Napoleon the Great
It has become all too common for Napoleon Bonaparte’s biographers to approach him as a figure to be reviled, bent on world domination, practically a proto-Hitler. Here, after years of study extending even to visits paid to St Helena and 53 of Napoleon’s 56 battlefields, Andrew Roberts has created a true portrait of the mind, the life, and the military and above all political genius of a fundamentally constructive ruler. This is the Napoleon, Roberts reminds us, whose peacetime activity produced countless indispensable civic innovations – and whose Napoleonic Code provided the blueprint for civil law systems still in use around the world today.
It is one of the greatest lives in world history, which here has found its ideal biographer. The sheer enjoyment which this book will give anyone who loves history is enormous.
‘The effect is huge, rich, witty, humane and unapologetically admiring biography of 900 pages, each of them is a pleasure to read. The Napoleon painted here is a whirlwind of a man – not only a vigorous and supremely confident commander, but an astonishingly busy governor, correspondent and lover too. To dive into Roberts’s new book is to understand – indeed, to feel – why this peculiarly brilliant Corsican managed for so long to dazzle the world. Roberts’s book is not just another brilliant narrative biography of Napoleon – although it is certainly this. It is also an essay on statesmanship and a meditation on history itself. It goes without saying that Napoleon would also be delighted with the title and the content of Roberts’s gloriously enjoyable new book.’
– Dan Jones, Daily Telegraph
‘Roberts … writes with great vigour, style and fluency.’
– Dominic Sandbrook, The Sunday Times
‘Magisterial and beautifully written … A richly detailed and sure-footed reappraisal of the man, his achievements – and failures – and the extraordinary times in which he lived.’
– Jeremy Jennings, Standpoint
‘In just over 800 pages of elegant, judiciously argued and compelling prose Roberts produces a case for the defence that, ultimately, is impossible to gainsay. The great man has found in Roberts a worthy biographer. He has written a superbly nuanced portrait of a complex, likeable and never less than fascinating character that will stand as a benchmark for a generation.’
– Saul David, Evening Standard
‘Andrew Roberts begins his entertaining and deeply forensic examination of Napoleon by teasing us, somewhat coyly, about where he is going to go with these arguments. … Roberts is also not a man to stay in his study – he has walked 53 of Napoleon’s battlefields, experiences that have made descriptions of battle as lively, fresh and vivid as any you can find in the canon. Roberts not only brings the Napoleon story up to date but, with new evidence from the archives and an original spin on the present, makes a compelling case for why we should all read anew about the little Corsican in the 21st century.’
– Andrew Hussey, The Observer
‘Every aspect of Napoleon gets a mention in more than 900 well-illustrated pages, from the great battles and political decisions to the minutest details of his love life.’
– William Doyle, Financial Times
‘Roberts tells his story with vigour and aplomb. And even critics of the emperor will recognize that there is much new information in Roberts’s 814 pages, while the frequent complaint that is made of a tendency among authors to foreshorten the military narrative is not suitable here.’
– Charles Esdaile, Literary Review
‘Is another long life of Napoleon really necessary? On three counts, the answer given by Andrew Roberts’s impressive book is an emphatic yes.
The most important is that this is the first single-volume general biography to make full use of the treasure trove of Napoleon’s 33,000-odd letters, which began being published in Paris only in 2004. Second, Mr Roberts, who has previously written on Napoleon and Wellington, is a masterly analyst of the French emperor’s many battles. Third, his book is beautifully written and a pleasure to read.’
– The Economist