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The Mind of Napoleon: A Selection of His Written and Spoken Words

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322 pages, Paperback

First published June 1, 1955

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Napoléon Bonaparte

607 books420 followers
Napoleon I (born Napoleone di Buonaparte, later Napoléon Bonaparte) was a French military and political leader who had significant impact on modern European history. He was a general during the French Revolution, the ruler of France as Premier Consul of the French Republic, Empereur des Français, King of Italy, Mediator of the Swiss Confederation and Protector of the Confederation of the Rhine.

Born in Corsica and trained in mainland France as an artillery officer, he first rose to prominence as a general of the French Revolution, leading several successful campaigns against the First Coalition and the Second Coalition arrayed against France. In late 1799, Napoleon staged a coup d'état and installed himself as First Consul; five years later he became the Emperor of the French. In the first decade of the nineteenth century, he turned the armies of France against almost every major European power, dominating continental Europe through a lengthy streak of military victories—epitomized through battles such as Austerlitz and Friedland—and through the formation of extensive alliance systems. He appointed close friends and several members of his family as monarchs and important government figures of French-dominated states.

The disastrous French invasion of Russia in 1812 marked a turning point in Napoleon's fortunes. The campaign wrecked the Grande Armée, which never regained its previous strength. In October 1813, the Sixth Coalition defeated his forces at Leipzig and then invaded France. The coalition forced Napoleon to abdicate in April 1814, exiling him to the island of Elba. Less than a year later, he returned to France and regained control of the government in the Hundred Days (les Cent Jours) prior to his final defeat at Waterloo on 18 June 1815. Napoleon spent the remaining six years of his life under British supervision on the island of St. Helena. Napoleon developed relatively few military innovations, although his placement of artillery into batteries and the elevation of the army corps as the standard all-arms unit have become accepted doctrines in virtually all large modern armies. He drew his best tactics from a variety of sources and scored several major victories with a modernized and reformed French army. His campaigns are studied at military academies all over the world and he is widely regarded as one of history's greatest commanders. Aside from his military achievements, Napoleon is also remembered for the establishment of the Napoleonic Code (Code Napoléon), which laid the bureaucratic foundations for the modern French state.

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Displaying 1 - 6 of 6 reviews
Profile Image for Max.
13 reviews2 followers
May 18, 2014
This is a compilation of quotes supposedly attributed to Napoleon, they are all taken completely out of context, and rearranged in generic themes. The author, like many other authors of Napoleon, think its ok to sit back in their studies and critique one of the greatest men that ever lived. If J. Christopher Herold read just a little about the history of Napoleon, he might have noticed that Bourrienne, Napoleon's private secretary, stole from the treasury and was fired. He then became an avid critique of Napoleon, supported the Royalist movement, and wrote a scathing memoir about Napoleon shortly before entering an insane asylum. Sorry if I find these "quotes" attributed to Napoleon, recorded by the likes of Bourrienne, doubtful. This was a time of political warfare, there are countless accounts of royalists trying to portray Napoleon as a despot for their own self-aggrandizement, but I have no idea why historians still consider them historically accurate.
Profile Image for Marcus.
9 reviews4 followers
March 22, 2008
Nowadays, few realize how tersely eloquent and psychologically astute Napoleon was. This book demonstrates that he was a lucid, if deeply cynical, political thinker greatly influenced by Machiavelli and all of the ancient Greek and Roman historians.
Profile Image for Xenophon.
130 reviews7 followers
August 25, 2021

This is a table-talk style piece. A pointillist way of getting to know the man, as journal entries, correspondence fragments, newspaper clippings, second-hand anecdotes, and more are topically arranged to get his (sometimes contradictory) views on the big subjects.

If I were to summarize the Napoleon I got to know in these pages, it is a man who knew how to leverage circumstance to the fraction. He was a master gambler and planner. This is why think he made history and an enduring impact without managing to remain an Emperor.

Also, Napoleon was not really much of a break from the norm of monarchs of the time except for being a Corsican upstart. He fit the mold of an Enlightened Despot perfectly and that is, perhaps, the key to his quick rise and roughly fifteen years of absolutist power. The people of Europe were ready for a man of his ilk, because they had lived under his predecessors for a generation. He would have much more in common with Frederick the Great than Joseph Stalin for example.

As such, there is a lot to learn about his times and all times in these pages. There is also a lot of value in seeing how a genius can miscalculate. It is a shame he could never cross the ocean himself to meet with the American Founding generation. The collision of atoms comes to mind.

I am about to read two very large books on Napoleon and found this to be a nice appetizer.

Profile Image for Timothy.
1 review
June 11, 2012
With only basic knowledge of Napoleon, and the presence of his enigma, I was captured by the spirit and eloquence in his writing. Even through translation there is poetry in his writing, and the human experience is represented poignantly and unforgivingly in his deeply personal memoirs. Moving.
Displaying 1 - 6 of 6 reviews

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