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Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East

3.36  ·  Rating Details ·  169 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
In this vivid and timely history, Juan Cole tells the story of Napoleon's invasion of Egypt. Revealing the young general's reasons for leading the expedition against Egypt in 1798 and showcasing his fascinating views of the Orient, Cole delves into the psychology of the military titan and his entourage. He paints a multi-faceted portrait of the daily travails of the soldie ...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published August 7th 2007 by St. Martin's Press (first published August 1st 2007)
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Jan 23, 2009 Todd rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Definitively proves that invading the Middle East is for suckers. Juan Cole is one of the most informed and sane voices in the national discussion of anything related to Middle Eastern history, culture or politics.
K.D. McQuain
Not enough detail to be useful or compelling. There are first hand accounts that, if included, would have added much needed details about the experience of being in Egypt during that period.
Simon Wood
Sep 05, 2013 Simon Wood rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I was about to write 'timely' with regard to Juan Coles book on Napoleons invasion of Egypt in 1798 but that would have been the case if it had been published in 2002/03 prior to the invasion of Iraq.

The book covers in detail the first year of the three year occupation, it would have obviously been better (from this readers point of view at any rate) if it had covered the occupation to the end. The downside of this would have been a 6 or 7 hundred page book.
Tim Elston
Sep 04, 2016 Tim Elston rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tim by: Tim Elston
Shelves: countries, history
My big take-away from this work is that the most barbaric atrocities can be perpetrated in the name of liberal democracy. Napoleon invaded Egypt, partly to lift it from its backwater status, to renew it to its previous glory, and to introduce it to the glorious principles of the French Republic. In the process he massacred the women and children of numerous villages and decapitated hundreds of men, on many occasions putting their heads on poles to intimidate the conquered. This book covers only ...more
This book teaches an important lesson that we can follow even in modern times: Learn at least a little bit about a region before you try implementing bullshit policies that will cause the native populations to hate you. Napoleon failed at this, the British failed at this, Bush failed at this. Hell, even the Ottomans frequently failed at this in places like Egypt and Palestine.

This lesson aside, the author is at his best when he writes about the cultural history of Franco-Egyptian interactions. A
Aug 12, 2008 J. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: ... neocon orientalists....
Hm, let's see here .... a greedy overbearing western power embarks on an unprovoked, voluntary war against an ancient middle-eastern culture it knows next to nothing about. And the decider-in-chief is an unfailingly arrogant, self-absorbed little man whose vanity knows no bounds.
Sure, a little familiar, maybe, but it probably looked like a slam-dunk ..... at the Ministry Of War in Paris.

M. Bonaparte would later regret the outcome of his excellent Egyptian adventure of the summer of 1798. Regret
Harry Klinkhamer
A lesson you think the West would have learned by now. Juan Cole's Napoleon's Egypt is a well thought out visit to Napoleon's invasion of the Middle East in the late 18th Century. Interestingly, the further you get into the book, the further Napoleon fades into the background. The book tends to focus more on the relationship between the French army, the Ottoman-lead government in Egypt, and the Arabs and Bedouins who lived there. Not quite a social history in my opinion, but more so a demonstrat ...more
Jan 21, 2009 Joe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really great book, from a great writer and historian. Napoleon's Egyptian invasion was short lived but, despite having lived in Egypt for two years, I knew almost nothing about it. Interestingly, it is often ascribed as having been influential, particular relating to Egypt's judicial and administrative systems. Cole is mixed on its impact, and instead focuses on the practical realities of occupation, the variety of strategic errors and, most fascinatingly, Napoleon's attempt to co-opt popular Is ...more
محمد الناغي
- كتاب تشعر انه موجه للقاريء الفرنسي في المقام الأول.

- الكتاب يعج بتفاصيل واسهاب لدقائق الحياة اليومية للغزاة الفرنسيين في مصر، بما أوقع ايقاع الكتاب في مواضع كثيرة.

- ثمة معلومات شيقة عن مصر ونمط حياة المصريين ودقائق معيشتهم.

- يورد الكاتب ثورة المدنيين المصريين ضد الفرنسيين كأول ثورة يثورها المصريين أنفسهم لا المماليك ضد المستعمر، وكيف بذلوا كل غال ونفيس من أموالهم ودماءهم لإنجاحها لولا عدم تدريبهم القتالي بطبيعة الحال، وافتقارهم للأسلحة الحديثة من مدافع متحركة ومسدسات وبنادق.

- الكتاب وفق مؤ
Feb 27, 2008 Trevor rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
If writing a book -- and making an intelligible argument -- is analogous to the putting together of pieces of a puzzle, then Mr. Cole has essentially taken a handful of puzzle pieces and dropped them on the table. I cannot say I disagree with Cole's analysis, nor that the book was singularly bad, but rather that his project got broken up on the fence -- the fence between scholarly analysis and popular history. In short, it succeeds at neither providing something *useful* for historians, nor some ...more
Mar 18, 2012 Zahir rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating account of the French encounter in the late 18th century occupying Egypt. It was the first time since the Crusades that a western power occupied Muslim lands, and some of the issues they faced resonate very much today in the US occupation of Afghanistan, as well as the US experiences in Iraq. It's surpring how little has changed in over 200 years.

One of the most interesting insights is in how the soldiers behaved, some of the issues they faced, and also how the natives of Egypt vi
Abrupt in transitions, divergences into back stories, and an anticlimactic denouement, this book feels like it needed editing. Sure, it's not fiction, it doesn't need drama. But it still can use a sense of pacing, or at least consistent structure with regards to sections of historical narrative, source comparison, and revisionist afterthought.

But, hey, cannons and tricolors and plagues and Bedouins and Beys! The backdrop to the invasion is a rainbow of a cosmopolitan Mediterranean trading state,
Feb 21, 2008 Kevin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The book was lightly informative, especially if you don't have much previous knowledge of the French occupation of Egypt. However it was littered with too many anecdotes that I suspect were meant to serve as entertainment to a wider audience. There is not much in-depth analysis, although there were a few striking innuendos toward the end of the book that proved quite interesting (one example is Boisy suggesting the idea of a Jewish colony in Palestine to serve as a tool for French imperial desig ...more
Jan 28, 2013 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In 1798 Napoleon invades Egypt in order to bring it freedom. Sound familiar? Egypt seems to have been doing fine without the French, and Napoleon planned poorly. He is attacked by the local populace and the Bedouins. The British Navy (under Nelson) destroys the French fleet and they are trapped in Egypt. The Ottoman Sultan orders a holy war on the French...Napoleon misjudged their enthusiasm for his attacking their province.

This is a fascinating look at a poorly planned invasion and how it went
Adrian Moran
This book was somehow less engaging than it should have been. Toward the end of the book, the author makes some interesting connections between Napoleon’s time in Egypt and more contemporary Western republics’ attempts to combine financial imperialism with imposition of “enlightened” forms of government. Before we get to that however, the reader, like Napoleon, seems to get bogged down in the minutia of internal Egyptian politics. It’s certainly well researched, bringing perspectives from French ...more
Glenn Robinson
Sep 30, 2014 Glenn Robinson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An even sided book that showed that the French were not welcome conquerors, but that the Egyptians used much of the same tactics that George Washington used against the British-fight and retreat and pick the battles smartly. What is baffling and which no book that I have read has been able to answer is that at a time when France had few friends, Napoleon chose to invade a province of the one last Allie that France had. On top of that, he claimed to be doing the Ottoman Empire a favor, but neglec ...more
Nov 13, 2008 Jean rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book gives a good history of Napoleon's invasion of Egypt, written more at the level for someone who doesn't know much about it yet. I learned many interesting facts through this book, and generally enjoyed it. However, I was very surprised (and disappointed) that it did not discuss the Rosetta Stone. Sure, it mentioned that he went to Rosetta...but isn't finding the stone one of the major points??? I would also add that this book would not be appropriate for a church book club, but great f ...more
Jun 08, 2009 Jake rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
A friend put me up to reading this. I've never been too interested in Napoleon; however, this was a great read. I like how the author places this particular campaign in the larger context of Napoleon's life and ambition. Far from being a quick trip out to play target practice with the Sphynx, the book reveals the vast scope and brutality of this campaign. And the author doesn't miss the chance to demonstrate the relevance of this failed conquest to the present day.
Jun 30, 2008 Julie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: "enlightened" western dictators wishing to occupy middle eastern lands and call it liberation
Shelves: history
Pulls together a diverse selection of primary and secondary writings on France's invasion of the Middle East. There is a very strange (and long) tangent where perhaps the author is commenting on the west's tendency to sexualize and objectify "foreign" women - that seems to do just what it is commenting on. odd.
Apr 24, 2008 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
hmmm...what I learned in this

well, let's see...hmmm....

how about this - Whitey shouldn't go starting shit he can't control in Middle-Eastern countries?

yeah...that works...

that and this - man am I ever glad I'm not some poor French SOB stuck in Egypt with Napoleon's stupid wonder they don't "do" war any more...
thanks Juan, for everything...
Bruce Sanders
I learned a lot given that I was only superficially knowledgeable about the history. And as expected from other reviews there are some startling similarities between the strategies and rationales of the Americans in Iraq and the French in Egypt. Even so, the writing was dry and the history was not interesting enough for me to really get caught up in the book.
Jun 07, 2013 Vince rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Cole knows his stuff and this episode in 18th C. European imperialism should be an interesting topic for study. Unfortunately, Cole's writing style is so dreadfully dull that it started making my eyes glaze over about 2/3 of the way through. Dangerous, as it was on cd in the car.
Hashem Ahmed
An excellent detailed account of Napoleon's campaign in Egypt. The focus is on the military and political manuevers of the french army.
Booknerd Fraser
This was a lot denser than I'd expected, and I think I really was looking for was the story in "Mirage", of the Savants, though this Napoleon story was interesting as well.
Sean Glover
That is one crazed Corsican! The obvious question is why did the pursuit of power merit such violence to this man?
Donnelly Wright
Mar 18, 2013 Donnelly Wright rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very well done and meticulously researched little-known facet of Napoleon's career. It's academic but written is a style that grabs you like a good fiction adventure.
Feb 26, 2016 Ann rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classes
Very boring, overuse of the narrative, and the argument isn't clear until the epilogue and even then that's shaky.
Sep 22, 2010 Sarah rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Golly, Cole can turn an interesting subject into a complete bore. His history is probably masterful, but his book is characterless and dreary.
Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
May 17, 2013 Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides marked it as maybe-read-sometime  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Snail in Danger (Sid) by: The Black Count (Preiss)
Shelves: history
I have misgivings about Juan Cole's work, though I forget why. But it sounds like he taps some sources that most other people haven't.
Joel Trono-Doerksen
Joel Trono-Doerksen rated it really liked it
Aug 17, 2016
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John Ricardo I. "Juan" Cole (born October 23, 1952) is an American scholar, public intellectual, and historian of the modern Middle East and South Asia. He is Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. As a commentator on Middle Eastern affairs, he has appeared in print and on television, and testified before the United States Senate. He has published severa ...more
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