - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book contains material I was NOT familiar with and presents incredible detail. Probably the best book I have read regarding the personal side of Napoleon. I liked the book.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A Phenomenal Leader and Personality for the Ages 9 July 2014
By Judith K. Binney - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An excellent absorbing very well written account of Napoleon and his fascinating family. There so many things that I never knew even after living in France for 18 years. I was disappointed when the book ended in 1804 -- with so much left to tell of Napoleon's story. I understand the 1804-1814 years are covered in another book by Michael Broers being released on September 30, 2014. What's up with that? Recommended highly!
16 August 2014 16 Aug 2014
By julianne k miller - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A well researched history. The author's style made for an invigorating narrative. This history does an excellent job of framing Napoleon within the context of his character and the geopolitical situation he faced.
Brilliant 20 Oct 2014
By Stephen Smith - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Eighth biography of Napoleon I've read, and by far the best. Can't wait for volume two. In the same category as Chandler 's Campaigns of Napoleon.
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