This book provides a concise, lively, up-to-date portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte's character and career, including his most important battles, while situating him firmly in historical context.
David Bell emphasizes the astonishing sense of human possibility - for both good and ill - that Napoleon represented. By his late twenties, Napoleon was already one of the greatest generals in European history. At thirty, he had become absolute master of Europe's most powerful country. In his early forties, he ruled a European empire more powerful than any since Rome, fighting wars that changed the shape of the continent and brought death to millions. Then everything collapsed, leading him to
spend his last years in miserable exile in the South Atlantic.
Bell underlines the importance of the French Revolution of 1789 in understanding Napoleon's career. It was the Revolution that made possible the unprecedented concentration of political authority that Napoleon developed, as well as his unprecedented success in mobilizing human and material resources. The Revolution gave birth to the radically new, intense form of warfare that Napoleon later practiced. Without the political changes brought about by the Revolution, Napoleon could not have fought
his wars. Without the wars, he could not have seized and held onto power. He did betray much of the Revolution's heritage of liberty and equality, and ruled as a virtual dictator. But his life and career were, nonetheless, revolutionary.
David A. Bell is the Sidney and Ruth Lapidus Professor in the Department of History at Princeton. Born in New York, educated at Harvard, Princeton and the Ecole Normale Superieure, he previously taught at Yale and Johns Hopkins, where he also served as Dean of Faculty in the School of Arts and Sciences.
Introduction 1. The Corsican, 1769-1796 2. The General, 1796-1799 3. The First Consul, 1799-1804 4. The Emperor, 1804-1812 5. Downfall, 1812-1815 Epilogue: 1815-2015