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The Age of Napoleon: A History of European Civilization from 1789 to 1815

(The Story of Civilization #11)

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  731 ratings  ·  82 reviews
An engrossing volume on European civilization by Pulitzer Prize-winning historians Will and Ariel DurantThe Age of Napoleon, the eleventh and final volume of the Story of Civilization, surveys the amazing chain of events that wrenched Europe out of the Enlightenment and into the age of democracy. In this masterful work, listeners will encounter the French Revolution-from t ...more
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Dan Christopher, I too just finished the last of these 11-volumes. Congrats to you! I have also struggled with your question - what next. Although I don’t…moreChristopher, I too just finished the last of these 11-volumes. Congrats to you! I have also struggled with your question - what next. Although I don’t expect that we will find an author with the writing style and breadth of coverage as Will (and Ariel Durant, after hours of effort researching the top rated books for the 19th and 20th century, I have come up with, roughly in chronological order, the following lists.

title author avg rating num ratings
The Pursuit of Glory: Europe 1648-1815 Blanning, Timothy C.W. 4.10 565
The Age of Revolution: 1789-1848 Hobsbawm, Eric 4.17 3,283
The Birth of the Modern: World Society 1815-1830 Johnson, Paul 4.13 577
The Age of Capital: 1848-1875 Hobsbawm, Eric 4.18 2,032
The Age of Empire, 1875-1914 Hobsbawm, Eric 4.17 2,179
The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890-1914 Tuchman, Barbara W. 4.12 5,752
The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Visions of Glory 1874-1932j, Manchester, William 4.43 7,571
Industry and Empire: The Birth of the Industrial Revolution Hobsbawm, Eric 3.83 217
Echoes of the Marseillaise: Two Centuries Look Back on the French Revolution Hobsbawm, Eric 3.54 59
The Dream of Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Philosophy Gottlieb, Anthony 4.12 231


And the 20th century:
The Age of Empire, 1875-1914 Hobsbawm, Eric 4.17 2,179
The Russo-Japanese War 1904–1905 Jukes, Geoffrey 3.74 62
The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890-1914 Tuchman, Barbara W. 4.12 5,752
The World Crisis, 1911-1918 Churchill, Winston S. 4.26 278
The Age of Extremes: A History of the World 1914-1991 Hobsbawm, Eric 4.20 3,582
The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Visions of Glory 1874-1932; Manchester, William 4.43 7,571
The Guns of August Tuchman, Barbara W. 4.18 36,780
The Lights that Failed: European International History 1919-1933 Steiner, Zara S. 4.23 26
The Gathering Storm (The Second World War, #1) Churchill, Winston S. 4.32 3,857
The Origins of the Second World War Taylor, A.J.P. 4.00 965
Forgotten Armies: The Fall of British Asia, 1941-1945 Bayly, C.A. 3.82 104
Churchill's Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India during World War II Mukerjee, Madhusree 4.00 310
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies Diamond, Jared 4.00 182,691
Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 Judt, Tony 4.33 6,629
Interesting Times: A Twentieth-century Life Hobsbawm, Eric 4.04 401
Industry and Empire: The Birth of the Industrial Revolution Hobsbawm, Eric 3.83 217

I hope this helps [and I hope the list appears legible].(less)
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Roy Lotz
Finally I have come to the last book in this series. It was four long years ago when I first read The Life of Greece; and these have been the four most educational years of my life, in part thanks to The Story of Civilization. Though I have had some occasions to criticize Durant over the years, the fact that I have dragged myself through ten lengthy volumes of his writing is compliment enough. Now all I need to do is to read the first volume of the series, Our Oriental Heritage, in order to brin ...more
Jim
May 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, france
In this era of professional historians, who, in their haste to be seen as "scholarly oxen," focus in on narrower and narrower subjects, it is delightful to look back at Will and Ariel Durant's incredible The Story of Civilization. In eleven volumes, ending with this one, the two attempted to cover the history of Western Civilization from the beginnings to the death of Napoleon on St. Helena.

What I admire most about the Durants is their concentration on the cultural history of the era. Instead of
...more
Darwin8u
Dec 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: european, 2019, history
The end of the Durant's Story of Civilization. What the hell am I going to do with my time now? ...more
Johnny
Aug 15, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Some people say that Will and Ariel Durant’s magnum opus is dry. They say that this shotgun approach to civilization, known as The Story of Civilization, is too full of names, dates, and factoids, but not enough analysis and narrative. I that is one’s criterion for judging a book on history, the Durants have definitely fallen short in this best-selling series (nearly every member of the Book of the Month Club has a set) and my slow pilgrimage through this tome (across several months) would be te ...more
Stephen
Because I could not stop for Death, he kindly stopped for me – or didn’t. Will and Ariel Durant intended for Rousseau and Revolution to be the final volume in their epic history of Western Civilization, but grew bored waiting for the Grim Reaper to show up and claim them. They decided, therefore, to scratch an itch, and devote a final volume to Europe in the age of Napoleon. No individual has ever dominated a single volume in this fashion; even Charles the Fifth, in The Reformation, would disapp ...more
Builyyy
Aug 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book has had a profound effect on me. I read it in university for fun and I have to say it really changed the way I view history. Napoleon's life is one of a kind and stretches to the limit what a man can achieve in life. The Durant's really bring the time and people to life. It is exciting and riveting, tragic and triumphal. ...more
Jim
Feb 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, I finished it, the 11th and final book in the Durants' magisterial "Civilizations" series. I wish I could say I finished the entire series, but, no, this is the only book of the series that I have finished. This one covers Europe from 1789 to 1815, from the French Revolution to Napoleon's final defeat at Waterloo. While the main focus is on France and its Revolution and then the Napoleonic Empire, the Durants give us an overview of all the European nations--their economies, political syst ...more
Steve R
Dec 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Certainly one of the better works in this series, which I have now completed - all eleven volumes! - after approximately two and a half years at the rate of a minimum of ten pages a day. The Durants spent the better part of at least four decades completing this massive undertaking, and their achievement is, as far as I'm aware, an unparalleled one.

The organization of this particular work is its crowning feature. The life of Napoleon encompasses his rise to power through the consulship and the Di
...more
Umar Farooq
Sep 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book is a long one but once you get into it, its amazing. Napoleon is one of those rare humans who just did not know how to give up. His ambition knew no bounds and effected the rest of entire humanity, even us today. The time period from 1789-1815 is full of extremely talented and ruthless men (and some women) who made Europe their pet (kindly use your imagination here for a suitable pet genre). My personal favorite are Napoleon, Ney, Bernadotte, Talleyrand, Murat, Nelson, Lord Byron and Ma ...more
Kevin
It's a very in-depth overview of 1792-1820 or so. The most complete section is Book 1, which covers the French revolution. It's often very dry, but the best part is this passage in 1815 when Napoleon returns from exile in Elba, and a battalion is sent by Louis XVIII to arrest him:

"Nearing them, [Napoleon] stopped and addressed them: "Soldiers of the Fifth, I am your Emperor; do you recognize me?" He opened his military greatcoat, and said, "If there is among you a soldier who would like to kill
...more
Ryan Winfield
Sep 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best history books I've read. On par with Gibbon in writing and scope. Durant covers the lives of influential people impacted by Napoleon, giving almost a series of mini biographies, and a great feel for the overall landscape, before diving in to the man himself. If you haven't read this, you don't know what you think you know about Napolean or the French Revolution. Adding the rest of this series to my shelf for sure. ...more
Ciro
Jul 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Did not read entire book, probably 70%. The breadth of information in this book is staggering. I was frequently thinking of the author while reading, that to condense history into 750+ pages would have required 10 times that amount.

This book weaves Napoleon in and out of the various countries, political movements, economies art, science, literature, and everything in between over his lifetime
Thomas Cleckler
Feb 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Awestruck.

The writing and organization and wealth of information is fantastic. If you want it straight, Durant delivers. As far as Napoleon himself, I hope I'm reincarnated as one of his secretaries.

If you are averse to history, this book will cure you.
...more
Tom Baikin-O'hayon
A great ending for a great masterpiece.
Dovofthegalilee
Mar 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After about two and a half years I finished the series with this volume. Phew, that was a job. I think I liked this final volume the best not because it was the last but it some how spoke to me more than all the others. Worst volume for me was the Reformation second best was the Oriental Heritage. You're surely in for an education if you read the whole series. Now with a small break it's off to Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. ...more
Andrea
Sep 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-history
Classic Durant. Exhaustively detailed, delightfully opinionated. Read it in pieces and if you're feeling a bit sleepy, don't even bother. ...more
Buddy Don
Dec 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Having completed reading this volume, I've read the entire collected work known as The Story of Civilization, and it ranks as one of the greatest reading experiences of my life. For anyone considering reading all or part of this wonderful set of books, here are some of the things I can say having finished:

1. There is no need to read the volumes in order. One might wish to know more about the Italian Renaissance, for instance, and do quite well to read volume V, The Renaissance, without having re
...more
Reader Variety
Remarkable scope and insight by the Durants to not only go into depth on the life of Napoleon, but to weave in the corresponding history of the surrounding states in Europe and Asia, to include examination of the music, art, science etc. of the time.

Here are some segments that were interesting and give examples of the range of this book (that is part of a series):

- The political classifications of "left" and "right" originated in the seating of the post-French Revolution Legislative Assembly, wh
...more
Dayla
Jerome, N's youngest brother. Married an American, and she turned out to be the grandmother of a man that Teddy Roosevelt hired for the Navy.

N's other brother, Eugenie, was sent to Italy to be the Viceroy. N said, "The less you talk, the better. Never make a speech. Punish dishonesty, ruthlessly. Eugenie remained loyal always to N.

N's sister, was a Duchess of Tuscany
Sister Caroline married Murat--managed a duchy.

Mom, Latizia, Empress Dowager--Madame Mere, accompanied N. Died at age of 86.

N fe
...more
Michael
I had previously read"Rousseau and Revolution" and felt compelled to read this concluding volume in "The Story of Civilization" as so much material is related to the earlier volume.
Two volumes down, only nine to go!
My feelings regarding this book are the same as for the "Rousseau" volume. An easy read directed at the general reader and not the historian.
Because the authors are describing not just the ebb and flow of governments but the coverage of arts as well, entirely too much gets filtered t
...more
Jack
Aug 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I finally finished this series. Each of the 11 volumes was informative, interesting and highly entertaining. It was amazing how the events of each volume paralleled things that are happening today. On the one hand it gives me hope that we will endure. On the other it makes it seem like we will never learn. One constant is that people who want power need a crisis or an apocalypse on the horizon to frighten people. Some times it’s driven by religion. Sometime it was a secular cause (socialism or r ...more
Ask Franck
Oct 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book. I've finished the first and last book of this series now, and am a couple hundred pages into Life of Greece (2nd volume). Total epicness. Not sure if there's another author I'd wanna spend this much time with.

Only thing I'd fault them on is that there are a few stretches in the books that seem very dull, mostly a few of the ones about art.

In this book I found the chapters about the romantic 'Lake Poets' (Coleridge, Wordsworth etc) kind of insufferable. Perhaps mostly because I didn
...more
Tom Rowe
This finishes the Durant's Story of Civilization series. While he ended the previous book with an envoi telling everyone he was finished, he starts this book telling how he got bored with retirement and popped out one more hefty tome. Too bad he didn't live another 50 years. The books get progressively better. I recommend the series, but not necessarily in order. The first books cover too much time with less detail as less information is available. Also, Durant really develops his voice througho ...more
Christine
Jan 12, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There. I did it - I finished all 11 volumes of The Story of Civilization (437h37m total) and it's a journey I'm sad to say goodbye to. Will and Ariel Durant undertook an impossible task to write a "biography" of civilization and they largely succeeded. We got a holistic picture of each time period - politics, arts, religion, warfare, literature, etc. Not only do we get to peek into the famous and influential but they took great effort depicting the lives of the common man, as scarce as the evide ...more
Jonny Andres
Finishing this eleven volume set in less than a month has been quite the undertaking. In addition to these I had to mingle in about 6 other books to keep my sanity and not get burned out.

The Durant's depiction of civilization from the beginning to the end of the reign of Napoleon was simply amazing. With such a wide array of history to deal with, they managed to not only give us a broad outlook on this the histories if a great many eras while throwing in an understanding of the philosophies, art
...more
Phil
Jul 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you seek a relatively concise and fascinating overview of the late 18th/early 19th centuries in Western Europe, I highly recommend this one. Covers politics, religion, literature and philosophy. Helpful whether you want to become a PhD in history or simply crush every trivia game you enter.

For better or for worse, I think I am officially addicted to this lengthy style of historical overview that Will Durant is known for writing. This is book #11 and I loved it, in spite of the 1000+ pages. O
...more
Felipe Gouvea
Comprehensive, no doubt about it. For those who relish in attention to detail to the point where you forget Napoleonic Europe is centuries past then this is the tome for you. If you, like me, are looking for the History Channel series experience then the depth of digressions from the main storyline into the cultural revolution of the continent is quite exhausting.
A literary testament but a huge commitment for the reader.
Arno Mosikyan
Jul 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Always eloquent, always warmhearted, history of our civilization is the history told by Duarnt, not by Gibbon, not by other historians who depict our way brushed with bloodshed, conquest and odes of kings, it is a nicety of history of human progress seasoned with art, music, science.

2 years of torture and I am done wit all 11 books of this magnum opus, what a journey it was. Will remain always in love with Durant's style.

Thank you sir!
...more
Andrew Noselli
Apr 29, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is an astounding triumph and was much more than I expected it to be. I especially liked the section on the English Romantic poets; previously I had grit my teeth in frustration at what I presumed to be the early death of Lord Byron and Percy Shelley, but in this book Mr. Durant explains that these artists had ultimately given their all by the end of their lives. It sort of makes up for their untimely loss, kind of like John Lennon's "Double Fantasy" record. ...more
Sir Blue
Mar 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a thrilling account of napoleon
From his upbringing in france
To his abolishment of the monarchy
In an age of liberalism
He became a new monarchy
He fought the forces of Europe
To bring new glory to france.
Then a renaissance
with music and education.
Then the napoleons 2 and 3.
Then the establishment of parliment.
The enduction of president.
He changed france forever.
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William James Durant was a prolific American writer, historian, and philosopher. He is best known for the 11-volume The Story of Civilization, written in collaboration with his wife Ariel and published between 1935 and 1975. He was earlier noted for his book, The Story of Philosophy, written in 1926, which was considered "a groundbreaking work that helped to popularize philosophy."

They were awarde
...more

Other books in the series

The Story of Civilization (1 - 10 of 11 books)
  • Our Oriental Heritage (The Story of Civilization, #1)
  • The Life of Greece (The Story of Civilization, #2)
  • Caesar and Christ (Story of Civilization, #3)
  • The Age of Faith (The Story of Civilization, #4)
  • The Renaissance (The Story of Civilization, #5)
  • The Reformation (The Story of Civilization #6)
  • The Age of Reason Begins (The Story of Civilization, #7)
  • The Age of Louis XIV (The Story of Civilization, #8)
  • The Age of Voltaire (The Story of Civilization, #9)
  • Rousseau and Revolution (The Story of Civilization, #10)

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