We should perhaps not be surprised that, as a global pandemic currently underscores the reality of the global village, Alexander Mikaberidze should brilliantly have taken the history of the Napoleonic Wars and set it rightfully in its worldwide perspective. In this, Mikaberidze not also gives the reader a retrospective (but also contemporary) view of the 18th-century continuities of European countries’ foreign policies but also bids readers extend their gaze. It’s the Empires, stupid!
Napoleon of course was thinking global. The massive investment first in Egypt and then again in Santo Domingo shows it clearly. And when the turn of events leading to the bitter-sweet geo-political moment of Ulm/Trafalgar/Austerlitz put an end to the hugely expensive extra-European designs, global diplomacy took over, as Tilsit with Russia brought the Ottoman Empire to the forefront of political wrangling on an extra-European scale (not without military activity too). All this is not even to get into the questions concerning South America and the Far East, the former with its heady mix of international trade and the complexities of political independence from Spanish and Portuguese mother countries, from Mexico to Argentina, and the latter with Britain leaving France in the dust as it tried to strong-arm Portugal and Holland out of the way with China and Japan. The British East India Company’s activities in the Indian subcontinent form a backdrop to all this, stretching from the early 18th century right to the Indian mutiny and beyond. And we haven’t even talked about the British backstop in North America that was Canada (for which the War of 1812 was fought) and France’s failure to prevent a British future for Australia.
This is a 900-page book that cross-fertilises Napoleonic history with world history, and it’s fantastic. The perfect antidote to lockdown boredom.
PH April 2020
Alexander Mikaberidze, Louisiana State University at Shreveport
Alexander Mikaberidze is Associate Professor of European History at Louisiana State University at Shreveport. He is the author of several books, including The Burning of Moscow: Napoleon’s Trial by Fire 1812 and The Battle of Borodino: Napoleon versus Kutuzov.