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Napoleon and Wellington Hardcover – 23 Aug 2001

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Weidenfeld and Nicolson; First Edition edition (23 Aug. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297646079
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297646075
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 3.3 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 727,714 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Andrew Roberts's Masters and Commanders was one of the most acclaimed, bestselling history books of 2008. His previous books include Salisbury: Victorian Titan (1999), which won the Wolfson History Prize and the James Stern Silver Pen Award for Non-Fiction, Hitler and Churchill: Secrets of Leadership (2003), which coincided with four-part BBC2 history series. He is one of Britain's most prominent journalists and broadcasters.

Product Description

Amazon Review

After his provocative Eminent Churchillians and his magisterial, award-winning Salisbury, Andrew Roberts' Napoleon and Wellington moves further back into the past to examine those titans of early 19th-century Europe. One was revolutionary, one deeply conservative. One aimed to change everything, the other aimed to achieve nothing except to stop the other changing anything. Roberts pre-empts the obvious moan regarding this well-tilled field, by pointing out that this is the first book to examine exactly what the two men thought of each other, and revealing the fascinating contradiction between what they said in public and in private. Roberts' cautious, subtle reading of character, and the narrow focus on just two men--not a mention of Rifleman Harris here--gives the book a novelistic brio. Wellington could be every bit as vainglorious as Napoleon, but Napoleon was unforgiving. Wellington saved Napoleon from execution after Waterloo, but Napoleon left money in his will to the man who had tried to assassinate the Duke. And once Napoleon had gone, Wellington amassed endless trophies of his great enemy--including not one but two of the Emperor's mistresses. Roberts' wry comment: "To sleep with one of Napoleon's mistresses might be considered an accident, but to sleep with two might suggest a pattern of triumphalism..." English readers, who have long lived with the notoriously bitchy comment from another of Wellington's mistresses, that one of their greatest national heroes was, in bed at least, "a cold fish," will be delighted to hear a second opinion from one of these ex-Imperial bed-warmers, that compared to Napoleon, Wellington was "beaucoup le plus fort". So there. Roberts is witty as well as wise, with chapter titles such as "The War for Clio's Ear". And he ends on a provocative, characteristically Euro-sceptic note: Wellington may have won at Waterloo, but today's "politically united Europe led by a centralised (French-led) bureaucracy", represents a final triumph for the Napoleonic vision... touché. --Christopher Hart


Roberts' study of the two greatest opposing generals of their age instantly recalls Alan Bullock's highly praised Hitler and Stalin. Here we also have two titans who, even though violently opposed, had much in common. This is a highly original revisionist study of the two men and some readers may be surprised by the fresh interpretation placed upon some well-known events. Napoleon praised Wellington's ruthlessness in private but criticised him as a mere "sepoy general" in public; Wellington in contrast publicly lauded the Corsican and his value on the battlefield, but in his correspondence criticised his military techniques. The British General saved Bonaparte from assassination after Waterloo, and Napoleon bequeathed money to the man who tried to kill the Duke (later Prime Minister). This animosity, mixed with admiration, charged the relationship between the two men and lies at the heart of this book. Fortunately Roberts makes light work of the contradictions. The legacy of both men has helped to shape modern Europe and, ultimately, it is this mixed achievement which makes this account so interesting.

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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 16 May 2002
Format: Hardcover
The popular viewpoint of these famous foes is that Napoleon totally underestimated Wellington therefore his defeat at Waterloo was inevitable. Author Roberts examines their relationship in great detail and his conclusions regarding their opinion of one and other will startle most readers.

Although most of what's written here is of a highly conjectural nature, there is little doubt that there was much more of a psychological battle brewing between these rivals than most historians will care to admit. Was Napoleon's "bad-mouthing" of Wellington merely "sour grapes" after Waterloo? Roberts points out that Napoleon was certainly saved from execution after the battle by Wellington, but the Duke probably had alterior motives besides humanitarian reasons.

Roberts gets some good mileage out of the fact that the Europe of today is much more in line with the vision that Napoleon had two-hundred years ago.
Wellington's old-school aristocracy is merely a remnant of the past now. That shouldn't prejudice the reader, however, to favor the Emperor over the Duke. Wellington did have the distinct advantage of out-living Napoleon by nearly forty years although his own political career as Prime Minister of Great Britain was less than successful. Political and military accomplishments aside, Wellington made it a point during his long life to at least publicly admire Napoleon "the general" even if he regarded the ex-Emperor's reforms with distaste. To his credit, despite all the honors and glory heaped upon Wellington after Waterloo, he never bragged about the victory or used it, either publicly or privately, to insult the vanguished prisoner on St. Helena. His real true opinion of Napoleon, like Napoleon's own viewpoint, will never be known. Roberts at least gives us an insider's view on what might have been. It makes one inevitably sorry that these two titans of the 19th Century never had the opportunity to sit down for a nice long chat.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By J. Myers on 1 Oct. 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Roberts sets out his ideas in a lucid and impartial fashion, allowing events to speak for themselves. Beginning with a brief outline of the two men's similarities - we then discover the fateful steps which demand that their fates must intersect. Waterloo is the venue of that junction - with Wellington's star still in its ascendancy, and Napoleon's upon the wane. On the day, Roberts shows us Wellington as a man who's militaristic skills have been honed directly by confrontation with the best marshals and generals Napoleon had previously mustered against him in Spain. Napoleon himself described the Peninsular War as a 'school for British soldiers'.
Wellington is obsessed with tiny details, and so respectful of Napoleon's tactics, that he anticipates wide flanking manoeuvres and plans pre-emptive measures against them. Napoleon, by contrast, is a man in ill health. Perhaps unaware of the number of Wellington's true force, delegating responsibility to a level that he has never before adopted. A man of previously great strategies, wearily repeating himself - the best of his army lost in Russia, three years earlier. On the day, Roberts shows us Wellington as the man prepared. The aftermath of Waterloo sees a profound change in both men. Napoleon, wrongly believing Wellington responsible for his exile, becomes bitter and mean-spirited towards the man he once respected. So petty that he even bequests 10,000 francs to Wellington's failed assassin. Wellington, the man actually responsible for Napoleon's continued existence, becomes a somewhat ghoulish collector of Napoleonic ephemera - and spends the rest of his life referencing his greatest battle, either as a 'party piece' or correcting the mistakes of an antagonistic press.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Cooper on 22 Nov. 2011
Format: Paperback
Andrew Roberts is a prolific writer and lecturer on English and British history. He is particularly well known for `Eminent Churchillians' (1994), a collection of essays about prominent figures of the twentieth century; and `Salisbury: Victorian Titan' (1999), the authorised biography of the Victorian Prime Minister. Both of these are excellent; and I found `Salisbury' particularly illuminating, because figures of the Right seldom enjoy sympathetic treatment.

This book is highly original and very well written. I bought it at Apsley House, the London home of the Duke of Wellington, once known simply as `No. 1 London'; and it greatly enriched the experience.

Roberts is always interesting, even when he is not being controversial; but it has to be said that the subject matter of this book is more limited than the title might suggest. It is not so much a book about Napoleon and Wellington, as a book about what the two men thought about each other. Still interesting, but if the reader wants a straightforward account of their careers, he should start elsewhere.

Stephen Cooper
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By markr TOP 500 REVIEWER on 9 Feb. 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an interesting comparison of the lives and military talents of Napoleon and Wellington. In this book it seemed to me that the author was less praising of Napoleon than in his excellent one volume biography Napoleon the Great, and that he was going out of his way to fair and balanced.

There is little here about the political lives, or the civil measures, taken by either man, although one became Emperor and the other Prime Minister - instead the book is mainly about their military campaigns and the contrasting strategies used by each man.

An interesting book, well told, which shows the strange fascination which Wellington seems to have held about Napoleon, and the often disparaging view Napoleon held about Wellington, Waterloo not withstanding. That ii is Napoleon's view of Europe which is largely ascendant today is a fitting ending to the book.However, for me, it is pity that the civil record of each man is not compared and contrasted to anything like the same extent as their generalship
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