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The Age of Napoleon by J. Christopher Herold

The Age of Napoleon (1963)

by J. Christopher Herold

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  Mapguy314 | Mar 10, 2016 |
Best history book I've read for some years. Broad lines of Boney's blaze are of course familiar, but seldom so well told. Great range and compression of info, including hilarious character sketches of Europe's decadent royals, survey of the main political philosophies of the time ( brilliantly funny summary of Malthus and his 14 children!) and his impact on far-flung continents that he never went near. While nailing Nappy as an unprincipled opportunist, he also shows his energy and, not least, his prose style as elements in his success. But his eventual downfall was equally inevitable. Still remains amazing that anyone would come to his call after losing three armies. ( )
  vguy | Jul 9, 2015 |
Overall a good read. The author, though, uses terms like "royalist right & Jacobean left" as throwaway lines & the people who lived in those days would not have understood what "right or left" meant as used by the author. The book is centered on Napoleon & his world & the dramatic changes he created & carried the French Revolution to its logical conclusion. The world that Europe knew before 1789 was no more which the Congress of Vienna failed to undo for Napoleon's shadow hovered over Europe long after his death, even more so he gutted France leaving it a mere resemblance of itself. His legacy as ruler exposed the ineptitude of Austria, incompetence of the Russian Romanovs, the seething bitterness of Prussia, & the dearth of leadership in Britain until Wellington's defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo. Napoleon's legacy which the rulers tried hard to ignore or undo continued its ripple effects until the eve of the First World War. ( )
  wcsdm3 | Apr 9, 2013 |
This book by J. Christopher Herold is described by the NY TImes as a "popular history", which I suppose means that it is not necessary for the author to cite sources or drop footnotes. The book contains no bibliography and I don't recall Herold ever even mentioning a source for any of the facts he alludes to. That's really shocking with a subject like Napoleon, where so much ink has been spilled. Those quibbles aside, the book is an easy read and is considerably enlivened by Herold's wit and erudition. I thought the discussion of Napoleon's problems with England as well as the discussion of the effects of Napoleon on the New World were particularly well done. Unlike in a real work of history, Herold does not hesitate to engage in speculation and commentary on the historical events that he describes. He does so in an amusing way, but seemingly not a page goes by without Herold getting into the head of various historical characters. That's fine, but in those cases one wishes that Herold had taken the trouble to indicate his sources for why he thought people did what they did. The problem is so glaring that I wonder if the publishers removed citations, believing they wouldn't be needed in a "popular history." ( )
  ninefivepeak | Jan 13, 2013 |
This book is part biography, part history book as it tells the story of Napoleon in the context of the times he was in: political, cultural, military, economic and social.

I will tell you this up front. Going into this book I knew little to nothing about Napoleon. Literally, aside from knowing that he was a dictator, that he was considered a bad guy, and that the Louisiana Purchase was due to him, I knew nothing else. That stood to be to my detriment in attempting to read this book. It assumed you knew the basics, that you had read the cliffnotes on his life, or that you had a basic historical background in all of Napoleon's battles and activities during this period, which I did not. Following these chapters was almost impossible, and at times I was very lost and caught myself re-reading pages to see what I could have missed.

He also consistently talked down to the reader, which I thought was rich considering this was obviously not a book for beginners or meant to be an introduction to the period as the blurb on the back might lead you to think, but a book written for fellow history buffs like this guy was. He also was pretty denigrating to any theories that didn't agree with what he thought about what happened during the period. The negativity at times was a bit of a turn off.

To his credit he did have a great sense of humor, and in a very droll way had you laughing once in a while as he relayed some anecdote about Napoleon or his battles. And, once he started going back and explaining in a little more detail stuff he said before, it got to be pretty interesting. And, I admit, I did walk away with a basic understanding of what had occurred during that time frame. In the regency era novels I read after reading this book I had a much better grasp of just what was being discussed about the men "serving abroad" during the regency and just what they must have went through serving in Egypt, in Russia, in Spain and at Waterloo.

That being said, that knowledge was hard won. I would recommend you keep looking for a book that gives a more "user friendly" approach to introducing the average reader to the age of napoleon. This book is not meant for light reading! ( )
  exlibrisbitsy | Mar 31, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0828104913, Paperback)

Called an "outstanding work of popular history" by The New York Times, this book is the biography of an enigmatic and legendary personality, as well as the portrait of an entire age. The author explores relevant political, cultural, military, commercial, and social history.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:21 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

"The Age of Napoleon is the biography of an enigmatic and legendary personality as well as the portrait of an entire age. J. Christopher Herold tells the fascinating story of the Napoleonic world in all its aspects -- political, cultural, military, commercial, and social. Napoleon's rise from common origins to enormous political and military power, as well as his ultimate defeat, influenced our modern age in thousands of ways, from the map of Europe to the metric system, from styles of dress and dictators to new conventions of personal behavior." -- Book cover.… (more)

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