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The Wars Against Napoleon - Book Review

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  • The Wars Against Napoleon - Book Review

    A new book contests the view of Napoleon as warmongering despot and lays the blame for the Napoleonic Wars at the feet of the British government.... Full Article
    ACG Staffer

  • #2
    Not having read the book I can only surmise from the reviewers comments that this is a " modern democratic liberals" view of history.

    I fully subscribe to the view that Britain did fund a series of wars against France/Napoleon. However given the propensity for invading other countries by the French whether to export "freedom" or simply to knock out other countries I find it hard to believe it was simply British gold that unified Europe against Napoleon.

    However if you were to argue that without British aid the European countries would have not been able to, or wishing to, fight then that argument holds some water. Of course the argument also applies to Germany and Japan in the following century. So much less bloodshed if the democracies had not fought back to regain Europe etc.

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    • #3
      I read the book. I previously read The War of Wars by Robert Harvey which I thought was much better. I'm currently reading The Napoleonic Wars by Fremont-Barnes and Fisher which I also think is much better.

      My impression of The Wars Against Napoleon was that is far too fragmented and emotional to be taken seriously as a scholarly work. It is essentially an apology for Napoleon and his ego. Did not Napoleon issue his bombastic proclamation on November 9, 1799 to his soldiers, "It is no longer a question of defending your frontiers, but of invading enemy states"? He essentially declared war against everyone and proceeded to impose his will upon the continent for the next 15 years. The biased authors of this book imply that any sovereign nation that dared resist his will were actually the ones opposed to peace and poor Napoleon was "forced" to fight -- deep into Spain, then deep into Russia, both with disastrous results. I don't buy the argument that Napoleon genuinely wanted peace. Sure he did, on his on terms as a bully, with everyone else subordinate to his Empire. What's next, a book defending Hitler and the Third Reich?

      There are a lot of interesting facts and background material scattered throughout the book to give readers another perspective of the Napoleonic Wars. I learned a lot of new things. It was an interesting read but it failed to persuade.
      "War is cruel and you cannot refine it."
      - William Tecumseh Sherman

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      • #4
        Nazi Napoleon

        When all else fails - bring in the Nazis? Napoleon was no Hitler. He allowed Talleyrand, Fouche, and Bernadotte to betray him time after time, yet he had none of then executed.

        He tried to bring Cadoudal 'on side' even after the man had tried to kill him. He welcomed back innumerable aristocrats because he wanted a France made up of Frenchmen of every political persuasion.

        His return to France in 1815 was welcomed by most of the population and it was a blood less coup. He wrote to the Allies hoping for peace - the British made sure that the Prince Regent didn't even see the letter addressed to him.

        He abdicated in 1814 and 1815 because he despised mob rule and the prospect of civil war. He had seen its effects as a young man during the Terror. How many ancien regime Kings offered to resign during this period - for any reason?

        Alexander of Russia knew of the murder of his father - Tsar Paul a great fan of Napoleon's - and had a very unnatural relationship with his own sister!

        Bungy - Louis XVIII - weighed 310Lbs and like blond young gentlemen. The Allies knew the French people wanted nothing to do with the waddling, gout-striken Divine Right merchant, yet they foisted the sad creature upon that nation. His brother d'artois tried time after time to kill Napoleon through his infamous Chevalier De La Foi. The Emperor did far more for France than either of those two deadbeats.

        The British under Nelson fired upon the Danish navy which was neutral and killed over a 100 innocent civilians - the origin of turning a 'blind eye'. Nelson also insisted on the execution of Naples' democrats who had surrendered with a promise of freedom and wouldn't even let the body of one of the ring-leaders he had had murdered, be given back to his family. What a charmer he was.

        Napoleon was far too trusting of his family - a bad mistake for most of them, like most of the prominent people he raised to prominence, betrayed him. As Gore Vidal says: 'A good deed never goes unpunished'. If he had executed the three men above, he would never have lost power.





        Originally posted by pzgndr View Post
        I read the book. I previously read The War of Wars by Robert Harvey which I thought was much better. I'm currently reading The Napoleonic Wars by Fremont-Barnes and Fisher which I also think is much better.

        My impression of The Wars Against Napoleon was that is far too fragmented and emotional to be taken seriously as a scholarly work. It is essentially an apology for Napoleon and his ego. Did not Napoleon issue his bombastic proclamation on November 9, 1799 to his soldiers, "It is no longer a question of defending your frontiers, but of invading enemy states"? He essentially declared war against everyone and proceeded to impose his will upon the continent for the next 15 years. The biased authors of this book imply that any sovereign nation that dared resist his will were actually the ones opposed to peace and poor Napoleon was "forced" to fight -- deep into Spain, then deep into Russia, both with disastrous results. I don't buy the argument that Napoleon genuinely wanted peace. Sure he did, on his on terms as a bully, with everyone else subordinate to his Empire. What's next, a book defending Hitler and the Third Reich?

        There are a lot of interesting facts and background material scattered throughout the book to give readers another perspective of the Napoleonic Wars. I learned a lot of new things. It was an interesting read but it failed to persuade.

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        • #5
          What of the 3,000 Turkish prisoners executed on Napoleon's orders, or the Duc D'enghien's execution also on Napoleon's orders. And lets not forget the imprisonment of the Pope.
          And do you think that Napoleon's army never killed civilians?

          I do agree it is wrong to compare Napoleon to Hitler, Napoleon was a great man, a great leader, but he had his faults, some seem to think he was the second coming.

          Look at my avatar
          Last edited by Post Captain; 24 Jun 08, 08:08.
          Never Fear the Event

          Admiral Lord Nelson

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          • #6
            Fair comment

            I used to think the 3,000 was the worst blemish upon Napoleon's record. I recently read, however, that he let Turkish prisoners out on parole a few times only to find they went straight back to fighting. They obviously had other ideas than the European way of doing things. Not only that, but his messenger was beheaded by the Turks when he sent him for talks. As he was stranded after The Battle of the Nile he was in an invidious situation. The Turks were supplied by the British navy and Sidney Smith stirred up trouble also. The Turks beheaded as a matter of course. Not a nice place to have a war! Perhaps he should have given up in Syria earlier and returned to Egypt.

            The British Government supported the Bourbon D'Artois' many schemes to blow-up Napoleon. They paid for it all. That Napoleon, on Talleyrand's suggestion, eventually retaliated on the only Bourbon who the British weren't 'keeping' is not surprising. In the Cadoudal plot of Dec 24th 1800, bank-rolled by Britain, a 13 year old girl was blown to bits after she had been left holding the horses of a cart loaded with explosives. Is her life not as important as d' Engien's? Ten other people were massacred too, and 200 wounded. And this was but ONE plot to destroy Napoleon who had been elected Emperor. There was no democracy of any form in England, Austria, Russia, Prussia - they wanted to kill Napoleon to make sure that 'disease' never contaminated their countries. They also all harboured dozens of sworn enemies of the French leader - the emigres. What would you have done in Napoleon's place?

            Napoleon was no saint. Most books I have read condemn him but never say a word about the Allies and their pathetic war-mongering rulers.

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            • #7
              I just started reading War and Peace and discovered that I really don't have as firm a grasp on the timeline of Napoleonic history as I thought I did. Now I am looking to remedy this. Most of my reading on the topic has been in the form of articles or, as in The Face of Battle, sections of books that focus in on specific events. I'd like some recommendations on a good overview of the period in one volume. I remember reading the review this thread was started about. Would this be a good place to start? Thanks for any advice you could give.
              Last edited by Gui_le_noir; 03 Jan 09, 14:47.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by SOULADREAM View Post
                When all else fails - bring in the Nazis? Napoleon was no Hitler. He allowed Talleyrand, Fouche, and Bernadotte to betray him time after time, yet he had none of then executed.

                Were they doing anything particularly wrong by betraying him?

                After all, he came to power by overthrowing the Republican government which had made him a general in the first place. Was there any reason why others, whom he in his turn had promoted, shouldn't do the same to him, if they thought (rightly or wrongly) that France's interests, and of course their own, would be served thereby? Was there anything special about Napoleon which gave him a permanent right to anyone's loyalty?


                Originally posted by SOULADREAM View Post
                Bungy - Louis XVIII - weighed 310Lbs and like blond young gentlemen. The Allies knew the French people wanted nothing to do with the waddling, gout-striken Divine Right merchant, yet they foisted the sad creature upon that nation. His brother d'artois tried time after time to kill Napoleon through his infamous Chevalier De La Foi. The Emperor did far more for France than either of those two deadbeats.

                What had Louis' waistline, or his sexual proclivities. got to do with the matter?

                The Senate (Napoleon's own appointees) recalled Louis because a government under him would be the one most acceptable to the victors, and so have the best chance of obtaining a lenient peace - as indeed it did. That achieved, he would be no more indispensible than Napoleon had been. If the years of exile had taught him good sense and persuaded him to be a constitutional ruler, all well and good. If not - if he or his successor proved intolerable - it would be no great matter. He could be overthrown in his turn, like Napoleon before him - or the Directory before Napoleon, or the Jacobins before them, or the Girondins before them or Louis XVI before them - as soon as this could be safely done without triggering another war. This duly happened in 1830 without much difficulty.

                For Pete's sake, this had been France's national sport for a generation. Was there any reason why the game should end just because Napoleon said so? Sure, he had had a spectacular military career, but in 1814 the glory days were clearly over. Since 1812 it had been one long retreat, and the Empire was plainly overdue to be binned as all those other regimes had been. Louis XVIII might or might not prove acceptable as a permanent replacement, but for the nonce he would make as good an interim ruler as anyone else who was available.
                Last edited by Mikestone8; 28 Dec 09, 18:15.

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