Barnett, Correlli.


1st ed., 1978. 224 pp., frontis., cold., plates + numerous b&w photo-ills., + ills. D.j., 25 x 19cm. FINE. The author has made his reputation through arrestingly novel interpretations of his chosen subjects. His portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte is no exception. He sees Napoleon first and foremost as a demagogic politician 'on the make', and a soldier second. In his view Napoleon's campaigns were political expedients to serve his own ambition. The author argues that there was no turning point in Bonaparte's career, but rather that there was a consistent pattern from the beginning to the end. Every extension of his power, though outwardly impressive, only rendered it the more unstable. Up to 1809 his enemies played his game by giving him his decisive battle, and when they lost it, making peace. But, first in Spain under Wellington, and later in Russia in 1812, in Germany in 1813, and in France itself in 1814, they learned to fight on, even when beaten by Bonaparte in single encounters. Once this happened, Bonaparte's system of war was doomed. As a commander his forte was speed and aggressiveness but he was slapdash and neglectful of supply; his armies starved and went barefoot. The author also argues that, far from being a master of concentration of force on the battlefield, he was repeatedly caught with his army dispersed and only rescued from disaster by the last-minute arrival of reinforcements. This is a powerful and original portrait on Napoleon Bonaparte.

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