Napoleon may eventually have met his Waterloo, but his influence
never has. It still permeates Europe and even influences the US
political outlook. But why should a discredited, defeated and
humiliated emperor remain so influential nearly 200 years after his
death? Historian David Gates points to 1803-1815 as the defining
years for an answer, considering Napoleon's earlier campaigns mere
preludes for the real thing. Strategic detail abounds in what is a
scholarly study and not an especially easy read. Gates tries to get
into the minds of Napoleon and his adversaries but points out that
the wars were about far more than military exploits. It is
impossible to understand the nature of European conflicts in that
age without taking account of the economic, cultural and social
backgrounds against which they were set. Arguing against the common
view that Napoleon was a master of improvisation, Gates holds that
the emperor plotted each campaign to its finest detail and adhered
to the battle plan come what may. He knows his subject to an
astonishing degree, unearthing information that other historians
have either missed or failed to see the significance of. His
analysis of the causes and effects of the conflict and his
appraisal of the military ventures on both sides are a model of
objectivity. This may not be the last word on such a crucial part
of history but it won't be easily bettered. (Kirkus UK)
Known collectively as the 'Great War', for over a decade the
Napoleonic Wars engulfed not only a whole continent but also the
overseas possessions of the leading European states. A war of
unprecedented scale and intensity, it was in many ways a product of
change that acted as a catalyst for upheaval and reform across much
of Europe, with aspects of its legacy lingering to this very day.
There is a mass of literature on Napoleon and his times, yet there
are only a handful of scholarly works that seek to cover the
Napoleonic Wars in their entirety, and fewer still that place the
conflict in any broader framework. This study redresses the
balance. Drawing on recent findings and applying a 'total' history
approach, it explores the causes and effects of the conflict, and
places it in the context of the evolution of modern warfare. It
reappraises the most significant and controversial military
ventures, including the war at sea and Napoleon's campaigns of
1805-9. The study gives an insight into the factors that shaped the
war, setting the struggle in its wider economic, cultural,
political and intellectual dimensions.
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