This is volume one of Michael Broers’ biography of Napoleon. Yes, it’s Napoleon’s life story. But there are some striking new takes which make it a fascinating read. One that spoke to me was Broers’ insistence on the Corsican childhood. The Oxford academic’s distinction between Corsicans of the interior and the Corsican coastlanders (aptly set against the image of the Anglo-Irish of the Pale and the Irish of the interior) is fascinatingly new. What’s more, this key helps guide the reader throughout the labyrinth of Corsican politics, Paoli, the arrival of the French Revolution, local alliances and conflicts. Broers is also tendentious, when he describes the marriage to Josephine as a mistake! And his insights into the similarities of experience of the soon-to-be imperial couple similarly are compelling. For Napoleon’s public career, as Broers himself proudly notes, this is the first ever to have been written using ‘our’ Correspondance générale. As a result (not surprisingly), the account is sure and stimulating. Alongside the English-language biographies by John Holland Rose and Steven Englund, his account is one that’s going stand the test of time. Roll on volume two!
Peter Hicks, March 2014
Paperback edition released in February 2015.
Review by Christopher Silvester in the Financial Times, dated 28 February, 2014.
Review by Roger Lewis in the Daily Mail, dated 20 February, 2014.
Review by Harry Reid in The Herald-Scotland, dated 30 March, 2014.
Review by Professor Charles Esdaile, dated 8 January, 2015