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Napoleon Bonaparte Paperback – 1 Jun 2001
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About the Author
J. M. Thompson was Tutorial Fellow in Modern History at Magdalen College, Oxford and University Lecturer in French History. He was a lecturer of great distinction, whose Lectures on Foreign History 1494-1789, first published in 1923, had sold over 43,000 copies by the time it went out of print 10 years ago.
Top Customer Reviews
It has so much French in it that it could do with a supplement translation. Unless you are a fluent French speaker, half of the content wont make any sense to you.
Any book of this kind has to contain historical fact but this book is overloaded to the point of failing to make it interesting to the reader.
This book is more of a reference than an interesting read on one of histories prominent figures.
On the whole I found it very hard going, boring and extremely disappointing.
Verdict: CRAP! Sorry J.M Thompson. you must have worked so hard to collect all those facts only to fail miserably.
Make no mistake, this is no cotton-candy, lightweight penny-dreadful chronicling the more salacious aspects of the Emperor's love life (for a sensitive treatment of such themes, consider Evangeline Bruce's Napoleon and Josephine). This is predominantly an intricate study of Napoleon's state-building policies, in both France and the Europe he ruled.
I would recommend it to both the general and specialised reader- assuming of course, that they possess a modicum of taste.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)
In addition, any work examining Napoleon necessarily must concern itself with his numerous battles throughout Europe and the Mediterranean. Here, again, Thompson comes up short. Napoleon's conquest of Italy between 1796 and 1797 reads like a sophomore's outline. The battle for Arcole, which was desperate and revealed the incompetence, war-weariness, and just plain fear of the French troops--even as it displayed Napoleon's willingness to take amazing personal risks--is described as follows: "The victory of Arcole (November 16th)--the climax of a fortnight's campaign against Wurmser's second attempt to raise the siege--made the ultimate fall of Mantua a foregone conclusion. . ." (p. 79). Not a word about how Napoleon grabbed the French flag and, with his staff officers, rushed the bridge over the river Alpone after his infantry had been repulsed owing to heavy Croatian and Austrian fire. Furthermore, many of Napoleon's battles took place in or around small villages, like Arcole, that few people have ever heard about, yet there is not a single map in the entire book.
Problems such as those noted above are compounded by Thompson's stiff, dismal prose. In 400 pages of tiny print about a man who was full of life to the end, there is not one sentence that captures the essence of Napoleon, not one sentence that causes the reader to smile in recognition. One could argue, I suppose, that a historical work published in 1952 conformed to different standards than what readers today expect. I would submit that such an argument is flawed. One need only look at the histories of Herodotus and Thucydides to recognize that the principles of good writing have not changed drastically over the centuries--and certainly not over the last 60 years. The simple fact is that this is an awful book that fails to do justice to its subject or to the art of writing about history.
While chronicling the rise and fall of Napoleon, the author displays a keen apprehension of the repercussions of decisions and actions while finding time to apprise the reader of the roles of those on the sidelines; a Saliceti, a Fouche, a Madame de Stael. The enormous sweep of time is succinctly capsuled by the author and one comes away with a far better understanding of the era thanks to Thompson's critical analysis while being entertained by a master storyteller.
Neither incomparable saint nor inconceivable devil, Napoleon comes through as a tragically flawed genius, unable to rise to true greatness by his own egoism and selfishness.