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Napoleon and Wellington (2001)

by Andrew Roberts

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292465,415 (3.64)4
On the morning of the battle of Waterloo, the Emperor Napoleon declared that the Duke of Wellington was a bad general, the British were bad soldiers and that France could not fail to win an easy victory. Forever afterwards historians have accused him of gross overconfidence, and massively underestimating the calibre of the British commander opposed to him. Andrew Roberts presents an original, highly revisionist view of the relationship between the two greatest captains of their age. Napoleon, who was born in the same year as Wellington - 1769 - fought Wellington by proxy years earlier in the Peninsula War, praising his ruthlessness in private while publicly deriding him as a mere 'sepoy general'. In contrast, Wellington publicly lauded Napoleon, saying that his presence on a battlefield was worth forty thousand men, but privately wrote long memoranda lambasting Napoleon's campaigning techniques. Although Wellington saved Napoleon from execution after Waterloo, Napoleon left money in his will to the man who had tried to assassinate Wellington. Wellington in turn amassed a series of Napoleonic trophies of his great victory, even sleeping with two of the Emperor's mistresses. The constantly changing relationship between these two nineteenth-century giants forms the basis of Andrew Roberts' compelling study in pride, rivalry, propaganda, nostalgia, and posthumous revenge.… (more)

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An examination of how Napoleon and Wellington's lives intersected; what they had in common; and (the book's most intriguing feature) what they thought about each other. Roberts sifts through the wealth of material written about both men, stripping away inaccuracy and bias to assemble a dual portrait that doesn't seek to flatter either subject. The book is lively and well written, providing enough detail on both subjects' military campaigns without bamboozling the reader with technicalities. Roberts is a witty and frequently caustic writer; one who is refreshingly unafraid to express strong opinions. Unlike so many writers, Roberts does not cherry-pick from primary and secondary sources to reinforce a point of his own; instead he presents the material as originally written and, if he believes it to be erroneous, states his reasons or lays bare the original writer's motivations. Highly recommended to anyone with even a passing interest in the Napoleonic or Regency period. ( )
  Lirmac | Jul 19, 2018 |
A parallel biography, and it's quite useful. Either man merits a longer book, and has plenty of them, but this is a competent essay that tells the reader a useful amount about either. Wellington or Napoleon, which one the reader ends up rooting for, as they meet in Belgium, tells a lot about the reader. So, all four parties to the transaction, the author, the reader and the two subjects, all live for a short period in communication with each other. A book I'd be happy to own! ( )
  DinadansFriend | Jul 7, 2015 |
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On the morning of the battle of Waterloo, the Emperor Napoleon declared that the Duke of Wellington was a bad general, the British were bad soldiers and that France could not fail to win an easy victory. Forever afterwards historians have accused him of gross overconfidence, and massively underestimating the calibre of the British commander opposed to him. Andrew Roberts presents an original, highly revisionist view of the relationship between the two greatest captains of their age. Napoleon, who was born in the same year as Wellington - 1769 - fought Wellington by proxy years earlier in the Peninsula War, praising his ruthlessness in private while publicly deriding him as a mere 'sepoy general'. In contrast, Wellington publicly lauded Napoleon, saying that his presence on a battlefield was worth forty thousand men, but privately wrote long memoranda lambasting Napoleon's campaigning techniques. Although Wellington saved Napoleon from execution after Waterloo, Napoleon left money in his will to the man who had tried to assassinate Wellington. Wellington in turn amassed a series of Napoleonic trophies of his great victory, even sleeping with two of the Emperor's mistresses. The constantly changing relationship between these two nineteenth-century giants forms the basis of Andrew Roberts' compelling study in pride, rivalry, propaganda, nostalgia, and posthumous revenge.

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