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Napoleon's Master: A Life of Prince Talleyrand

4.05  ·  Rating Details ·  73 Ratings  ·  12 Reviews

Born into the high aristocracy, where rank meant more than wealth, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord was to become one of the great politicians of all time. His early career in politics was marked with turmoil: a liberal who saw the need to curb the powers of the monarchy, Talleyrand fled from France when the violence of the revolution turned extreme in 1792, first

Hardcover, 400 pages
Published November 13th 2007 by Thomas Dunne Books (first published 2006)
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Alex Lee
May 16, 2016 Alex Lee rated it really liked it
Shelves: bio, history, 2016
This mythic figure has held my fascination for a long time. Lawday certainly shares this view, describing various reactions to Talleyrand often, including his lack of emotional display and his concise verbializations, his zingers. What's of interest with Talleyrand isn't his ambition, but that he was the master statesman who preserved Europe. In a way, Talleyrand prevented a kind of "second world war" with France in a way that after WW1, the victors were unable to do with Germany. Talleyrand cer ...more
Margaret Sankey
Sep 27, 2011 Margaret Sankey rated it liked it
A recent biography of Tallyrand, notable for the little sidelights of his life--his mastery of the church patronage system before the revolution, his working of the network of salon women, time in America (Philadelphia) and spat with Gouverneur Morris, tactful housing of the confined Spanish royal family, his party planning abilities and his care for the tiny principality of Benevento which gave him his title of Prince, and which he used as a far-away laboratory for progressive enlightenment ide ...more
Jon Gauthier
Nov 19, 2015 Jon Gauthier rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Non-experts
Recommended to Jon by: Mike Duncan (Revolutions podcast)
The 18th-century Europe which raised Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord can be overwhelmingly complex, especially for a layman like me. Perhaps this is why this figure, largely responsible for the foundation of modern Europe, gets little airtime in the standard rapid history curriculum.

Lawday has written a straight-talking biography that demonstrates how vital this man was in forming modern society. Behind Napoleon Bonaparte and the rest of the many brief leaders of the French Revolution lie
Apr 23, 2014 Christine rated it really liked it
The author did a good job of chasing down references, but did not footnote in a traditional manner.

The writing style is British; I am not. So I spent some time inferring the meaning of words or looking them up, finding that my dictionary prefaced their definitions as [British]. It didn't stop me from enjoying the book. But it did slow my reading down.

There is a photo section - but no maps. And although it is a biography, maps of Europe before, after and between 1789, and 1815 would have been a
Good Ol' Talley, what a master manipulator. I read this because Talleyrand was repeatedly mentioned in The 33 Strategies of War, and it was this repetition which began my veneration.

The book is a thorough look at Talleyrand's life, which extends far beyond Napoleon. Some parts are funny, some parts are peculiar, however I would only read it if you liked the above mentioned book on war, or are interested in French or European history.
May 01, 2008 Manda rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people with an interest in history and politics
There are some interesting parallels made here between Napoleon's efforts to enforce "liberty" upon the countries he conquered from their reigning monarchs and current events. The underlying message seems to be that politicians today could do with taking some cues from Talleyrand's playbook and press for peace as the most important component of a nation's well-being. I also learned from this book that he had the original vision of a unified Europe well over a century before the European Union wa ...more
Rex Lee Applegate
Jan 01, 2014 Rex Lee Applegate rated it really liked it
This book chronicles the amazing life of this key historical figure. The author takes a sympathetic view of Tallyrand's well documented duplicity, an issue which to me remains undecided. It all adds to the mystery of this chameleon like character whose wit, charm, intelligence and adaptability saw him through the extremes of late 18th and early 19th Century France. His life was a wild roller-coaster ride and the author deftly portrays the gyrations Tallyrand undertook to stay in the car.
Jun 23, 2012 Alwin rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
An interesting look at at an interesting man who managed to survive and achieve high office in the ancien regime, Revolution and Empire in tur; from an age where France had statesmen and not mere politicians.
Matt Kuhns
Sep 02, 2014 Matt Kuhns rated it it was amazing
This is an exceptional work, informative and perfectly paced. Though full of details, I always wanted to keep reading, but never had difficulty following who was who or what was going on.
May 14, 2010 !Tæmbuŝu marked it as to-read
Shelves: history, france, biography
Streator Johnson
Jun 02, 2013 Streator Johnson rated it really liked it
A pretty fascinating biography of one of the consummate politicians of his day.
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David Lawday is a native of London, educated there and at Oxford. He is a writer and journalist who was a correspondent for twenty years with The Economist. He is now based in Paris where his son and daughter grew up and where he lives with his French wife.
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