Books > History > World history > 1750 to 1900
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Patrice Gueniffey is the leading French historian of the
Revolutionary and Napoleonic age. This book, hailed as a masterwork
on its publication in France, takes up the epic narrative at the
heart of this turbulent period: the life of Napoleon himself, the
man who--in Madame de Sta l's words--made the rest of "the human
race anonymous." Gueniffey follows Bonaparte from his obscure
boyhood in Corsica, to his meteoric rise during the Italian and
Egyptian campaigns of the Revolutionary wars, to his proclamation
as Consul for Life in 1802. Bonaparte is the story of how Napoleon
became Napoleon. A future volume will trace his career as emperor.
Most books approach Napoleon from an angle--the Machiavellian
politician, the military genius, the life without the times, the
times without the life. Gueniffey paints a full, nuanced portrait.
We meet both the romantic cadet and the young general burning with
ambition--one minute helplessly intoxicated with Josephine, the
next minute dominating men twice his age, and always at war with
his own family. Gueniffey recreates the violent upheavals and
global rivalries that set the stage for Napoleon's battles and for
his crucial role as state builder. His successes ushered in a new
age whose legacy is felt around the world today. Averse as we are
now to martial glory, Napoleon might seem to be a hero from a
bygone time. But as Gueniffey says, his life still speaks to us,
the ultimate incarnation of the distinctively modern dream to will
our own destiny.
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