Form and Content

Manuel Komroff’s survey of the career of Napoleon Bonaparte covers each major period of his life. The twelve chapters of Napoleon deal with his boyhood in Corsica, his role in the French Revolution and the Directory, his campaign in Egypt, the First Consulate (18001804), his major battles as emperor of the French, his defeats in Spain and Russia, and his downfall and exile. Komroff does not emphasize any particular phase of Napoleon’s life, preferring instead to narrate events. The author assumes that the reader has no prior knowledge of this historical period, and he offers no general interpretation of Napoleon’s career, only a sequence of major occurrences. There is little analysis of Napoleon’s character, although his ambition and desire to conquer are stressed.

The narration of events is kept very general, with a minimum of detail about military matters. Komroff focuses on Napoleon’s broader strategies, rather than on his tactics. As the emperor of France, he is seen as a ruler who wanted to dominate Europe. By attacking Spain and Russia simultaneously, Napoleon overextended himself, as his ultimate defeat resulted from these overambitious designs. Komroff describes Napoleon’s military victories and defeats without much attention to his larger political objectives in Europe. He occasionally alludes to internal events in Austria, Italy, Prussia, and Russia in order to clarify Napoleon’s actions in these countries and to explain...

(The entire section is 525 words.)