Napoleon Series Archive 2015

Andrew Roberts: Napoleon part 2

Well, we had part 2, covering the creation of the Empire and the glory years up to 1809. As in the first part, Roberts was smooth and charming in his unabashed hero worship of Napoleon. He crams a lot into an hour and brings out the way Napoleon restored order after the chaos of the Revolution, built up the devotion of the army and how he outmanoeuvred the Austrians and Russians in 1805. On a personal level, he illustrates Napoleon's self doubt in his relationships with women as a contrast to his usual self confidence. He still struggles to deal satisfactorily with the creation of the new aristocracy and the elevation of his brothers to kings, if he was truly, as Roberts claims,a defender of the goals and achievements of the Revolution - in fact the divorce of Josephine and the marriage to Marie Louise to secure a male heir smacks of the old royal dynasties. He also makes an odd comment about the "liberating" quality of Napoleon's dictatorship, free of the restrictions imposed by opinion polls, focus groups etc.

I struggle with his basic premise that Napoleon has been portrayed in a consistently negative and unfair way by previous historians and that he is trying to balance the picture - he always puts a positive spin on Napoleon's actions and criticises the reactionary monarchies for starting the wars on ideological grounds, ignoring the real threat that Napoleon posed to them (what was the Army of England doing on the coast facing Britain?), and doesn't really put the wars into context. There is already plenty of pro-Napoleon literature out there and his achievements (as well as his errors and weaknesses) have already been well-aired.

Overall, interesting but flawed - looking forward to part 3 - not sure how Roberts will deal with this phase of Napoleon's career.

Regards

Paul

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