on 23 May 2006
Simply put, the best biography of Napoleon in English.
Englund writes with great erudition, wit, and verve, with an eye for the revealing vignette as well as the epic, grand sweep of things. He is entirely up to date with the latest scholarship and does not succumb to the temptation of applying modern day standards of morality to an era that is not ours.
That said, this is a political biography - anyone looking for salacious details of Napoleon and Joesphines relationship, or a blow-by-blow account of famous battles will have to look elsewhere - and it presupposes that the reader will have a basic knowledge of the period.
That said, this magnificent books comes with my highest recommendation.
This is an excellent account of the life of Napoleon, which provides a balanced view of his actions and motivations, both within France and within the Empire he largely created. Whilst this is essentially a political biography, there is enough here on his military campaigns, personal life and writings to give a rounded picture of the man and his times.
It probably helps to have some prior knowledge of the period. Stephen Englund does rather seem to take that for granted, but notwithstanding that, this will be an enjoyable read for the general reader, like me, with an interest in history, as well as those with more detailed prior knowledge
on 5 September 2013
Although this is a good introduction into the life of Napoleon and into the times of post-revolution France, the author does not always use simple language and often uses verbose / pompous vocabulary. This makes certain passage difficult to read. However, the book takes the reader chronologically through the life of Napoleon and cross-references his arguments with details from other historians. Do not buy this book if you want a family portrait, but as the title says, "A Political Life", it is worth the read.