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Napoleon: A Life

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  16,038 ratings  ·  978 reviews
The definitive biography of the great soldier-statesman by the New York Times bestselling author of The Storm of War—winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography and the Grand Prix of the Fondation Napoleon  

Austerlitz, Borodino, Waterloo: his battles are among the greatest in history, but Napoleon Bonaparte was far more than a military genius and astute leader
Hardcover, 976 pages
Published November 4th 2014 by Viking (first published October 2nd 2014)
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Don Janssen According to Wikipedia the original title was "Napoleon the Great", the American edition being titled "Napoleon: A Life". …moreAccording to Wikipedia the original title was "Napoleon the Great", the American edition being titled "Napoleon: A Life". (less)
Jack Taylor Yes, this book is absolutely fine if you have only a rudimentary knowledge of Napoleon's life as informing you about that topic is the book's primary …moreYes, this book is absolutely fine if you have only a rudimentary knowledge of Napoleon's life as informing you about that topic is the book's primary aim. It starts from Napoleon's birth and details his life in an accessible (and sometimes amusing) way right through to his death.

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Mar 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“Napoleon Bonaparte was the founder of modern France and one of the great conquerors of history. He came to power through a military coup only six years after entering the country as a penniless political refugee. As First Consul and later Emperor, he almost won hegemony in Europe, but for a series of coalitions specifically designed to bring him down. Although his conquests ended in defeat and ignominious imprisonment, over the course of his short but eventful life he fought sixty battles and l ...more
Jeffrey Keeten
Mar 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"The ideas that underpin our modern world—meritocracy, equality before the law, property rights, religious toleration, modern secular education, sound finances, and so on—were championed, consolidated, codified and geographically extended by Napoleon. To them he added a rational and efficient local administration, an end to rural banditry, the encouragement of science and the arts, the abolition of feudalism and the greatest codification of laws since the fall of the Roman Empire".

 photo Napoleon_zpsaapr5aid.jpg

Napoleon B
Feb 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a life so big that 800+ pages can hardly contain it. Full books have been written about single weeks in his life. Philip Dwyer started a more feasible "series" format in: Napoleon Vol I: The Path to Power 1769 - 1799: Path to Power 1769 - 1799 v. 1 several years ago. For this book, Andrew Roberts is to be saluted for his ability to condense the outsized story of Napoleon Bonaparte into one book as well as for his research.

Roberts brings out the best in his subject. He shows Napoleon's ac
Read by John Lee. ~33hours

Description: Austerlitz, Borodino, Waterloo: his battles are among the greatest in history, but Napoleon Bonaparte was far more than a military genius and astute leader of men. Like George Washington and his own hero Julius Caesar, he was one of the greatest soldier-statesmen of all times.

Andrew Roberts’s Napoleon is the first one-volume biography to take advantage of the recent publication of Napoleon’s thirty-three thousand letters, which radically transform our unde
Napoleon: A Life, written by Andrew Roberts, is an absolutely astounding biography on one of modern history's greatest conquerors, Napoleon Bonaparte. Born in Corsica and resentful of French rule over the island, he eventually gave up his nationalist views and joined the French army as an artillery officer. Rising through the ranks during France's bloody Revolutionary period, Napoleon eventually become the centre of a coup d'etat attempt by a number of conspirators to overthrow the ineffective a ...more
Gushing bio--unusual for an Englishman. Roberts claims that newly available letters present a vastly more favorable portrait than previously available to scholars. "All too often historians have taken at face value the biographies written by people around Napoleon, whereas many of them were deeply compromised, to the point of being worthless unless co firmed by as second source." The problem is that although Roberts tries to be balanced, and points out the warts, his over-the-top admiration for ...more
Jun 29, 2015 rated it liked it
Confession off the bat: This is a great biography. Well written, well researched. Hagiographic perhaps, but not in a way that makes your teeth chatter. Maps are a little shaky at the beginning, but become better throughout. All in all, head and shoulders above almost all modern biographies.

But this is Andrew Roberts here, writing about Napoleon, his hero! As such, let's hold him to a higher standard and see if he succeeds. Roberts openly admits that Napoleon is a hero of his. The book, as such,
Steven Peterson
Dec 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A magnificent biography. The author notes that he has access to thousands of previously unavailable letters of Napoleon. These letters add a great richness to this volume, and provides a somewhat different picture of Napoleon than I had had before. One of the strengths, too, is that Andrew Roberts has a cool eye toward Napoleon. He speaks highly of his major accomplishments, such as a massive change in the legal system, and he criticizes him for his weaknesses--such as the Russian campaign, his ...more
After reading his excellent account of the Storm Of War, I had high expectations of Robert's newest release, his biography of Napoleon. I was not dissapointed.

I suspect you can fill half of the New York's library with books dealing with Napoleon and as I understood these can be divided in two sorts: you either hate him, or you love him.

Andrew Roberts is comfortably between these two camps. He does not praise him, but is here and there rather critical of Napoleon's decisions. He is unbiased and s
John Blumenthal
Mar 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Okay, I know a biography of Napoleon is going to have a lot of detail about battles in it (after all he conquered Europe, so yeah), but I just couldn’t take it anymore and stopped reading somewhere around page 100. One more page and I would have fallen on my sword.
Nov 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
This book had me thinking of it even when I wasn't reading from it, more so than any other book I've read. The story is epic, larger than life.

Man is attracted to war. The threat of death seems distant when a declaration of war is made and the identification of the self with great national power, the bonding of fellow citizens that cared nothing for each other a day before, and the spectacle of masses of uniformed men marching in step puts reason at a distance as emotion overwhelms. And it all i
May 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, france, war
If you're looking for an overview of Napoleon's life and google around, this is usually the biography you end up finding, readable, engaging, thrilling, more than 900 pages long. Roberts is a military historian, so the focus is definitely on military action, less on other interesting aspects of Napoleon's life like, for example, the specific art style of the Napoleonic era.

The majority of this book's maps are maps of battlefields and positions, the largest part of the text is descriptions of the
Omar Ali
Nov 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Roberts is an unabashed hero-worshipper when it comes to Napoleon. That can become a little irritating. But he has also done tremendous research and presents a very thorough, very readable and very up to date biography of Napoleon (up to date because new information, including 100s of perviously lost letters, have continued to turn up and all that information is included in this work). His hero worship does not affect my five star rating because he does not hide any of Napoleon's faults, mistake ...more
Abeselom Habtemariam
‘’The ambition he had conceived as a schoolboy at Brienne, and from which he had never wavered, had been achieved. He had transformed the art of leadership, built an empire, handed down laws for the ages, and joined the ancients’’
Napoleon’s life is famously difficult to encapsulate in a single book or in series of volumes. One of the sixty famous battlefields he led such as Jena or Waterloo, can yield volumes worth of content. However, I think Andrew Roberts’s book does an almost perfect job of
Nov 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
I have been fascinated with Napoleon for as long as I can remember. Needless to say I have read extensively about him. This new book about Napoleon was given to me by a friend who knows of my obsession.

Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France and by many people’s reckoning the most brilliant general of modern times. As a child Napoleon studied the careers of history’s titans with a view to following their footsteps. He was a general by age 24 an emperor at age 34. He promoted on merit not birth ran
Oct 22, 2014 rated it it was ok
Abandoned at a third of the way through. The book's getting great reviews so it must be one of those cases where the author and reader simply don't 'gel' but I'm finding it as turgid as wading through treacle. After reading some truly great, well-written histories and biographies over the last few years, this one is simply failing to inspire my interest - despite the fact that Napoleon must surely be one of the most fascinating characters in history. Oh well! ...more
Mar 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, europe
Andrew Roberts is a British historian, biographer and journalist. Since numerous books have been written about Napoleon, one must wonder why we need yet one more. Perhaps Henry Kissinger said it best during an interview when he stated that “Andrew Roberts is a great historian who is always relevant to contemporary thinking and contemporary problems.” Thus, Roberts explains for a new generation exactly why Napoleon mattered.

Napoleon was not French at all. He was born Napoleone di Bounaparte in Co
(Full Disclosure: I received an advance uncorrected copy of this book for free through Goodreads' First Reads program. However, the views expressed are my own and do not reflect that of the author, the publisher, or Goodreads).

Like the great ancient conquerors which he admired, Napoleon stands as a colossus on the historical stage. Yet he is little known nor well understood by people today, especially as his reputation has been marred by superficial similarities to Hitler and the "Black Legend"
Michael Flanagan
Mar 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I sat before this very daunting looking book, coming in at over 900 pages, feeling slightly excited as my expectations where high after Dr Roberts last offering. I have read a few books about Napoleons campaigns before but never had I taken a look at the entire life of the man.

I am pleased to write that this book delivers an informative and enthralling read that sees the pages melt away as you are pulled into Napoleons life. This book is very balanced, with the author trying to peel back the st
Andy Miller
May 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This fine biography is as thorough as it is balanced. The exhaustive research by Andrew Roberts included thousands of letters written by Napoleon that were not available to other biographers as well as letters written by others and memoirs of many people from the day. The balance comes from critical examination of the sources, Roberts discusses whether certain letters and memoirs were self serving or accurate and looks to other sources to aid in that balance

The biography adds not often found nua
Feb 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I embarked on this great slab of a historical biography - 820 pages excluding sources and notes - in an attempt to understand to what extent Napoleon was truly "great", particularly after reading a popular biography of Josephine which seemed to sell him short.

In the course of wading through the mud and slaughter of his interminable military campaigns, I concluded that he was a remarkable man whose greatness stemmed from enormous energy and vision, insatiable curiosity, the capacity to absorb a h
Ian K
Nov 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely love this biography. Andrew Roberts is a masterful writer, making history come alive. Through meticulous research, he is able to intertwine a narrative that is utterly addictive. While some of the military jargon may feel tedious to read at time for those not well versed in tactics and strategy, considering who Napoleon was, it seems like a necessary part of the book. I also never felt confused in these moments, which is testament to the author’s skill. If you are looking to read an ...more
May 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This is an intriguing biography. I learned a lot, clearing up my own fuzzy impressions. But I read this after Roberts's Churchill biography, and it just doesn't compare. Partly, Roberts doesn't do as good a job here in conveying the historical environment around Napoleon. In a movie, it would be a tight shot of Napoleon's face, with everything else out of focus, for the whole show.

Partly, though, Napoleon actually isn't as interesting a character as Churchill. The Churchill biography is filled
Caidyn (he/him/his)
This review and others can be found on BW Book Reviews.


If there was a gif that summed me up with this book, it would be this:

Basically, I literally know nothing about Napoleon. For most of the book, I legitimately thought that Napoleon was a part of the original Revolutionary government and then he weaved through to the top or was at the top for a while. That's why I was always super confused when I read about Marie Antoinette and why they never mentioned Napoleon. All because I never reall
Cathal Kenneally
Over two weeks spent reading this book, but there’s a lot of reading to do. I think a man like Napoleon deserves a book as big as this. He was and still is of the most enigmatic characters in not just history but military and Europe’s history in the early 19th century. People still laud him and scorn him in equal measure. His enemies in battle decided to study his methods of warfare just to be able to fight him. He set precedents in military strategy that were adopted by his peers and successors ...more
♥ Ibrahim ♥
I don't feel worthy to rate Andrew Roberts. I am speechless! How do you rate a giant scholar?! I first gave this book to my son so he could admire Napoleon and, sure enough, my son fell in love with the Napoleon presented to him by Andrew Roberts. He was glad to know that Napoleon didn't have much friends and he was alone most of the time at home reading and reading. I find the book amazing: it is both a story that a ten-year old son would enjoy and a well-researched history book for scholars to ...more
excellent pro-biography of Napoleon based in part on new archival material

the usual story (eg Andre Castelot's pro biography is still my #1 work on the subject, while Napoleon own memorial from St Helena is still excellent in the pro camp) but written in a modern style, emphasize the many positives of the Emperor, the context of the times (while on occasion arbitrary and tyrannical, his peers from the era, the famous dynasty but otherwise nobodies kings of Austria and Prussia and the young and c
Oct 11, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
I tried to read this but couldn't stomach the unremitting, fawning, implausible praise the author heaped on Napoleon. ...more
Jaime F.
Jun 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An instant favorite for me.
A very long read, but let me tell you, it is worth it all the way.
Napoleon A Life by Andrew Roberts is just a fascinating as the man of the hour himself. Often depicted as a military genius, a despot tyrant, cold hearted dictator, an avid intellectual and hunger for culture of Renaissance and Enlightenment years but I think Napoleon was all of the above and excelled at them.
Just to think a nobody from Corsica went up to be a feared foe and unparalleled pioneer in th
Mar 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
In this rich, vibrant, engaging, and accessible biography, Napoleon comes off as a soldier-statesman who had just the right balance of skill and luck and was always astute and flexible enough to come out on the winning side of pretty much everything and anything.

Napoleon was nothing if not energetic and ready to tackle whatever problems arose, and Roberts does a great job fleshing out this side of him. A lot of times, Napoleon seemed to have a perfect grasp of both the big picture and all the d
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Absorving and fascinating book 3 17 Dec 23, 2017 01:10PM  
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Dr Andrew Roberts, who was born in 1963, took a first class honours degree in Modern History at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, from where he is an honorary senior scholar and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). He has written or edited twelve books, and appears regularly on radio and television around the world. Based in New York, he is an accomplished public speaker, and is represented by HarperC ...more

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  Kerine Wint is a software engineering graduate with more love for books than for computers. As an avid reader, writer, and fan of all things...
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“I lived like a bear, in a little room, with books for my only friends . . . These were the joys and debaucheries of my youth.” 26 likes
“Men can be unjust towards me, my dear Junot,’ he wrote to his faithful aide-de-camp, ‘but it suffices to be innocent; my conscience is the tribunal before which I call my conduct.” 7 likes
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