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Napoleon: Life, Legacy, and Image: A…

Napoleon: Life, Legacy, and Image: A Biography (edition 2012)

by Alan Forrest

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Title:Napoleon: Life, Legacy, and Image: A Biography
Authors:Alan Forrest
Info:St. Martin's Press (2012), Edition: Reprint, Hardcover, 403 pages
Collections:A Century of Napoleons
Tags:France, Italy, Napoleon, Austria, Russia, Prussia, Haiti, Louisiana, St-Domingue, Monbello, Josephine, Lucien Bonaparte, Joseph Bonaparte, Bonaparte, Napoleonic, French Empire

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Napoleon: Life, Legacy, and Image: A Biography by Alan Forrest

  1. 00
    Joseph Fouché : The portrait of a politician by Stefan Zweig (Artymedon)
    Artymedon: Mr. Forrest shows mostly the heroic while Mr. Zweig shows the seedy and sordid of the Empire.

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Very nice prose.

Interesting chapter on the motivations behind the return of Napoleon's ashes in 1840. Very heroic biography.

The book criticizes Napoleon's quest for absolute power and his progressive use of his entourage to function as a court as well as his transformation from fighting general to politician and his influence on society, laws and the Arts. It does comment on how the parliament is reduced to an endorsement role and how election results were likely to have been manipulated to confirm a majority in favor of Napoleon.

Where this short book could have been more developed is for instance when speaking of the 18th Brumaire year VII (9 November 1799) Coup d'Etat and narrating that returning from Egypt, Napoleon found the preparation of this Coup already well under way. Yet the reader would like to know more: Who were the plotters, their financial backers, since when had they met, were there different strategies? The role of Abbe Sieyes is not really developed.

The controversial Joseph Fouche who adopted the cannon as a mode of execution because he thought the guillotine was too slow presented by the author as a mild mannered family man may be an understatement if you want to believe Stefan Zweig. His repression of innocent Jacobins after the attempt on Napoleon's life rue Saint Nicaise tends to show him under quite a different light. More convincing is when he speaks about how the bomb placed on the passage of Napoleon's carriage rue St Nicaise near the Opera, enabled him to launch a repression and deportation decree against the last Jacobins who it turned out, were not responsible for this incident plotted by Royalists with England's money. The role of Fouche is also too summarily developed as well as the motivations of Napoleon for restauring slavery with the support of men like Fouche and the sugar industry. I recommend reading Stefan Zweig's historical essay over Fouche to understand better the politics that brought Napoleon to power.

At times the author speaks of the people as an anonymous entity which fate is too be manipulated by men like Napoleon and his associates through the use of artfully composed propaganda literature.

Also interesting is Mr. Forrest's description of how the Egyptian expedition paves the way for France's future colonial interventions with the mixture of war, propaganda and civilisation as a mission/justificatiion for the war.

This book is a good summary of Napoleon's life but lacks at times the necessary intuitions that could make it a more breakthrough representation of this complex character. ( )
  Artymedon | Jan 16, 2013 |
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From Alan Forrest, a preeminent British scholar, comes an exceedingly readable account of the man and his legend. Drawing on original research and his own distinguished background in French history, Forrest demonstrates that Napoleon was as much a product of his times as their creation.… (more)

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