Taking his title from Hegel’s famous remark “I saw the spirit of the age [Weltgeist]” (omitting the German philosopher‘s conclusion ‘on horseback’ but thoughtfully providing on the cover an illustration of a mounted Napoleon), Michael Broers unsheathes his mighty pen/sword for an epic account of Napoleon’s epic years. Once again (this is volume 2), he plunders our “Correspondance générale de Napoleon Bonaparte” to great advantage. And he is not wrong to underline how much this publication has rejuvenated and completely changed the writing of Napoleonic history – but we would say that, wouldn’t we? And also drawing on recent works in German, Italian, Spanish and of course French (he is recognised in his field as an expert in European history, indeed Italy was long his favourite hunting ground), Broers gives a new and very convincing account of Napoleon the Empire years (though we will have to wait for Russia and the end, coming in volume 3). Just like Steven Englund and Luigi Mascilli Migliorini before him, Michael Broers takes Napoleon seriously, and the result is not just (!) great history, it is also a great read. The London Times claims it might become the definitive biography of Napoleon. We here at the Fondation would be highly dubitative as to whether this could ever be written (Borges’ ‘On exactitude in Science’ comes to mind…). But for books in English, sourced so widely, it makes the claim seem less like hype. Well worth spending time reading in detail.
PH, March 2018.
Publisher’s presentation :
“Napoleon’s life reached its most extraordinary stage, between 1805 and 1810.
In 1805, Napoleon was suddenly at war with Britain, Russia, and Austria. He mobilised all his power to confront them, unleashing his magnificent Grande Armée. Its first, resounding victory at Austerlitz was followed by a whirlwind of campaigns, bringing Napoleon and his men to the borders of Russia.
These stunning triumphs made Napoleon the master of the continent, but they left Britain unbowed. In the years that followed, this struggle with Britain came to dominate Napoleon’s actions, leading him into the bloodbath of the Spanish Peninsular war, and his attempt to blockade Europe against British commerce.
In 1809, Austria launched yet another assault on him. By 1810, Napoleon had routed them, and divorced Josephine in order to marry the daughter of the Austrian Emperor.
But at a time of such victory, his own family was torn asunder in the struggle for survival”.
This is the second volume in Michael Broers’s biography of Napoleon.