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The Rise of Napoleon Bonaparte (Napoleon Bonaparte #1)

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  464 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
Ever since 1821, when he died at age fifty-one on the forlorn and windswept island of St. Helena, Napoleon Bonaparte has been remembered as either demi-god or devil incarnate. In The Rise of Napoleon Bonaparte, the first volume of a two-volume cradle-to-grave biography, Robert Asprey instead treats him as a human being. Asprey tells this fascinating, tragic tale in lush na ...more
Paperback, 608 pages
Published October 4th 2001 by Basic Books (first published 2000)
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Mike
After all the history I have read, I have not, until now, read much about Napoleon and his wars. I decided this was the year to change that and this book, The Rise of Napoleon Bonaparte, was a great place to start. Mr. Asprey is a military combat veteran and an excellent historian. He brings Napoleon to life without bias or slant. This book covers him from birth until Dec 1805, and the end of the Battle of Austerlitz. A second volume covers the rest of his rule and life. Although it is 545 pages ...more
Nate
Feb 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
This, the first part of Robert Asprey's two-part Boney bio, starts with Napoleon as a baby during his parents' time as partisans fighting for Corsican independence from the foreign invader (ironically France herself) in 1769 and ends with his triumphant ass-beating of the Austro-Russian forces at Austerlitz in 1805. As such, it covers a ton of the major moments of Napoleon's life, from his formative years in Corsica, his rise through the ranks of the French artillery, his involvement with Revolu ...more
happy
Dec 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
I found this volume a very good look at the various facets of Napoleon. Starting with his youth in Corsica and ending with his masterpiece at Austerlitz, Mr Asprey tells the reader how Napoleon rose to rule France and most of continental Europe.

I felt that Mr. Asprey did a very admirable job of letting the reader know about Napoleon the man, the politician and the general. Starting with the personal, the author looks at Napoleon’s life growing up and his studiousness. It seems that while at scho
...more
Rebecca
May 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
I had a rough idea of French history, along the lines of "king, king, king, REVOLUTION!, Napoleon, king". But I could never quite figure out how they went from heads rolling off the guillotine platform to an Imperial monarch striding about conquering Europe, dripping in ermine. Not to mention that most of my knowledge of this period comes very much from the English perspective--Horatio Hornblower and Jane Austen--with a touch of Tolstoy, in which Napoleon is the devil incarnate a la Hitler or so ...more
KOMET
This was a highly readable book about one of the most extraordinary figures ever to bestride the world stage. The chapters were well-structured, not overly weighty nor too long as some books about Napoleon can be.

Here the reader sees how Napoleon rose from modest means in Corsica to studies at Brienne and the Ecole Nationale in France shortly before the Revolution. Later, as an artillery officer, Napoleon was instrumental in taking back Toulon from the British in 1793. Subsequently, he was give
...more
Ruth Eitemiller
Jan 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
There's so much I didn't know about Napoleon. This is a great biography, very engaging and easy to read, with enough humanity to keep it from ever feeling dry.
Toyota
May 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book was the best I've read.
It pulls the reader on a journey from Corsica to Austerlitz with the authors dramatic competence in writing
Jeremy Perron
Jan 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Robert Asprey's book traces the journey of a small boy from Corsica, on a journey from solider to emperor. He would turn the entire world on its ear; nothing would ever be the same again because Napoleon existed. He would knock kings off their ancient thrones and put his own relatives upon them. He would win battles against formidable odds; he would make incredible discoveries from his time in Egypt that would change the way we look at ancient history. He was a man who fought in the army of the ...more
Ben
This book is a little dry and technical but not overly so. Especially during the accounts of the campaigns I had to continually reference the maps. Asprey either assumes you are or that you are intimately familiar with the geography of Austria and Italy. Like any good non-fiction book it made me want to read a lot of other books. Asprey’s account of the French revolution and the labyrinthine politics of its aftermath is adequate but focuses only on Napoleon’s involvement and what affects Napoleo ...more
Robby
Oct 12, 2012 rated it really liked it


The problem with reading any one book on a great historical figure, such as Napoleon, is that there are so many aspects to cover that it is impossible to be summed in one book. In order, to get a full understanding of Napoleon's life you need to read a great many books.
That said, this is one I'd recommend reading. If your looking for a vivid description of military tactics this is not the book (The Campaigns of Napoleon by David Chandler is best for all things military). This book however doe
...more
Martin
May 28, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
What a disappointing book. I heard about an American Military author was tackling the subject. I was hoping for a balanced view, enough maps, Tactical maps to explain the military genius of the era, and maybe some new anecdotes to spice up a diorama or a game scenario. Instead I got the legend warmed over, wrapped in a hazy film of irrational anglophobia and liberally doused in total blindness to his many glaring faults. This sort of hagiography lead to a hefty tome that I really can't recommend ...more
Scott
Jan 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Now I understand why Napoleon is the historical figure that he is. As for great generals, in my opinion he ranks up there with Alexander, Caesar and Hannibal.
Steve
Nov 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
A great introduction and military history, but lacking on a lot of key questions.

I picked this book up not knowing much about Napoleon the man and his impact on European history. I took away a very well written and very readable history of the man.

The broad points are interesting - we see Napoleon's rise from a Corsican idealist and rebel to a military student, with a strong pedigree developed by a family of low-ranking nobility.

The account of Napoleon taking on commands on behalf of a French Ar
...more
Jeff Clay
May 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Admittedly never much of a Napoleon 'fan' I became intrigued after visiting the site of his (military) demise: Waterloo. Who was this guy? How did he go from nobody to defender of the Revolution to dictator par extraordinaire? This book -- and the second volume that follows -- does less of an effort to explain who he was, and focuses more what he became. In other words, this is not a psychological study of Napoleon the Man, but rather a travelogue of his life. And, what a life it was. I'm hard-p ...more
Todd Stockslager
Perhaps my letdown by this book was inevitable coming as it did immediately after my reading of Doris Kearns Goodwin's demythification of Lincoln's human leadership power (see my review of Team of Rivals). Neither subject nor author could measure up here.

In any case, this "battlefield biography" never really tells who Napoleon was, but what he did on the field of battle, and that with an over-reliance on secondary sources and unsupported generalizations and opinions.

This book was followed by "Th
...more
Drew
Jan 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
It is a very good book regarding the circumstances surrounding Napoleon's rise to power. Asprey clearly explains the strategy and troop movements of Napoleon's campaigns, but I was hoping for more depth on the tactics of the major battles. It is understandable though given that this is a biography, and not a military history of a particular campaign. This book would be a great book for an introduction to Napoleon's life, or someone who has read several books on him (like myself). I can't comment ...more
Daniel
Aug 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
A good chronological account of the life of Napoleon from his birth to when he crowns himself emperor. The book is good if a bit bland and needs more maps for the campaign's as they are hard to follow if you are not intimately familiar with the area. The author is a Napoleon fan boy at least to a small degree and tends to emphasize the positives and minimize the negatives of his Napoleons actions. Still a very good well researched account with ample sources annotated.
Michael
May 12, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Detailed but not very deep. It does cover a lot, however, and to get more into politics, etc. would require a much longer book - or several more books. This book is concerned with Napoleon and it focuses on Napoleon, his campaigns and his rise to power. Though I thought the early chapters indicated more background than was in the rest of the book, I was looking for the basics and I got what I wanted. But now I want more.
Autumn
Not really the Napoleon biography I was looking for, but reasonably easy to read and informative. Very much a military history. Very flat style of writing which was almost unreadable when discussing troop movements. Hope to find another biography of Napoleon that places him more firmly in his time and discusses the social and political aspects of his life.
Bruce
Jan 16, 2011 rated it liked it
An easy-to-read account of Napoleon's life from his Corsican origins to the victory at Austerlitz. He was a remarkable, if flawed, individual and an exceptionally brilliant military leader. Unfortunately, his ambition, need for power and hatred of England eventually did him in, as we all know. If you're interested in learning more about him, this is a good place to start.
Melinda Jane Harrison
Dec 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Really enjoyed this book. It's a good look at Napoleon and provided me with the information I needed for my WIP. I love reading nonfiction. There's a lot here on how the Napoleon made good use of the French Revolution and what a great thinker he was. He was also an egomaniac. The latter destroyed him. He just went after more than he needed.
Justin
Mar 18, 2008 rated it liked it
Yeah, just kind of a matter or fact recounting of events without much analysis. A good way to just get the facts before reading more. However, it seems there aren't a lot of good English biographies of Napoleon and the ones that exist are kind of swirling in controversy as to their quality.
Kent
Sep 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: yes
A companion to the Reign of Napoleon ..., which I've also reviewed. The books do work well together, are sometimes focused more on facts than the story, but overall, good reads. If you start this book, and don't like it, do not read the companion.
Death Angel
Jul 12, 2013 is currently reading it
i think that napoleon is great man honor of the dead fight like hell for living and that explain about the real soul of the warrior who he has lost every thing his life so he is ready 2 die 2 make all of the dreams become truth
Mutia fatimah
May 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Yg suka sejarah kepemimpinan, bagus buku ini. Walaupun harus saya akui beberapa kali buku ini bikin saya gampang pules hehehe
Tadinya mau kasih 5 bintang, tapi kurang di detail heroiknya, jadinya 4 aja ;)
Dboucher7
Nov 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Very enjoyable read. I thought it was a thorough but not burdensome review of Napoleon's rise to power / first few years in power. I was disappointed that part 2 of this series is not available on the Kindle.
Laurie
Aug 14, 2007 rated it it was ok
I wasn't very wild about this book. The writing was dry, which is sometimes ok in a history book, but it's not like Napoleon didn't give Asprey plenty of juicy stuff to work with. It's basically a chronological presentation of facts with a minimum of analysis or insight.
Patrick L
Jan 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
A nice overview. Presents enough military, political, and personal information without getting bogged down in boring details.
Sean Chick
Dec 27, 2011 rated it liked it
I wish I could rate this higher, but alas, the writing is dull and his description of the French Revolution and military campaigns leaves much to be desired.
Jessie
Sep 18, 2008 rated it it was ok
very long, and it took me awhile to read it all, but i'm kind of a history nerd, so i liked it.
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Robert Brown Asprey was born in Sioux City, Iowa (1923 – January 26, 2009) and was an American military historian and author, noted for his books on military history published between 1959 and 2001.

Asprey received a bachelor's degree from the University of Iowa in 1949, after serving in World War II. He also studied at New College, Oxford, at the University of Vienna, and at the University of Nice
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Other books in the series

Napoleon Bonaparte (2 books)
  • The Reign of Napoleon Bonaparte