Form and Content
In his preface to Napoleon, David G. Chandler notes that, compared to his earlier and more detailed study The Campaigns of Napoleon (1966), this biography was conceived as a shorter work for general readers. Nevertheless, Napoleon Bonaparte’s military career remains the book’s primary focus.
The book is divided into six chapters, five of which detail the main events of Napoleon’s life, including his birth on the island of Corsica in 1769, his education at Brienne and L’École Militaire in Paris, his military successes and growing fame during the French Revolution, and his overthrow of the corrupt Directory government in 1799. Following the establishment of one-person rule with Napoleon as first consul (17991804) and then as emperor (18041814), France increasingly dominated Europe and was almost continually at war. Within these narrative chapters, Chandler also includes important aspects of Napoleonic policy and statesmanship, such as the Concordat reestablishing Catholicism, which had been banned during part of the Revolution, and the Napoleonic Code, a synthesis of France’s complex legal system. Yet these achievements are subordinated to a series of military triumphs over Austria, Prussia, and Russia, balanced by the failure to defeat England.
After detailing the disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812 and a series of defeats followed by Napoleon’s first exile to Elba in 1814 (a stay of almost ten months), his...
(The entire section is 460 words.)