Click Here To Purchase Napoleon: A Biography


Author:
Frank McLynn  
Publisher: Arcade Publishing; Reprint edition
ISBN-10: 9781611450378
ISBN-13: 978-1611450378
 
 
On its first publication in 2003, Frank McLynn’s biography of Napoleon met with largely universal critical favor, although a complex book exploring a complex subject earned some cautionary notes. On one hand, McLynn himself admitted a one-volume biography of the French Emperor could never be considered “definitive.” Researchers and historians wanting standard scholarly apparatus can complain the lack of footnotes and citations make digging into McLynn’s sources problematic. On the other hand, dense and detailed, McLynn’s effort is perhaps not the easiest introduction for the general audience. Still, this biography should interest any reader wanting more than a chronological history of the life and times of Napoleon Bonaparte as McLynn excels at putting the man in the contexts of European history, family and political relationships, and especially the myths that surrounded him then and now.
           
McLynn weighs the rise and fall of the “Corsican ogre” with a level hand, pointing to elements of greatness as well as the astonishing weaknesses of a man seeking grandeur without any ideology to support his reasons to lead.        This biography is, in one sense, two books in one. The
first half focuses on Napoleon and his troublesome family where the author speculates about the roots of Napoleon’s psychological makeup and motivations. In the first chapters, mcLynn is very good with the contextual arena that shaped Napoleon’s thinking such as his mentors, reading, the conditions of family and military life. McLynn is as credible as any researcher can be and makes reasonable assumptions as in determining Napoleon’s choices were less Machiavellian than some have proposed. The Emperor could make self-destructive choices based on apparently simple personal reasons, mainly based on his resentful views of women—which lead to an unhappy addiction to his overtly faithless first wife, Josephine.

 
The second half of the book is almost a day-by-day look at Napoleon as a general, tracing Napoleon’s almost unlikely military rise which was built on strong nerve, good analysis of battlefield conditions, mathematical strategies, pure luck, bravado, and a growing confidence in his abilities during the Italian campaign of 1796-1797. After 14 months of a pointless and often atrocious campaign in the Middle East, the opportunistic Napoleon returned to France where circumstances permitted his coup d’état and become First Counsel of France. Here, general readers may learn most about aspects of Napoleon beyond the military sphere, notably his political aptitude, understanding of economics, and the creation of the Code Napoleon and its questionable merits.
 
Then, as Napoleon’s power rested on his ability to keep his country at war,  McLynn vividly explains the motives of the leaders of the European powers and why battles and wars were won and lost. Expanding and defending his empire, Bonaparte does not shine as a gifted general, but a lucky one with Marshals who didn’t follow orders and opponents who were fortunate in the weather or geography. McLean demonstrates there was more to Napoleon’s Russian defeat than the winter and Wellington was no brilliant strategist at Waterloo. In the end, Napoleon was a man betrayed by his confidantes, his poor judgment of character, his over-reaching of power for the sake of France at the expense of his satellite states, and amoral treatment of him in exile by the British government.
 
Again, Frank McLynn has not left us with the last word on Napoleon, but he has provided a very useful biography with insights that were fresh in 2003 and still debated today. It’s a hefty tome not only for those interested in the biography of a complicated figure but of European history as a whole.
   

Click Here To Purchase Napoleon: A Biography