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Kaleidoscope History: paints a very pretty picture... Just don't expect a truthful perspective.
on 4 November 2011
This book is marred beyond repair by the naked partiality of its author. An unashamed apologist for the power-hungry Bonaparte, Cronin applies distortion after distortion, leaving the knowledgeable reader critical and the unknowledgeable reader at best wondering where fiction ends and fact begins. At worst, he/she is taken in by it. Examples (off the top of my head) include:
- suggesting that France's wars of invasion - leading to a vast empire - were defensive only or, even worse, were to protect states from oppression/invasion. So to protect nations from invasion you invade them yourself?
- Justifying Napoleon's censorship of material by saying no book of any worth was ever censored. That is not the point: is Napoleon (and Cronin) the only valid arbiter of "worth"?
- Suggesting that Napoleon, who never held an elected post was democratically selected as First Consul by the population (he was appointed by the constitution). The evidence he cites is the 'ratifying' plebiscite of highly dubious veracity (it had a 99.9% positive vote but Cronin appears content to accept this at face-value). He uses similar arguments when Napoleon's position was permanently solidified as First Consul 'for life'.
- Skirting over crucially salient facts of the Peninsular War, e.g. that Napoleon turned on his ally, Spain, kidnapped the monarch and invaded his realm.
This book is such a shame. There were doubtless good points to Napoleon's personality that deserve description and I am sure much (or at least some) of what Cronin said was true. Unfortunately, his glaring disingenuity left me doubting the reliability of ANY of his comments.