Academic journal article Military Review

Napoleon: The Final Verdict

Academic journal article Military Review

Napoleon: The Final Verdict

Article excerpt

NAPOLEON: The Final Verdict edited by Philip J. Haythornthwaite. 320 pages. Arms and Armour Press, London. (Distributed by Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., New York.) 1997. $29.95.

Editor Philip J. Haythornthwaite has assembled an impressive collection of highly readable, popular historical accounts on history's greatest soldier, Napoleon Bonaparte. Many of the contributors-J. David Markham, Guy C. Dempsey Jr, Andrew Uffindell and Tim Hicks-are noted military historians of the Napoleonic period and are well qualified to judge his military and political achievements and his considerable foibles.

While Napoleon: The Final Verdict is enjoyable to read, it does not present new or sufficient evidence in a disciplined or balanced fashion to arrive at a "final verdict" on so controversial a man. The authors are clearly favorably disposed toward Bonaparte. While this is not necessarily damning, ignoring the most current sources, such as Georges Lefebvre, Don Horward or John Davis, about the Emperor or the empire is a disservice to the reader and fails to provide a more balanced case to better judge Napoleon and his impact on history and warfare. The contributors trace, through a series of 10 chapters divided into two parts, the rise and ultimate fall of history's finest `Great Captain.' The book begins by detailing Napoleon's early years and first commands. The text then neatly transitions to an exciting chapter on the years of legend (1805-1809), which enables the reader to put Napoleon's unequaled battlefield prowess into context.

The book then describes Napoleon's abortive foray into the Iberian peninsula. Guy Dempsey opines, "Of all the episodes of Napoleon's career, his entanglement in Spain is one of the least honorable and least successful, as well as one of the most tragic, because it could have been so easily avoided. …

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