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1,017 hits since 10 Nov 2023
©1994-2024 Bill Armintrout
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advocate10 Nov 2023 1:06 p.m. PST

I've read Charles Esdaile's "Napoleon's Wars", and am currently half way through Frank McLynn's "Napoleon" biography. It's been slow. I've learnt too much about Josephine and if I see the words 'Machiavellian" or "lubricious" again I should not be held accountable for my actions.
a) Is it worth continuing with McLynn?
b) Can some suggest a decent military life of Napoleon
c) How readable is "Swords around a throne"?
d) McLynn's summary of the marshalate is intriguing but I can't say I trust it. Is there a decent book?

14Bore10 Nov 2023 1:12 p.m. PST

For no French and a Napoleonic buff Swords Around the Throne is a good read, better for French fans

von Winterfeldt10 Nov 2023 1:32 p.m. PST

Swords is a fairy tale – full of myths and misconception, as Boney fan a must, in case of critical point of view, better to avoid.

advocate10 Nov 2023 1:43 p.m. PST

And for the other points, particularly a good military life of the Man?

rustymusket10 Nov 2023 2:00 p.m. PST

David Chandler's "Campaigns of Napoleon" is a good, readable book. It is a military biography, and you won't have to learn as much about Josephine as you already know.

Prince of Essling10 Nov 2023 2:10 p.m. PST

David Chandler's "Napoleon's Marshals" is a good read – coverage on each Marshal varies, some are perhaps slightly shorter than one would really like one.

Agree Chandler's "Campaigns of Napoleon" is worth a read, though do treat with a little caution as we do now have more info at our finger tips compared with when Chandler put pen to paper.

Personal logo McKinstry Supporting Member of TMP Fezian10 Nov 2023 3:22 p.m. PST


Nine pound round10 Nov 2023 3:34 p.m. PST

The old "West Point Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars" is probably a bit dated, but nevertheless accessible general history, and the easiest way to study the campaigns Chandler describes without a lot of flipping around to look up map citations. Some of the map depictions (notably Eylau) have been questioned by subsequent historians, so it should probably be read as a good general overview of the campaigns, rather than a detailed history of individual actions.

14Bore10 Nov 2023 3:36 p.m. PST

V. Winterfeld as said no French so had no idea.
Chandler was my first major Napoleonic read

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP10 Nov 2023 4:02 p.m. PST

Chandler's Campaigns, but I'd keep a map volume like the West Point Atlas handy. Swords is good for atmosphere, but I'd double check before I used it to assign unit values.

As for the Marshals, to some degree they passed into legend in their own lifetimes, and too much of their early lives is "single-sourced." Chandler is probably the most accurate, but I wouldn't want not to have read Young and especially Delderfield. "When the legend becomes the fact…"

Nine pound round10 Nov 2023 4:34 p.m. PST

Chandler's book on the marshals is not his own writing- each essay is written by a different historian. But I agree that the book is worthwhile.

ChrisBBB2 Supporting Member of TMP10 Nov 2023 10:29 p.m. PST

If podcasts are your thing, I just had this one recommended to me:

advocate11 Nov 2023 12:37 a.m. PST

Very happy to read Chandler – I had wondered about it given its age (though it's younger than me). Thanks for the advice! I'll probably carry on with McGlynn since I find it hard to leave a book unfinished.

Duc de Brouilly11 Nov 2023 3:24 a.m. PST

Von Winterfeldt approaches this, how should I put it, from his own point of view, i.e., that of a Napoleon-hater. From my own, very different approach, Swords is a must-read: a wonderful and most enjoyable book. It would be my Napoleonic 'desert island' choice. For what it's worth, I would give up on McLynn. I think I'm right in saying his academic background is actually literature, rather than history. As good modern biography, I would suggest, Martin Broers.

Richard Brooks Sponsoring Member of TMP11 Nov 2023 4:49 p.m. PST

Blundering to Defeat: Napoleon's Military Campaigns by
Owen Connelly
He made a great case for his ideas in class and the book is well written.

dibble11 Nov 2023 8:25 p.m. PST

Duc de Brouilly

I'm what you call (No s*** Sherlock!) a "Napoleon-hater" But I love Swords around the Throne. My copy has had it's many bookmarks in place for some years and I'm not about to remove them. I like it because its Author John Elting tells a much better story than Bernard Cornwell could ever do. But also, its author should be studied psychologically for how someone could have such an almost erotic love and affection for a failed, long-dead, despotic, forward-combing, little fat f----r.

So yes! I recommend SATT.

von Winterfeldt12 Nov 2023 2:48 a.m. PST

Why should be a Napoleon hater, only because he see him in the historical context and using sources critical? Swords is a fairy tale and is leading you in very bad directions in historical context, like comments about historical persons as for example Bernadotte, the problem are books in English which are often nothing else then bringing forward myths and wrong conclution, why not read for example Morvan : Le Soldat Imperiale, two volumes, or the recent Brun : La Grande Armée, Bertaud: La révolution militaire napoléonienne?

Murvihill12 Nov 2023 5:09 a.m. PST

My Napoleonic inspiration was F. Loraine Petre. Read his 1813 book (in the 1970's) and got hooked on Leipzig. Dated now I expect.

von Winterfeldt12 Nov 2023 8:54 a.m. PST

You can get Petre for download on the net

Nine pound round12 Nov 2023 9:38 a.m. PST

It's worth reading both the apologists and the critics. Few writers have done half so much as David Irving to persuade me of Hitler's essential awfulness- and Irving is making the case for the defense.

Nine pound round12 Nov 2023 4:01 p.m. PST

You might also try James Arnold's books, or Scott Bowden's, on individual battles or campaigns, if you want more detail on specific actions than you find in Chandler but a short, readable format.

Personal logo Old Contemptible Supporting Member of TMP13 Nov 2023 12:11 a.m. PST

"Napoleon: A Life" by Andrew Roberts


A list of five Napoleon Bios.


Duc de Brouilly13 Nov 2023 11:16 a.m. PST

Ha! Even I think Andrew Roberts's biography is too uncritical and justificatory. Though his book on Wellington and Napoleon is interesting and worth a read I would say.

John the Red13 Nov 2023 12:41 p.m. PST

Campaigns of Napoleon – David Chandler still one of best military histories if looking for a good start

Likewise Napoleons Marshals by D Chandler is accessible

I like Swords Around A Throne and found it a good read.

So go for all three.

Plenty of other more specialist books that can follow up, on whatever particular aspect your interested in.

Enjoy, its a great period of history (and wargaming)

dibble13 Nov 2023 5:24 p.m. PST

Andrew Roberts is the British equivalent to the dear old septic, Elting. Full of fawn, myth, worship, excuses, and an un-cluttered bias with the total destruction of context.

I say Chandler.

Alan Schom for the flip-side of Elting and Roberts.

Personal logo Old Contemptible Supporting Member of TMP13 Nov 2023 9:57 p.m. PST

Can't go wrong with Chandler.

Marc the plastics fan21 Nov 2023 8:47 a.m. PST

Swords around a Throne. If nothing else than to wind up vW

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