Napoleon (Magill's Literary Annual 2009)
Philip Dwyer’s Napoleon: The Path to Powerthe first volume of an extended biography of Napoleon Bonapartewill be appreciated by readers familiar with the Napoleonic saga as well as by those encountering the life of the great conqueror for the first time. Although Dwyer is a distinguished scholar and an expert on the Napoleonic period, and the book, published by Yale University Press, is intensively researched and heavily footnoted, Dwyer’s vigorous prose transcends the merely academic. He has managed the difficult feat of having something new to say about one of the most familiar stories in modern history.
Bonaparte has been the subject of countless studies since his famous final defeat at Waterloo. The record of his spectacular rise and fall is inherently dramatic. In the midst of an age of revolution, when aristocracy was slowly being supplanted by liberalism and a rising bourgeoisie, Bonaparte was the ultimate self-made man. He came from obscurity to dominate the continent of Europe as the ruler of a new French Empire. Though a thoroughgoing tyrant, his ascendancy spread the French Revolution’s ideal of equality before the law. While most of Europe eventually rebelled against his quest for power, he was for a time seen by many as a shining avatar of progress. Bonaparte achieved all this through a record of military success that earned him a place with the greatest leaders of history. He developed an unparalleled facility in maneuvering...
(The entire section is 1999 words.)
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