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Napoleon: The Path to Power

(Napoleon #1)

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  321 ratings  ·  33 reviews
At just thirty years of age, Napoleon Bonaparte ruled the most powerful country in Europe. But the journey that led him there was neither inevitable nor smooth. This authoritative biography focuses on the evolution of Napoleon as a leader and debunks many of the myths that are often repeated about him—sensational myths often propagated by Napoleon himself. Here, Philip ...more
Hardcover, 651 pages
Published March 1st 2008 by Yale University Press (first published June 4th 2007)
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Average rating 3.95  · 
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Dec 27, 2008 rated it it was ok
There is no such thing as the last book on a subject. If there was, we wouldn't have a million books on Abraham Lincoln. When you have a historical figure, such as Lincoln or Napoleon, it seems that every generation wants to take a crack at figuring out that man's essence. But there comes a point when you really can't say anything new. That's just reality, since man's life is finite. When that point is reached, the only thing an author can do, really, is take the collected wisdom of hundreds of ...more
Patrick Oden
Jun 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Although a history major in college I have studied very little of Napoleon or the time and places of his greatest influence. Thus I come to Dwyer's book with a love for history but without a critical background of prior Napoleon research. Therefore I must asses this book by the tools of history and by my own opinions as a reader of history books, rather than by assessing Dwyer's overall worth for Napoleon studies.

What I look for in a history book are the kinds of sources, the use of sources,
Jan 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
How did a "haggard and ghastly" foreigner from a poor-noble family end up ruling two-thirds of Europe, getting one in every 200 people in the world killed (his namesake wars were the same size, though not the same shape, as the Holocaust), becoming one of the most successful generals in history?

Dwyer's answer is via various sorts of creativity: nepotism, plagiarism, disloyalty, false advertising, ignoring orders (and then going AWOL to avoid reprisal), and but also actual military acumen.

Apr 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Before reading this book, I had no idea how little I knew about Napoleon Bonaparte. As such, I found Philip Dwyer's study of Napoleon's rise to power wholly fascinating. The man that emerges from these biographical pages is just that, a man. Dwyer does a wonderful job of separating the man from the myth, and I was surprised at just how human the Little General was in his youth and young adulthood. A competent military strategist, Napoleon's true genius is revealed by his unprecedented use of the ...more
May 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Most historians have to chose between writing a readable narrative or one that will be heavily documented. Dwyer doean't have this problem His writing is able straddle both styles. He has created a readable, heavily documented history of Napoleon's rise to power. I don't know the literature of this period, but the book has the feel that it is definitive to date.

While the text is not on the page turning level of "Alexander Hamilton, The Most Famous Man in America:, "The Biography of Henry Ward
This is probably the first biography I've read where the author was so brutally honest about the character that he seemed to actually dislike the man. But he was scrupulously fair about bringing out both sides of what was happening - reporting Napoleon's accounts and at the same time accounts by other people involved that gave the opposite side of the story. Napoleon really did have a "particularly modern approach to politics" in the best Rovebusian style, never shying away from completely ...more
May 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: napoleonic, biography
One of the best, recent biographies of Napoleon. Dwyer has crafted a thoroughly researched yet fascinating account of Napoleon's life up to his seizure of power in 1799. Dwyer convincingly makes the case that Napoleon shrewdly and consciously invented and reinvented an image for himself that has survived to this day. Dwyer attempts, as much as possible, to peel away the layers of that persistent myth and reveal the man beneath.
Jul 15, 2010 rated it liked it
The first 30 years of an amazing life. this book filled in a vast gap in my understanding of the history of France, the revolution, and Europe in the years leading up to 1800. If you want to know how Sara Palin can take over, just read this.
Jan 14, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Napoleon fanatics
Shelves: non-fiction
A mostly well-written book about Napoleon's rise to power. It goes into a little too much detail, however; plodding through 500 pages covering the first 30 years of his life was a bit much.
Mark Wardlaw
Mar 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a solid scholarly insight into Napoleon’s rise to power. Philip Dwyer takes us on a roller coaster ride; from disenfranchised Corsican to most powerful General in Europe. Born of nobility and an officer graduate of Paris Military Academy, he was lucky not to face the guillotine in the vengeful, barbaric turmoil of revolutionary France.

The Author skilfully guides us through Napoleon’s world, separating the man from the myth; his ambition, contacts and networking, his love for Josephine,
George Tsalamandris
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A great read of the backroom dealings of Napoleon's rise to power. The title is correct it explains 'Napoleon's path to power' alright, but I would've like to have read more on the military tactics and skills of the great general, it is lacking in that respect. I'll have to find that in another book.
I look forward to reading the follow up book by this author.
Rob Markley
Sep 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, napoleonic
Bit too casual with the topic I thought - perhaps trying for mass appeal rather than solid history. No friend of Napoleon and has that right
In spite of his anecdotally small stature, the character of Napoleon Bonaparte is usually depicted as larger than life, an image cultivated deliberately by Napoleon himself. Mr. Dwyer presents a detailed and thorough history of Napoleon's rise to power, beginning with his upbringing on the island of Corsica and how local politics and his father's attempts to integrate himself with those in power shaped his ambitions. He used connections skillfully to obtain French military appointments, ...more
Charles Gonzalez
Jun 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
I have had a long interest in the French Revolution as part of my study and appreciation of our own revolutionary period. Having read Schama's " Citizens" had a somewhat limited perspective on the period and was especially interested in the transition from revolutionary period to consulate to Empire and the whole Napoleonic myth making. This volume, of a 2 volume set, starts the story early on the island of Corsica and gives a quite detailed explanation of Napoleons early life,influences and ...more
bazra bat
Nov 06, 2012 rated it did not like it
Reading was stressful. All my curiosity reading disappeared from the very first chapter. Too much concentrated on the background of napoleons, which was too boring. And there were very lack information regarding to napoleon himself. In this book there is no something that will intrigue you to read, like other interesting books does. It seemed to me like i was reading long, and boring dissertation. From the middle i lost the main idea, main pattern and gave up reading this book. Maybe Historians, ...more
Julia F. Simon
Aug 02, 2015 rated it it was ok
It's clear from the beginning that Dwyer dislikes Napoleon, which is perfectly fine; but one can be critical towards the man's many flaws without cherrypicking the sources in order to make him unlikeable also to the reader (authors overwhelmingly favorable to Napoleon also indulge in cherrypicking, obviously). Anyway and surprisingly my main problem with this book is the style, that I find too dry.
Jul 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent read. It's a bit daunting, very well-researched and extremely detailed, and it's a large book - but if you would really like to understand both the rise of Napoleon (if you thought "spin" started with contemporary politics, you're very much mistaken) and the political intrigues of the French revolution, this is the book for you.
Dec 17, 2015 rated it did not like it
Bailed out on this. I wanted something less flattering than the previous Napoleon book I had read, but this was deliberately written to criticize without grounds. The pattern would be, "Historical records say this happened, but Napoleon's people surely manipulated those, so we don't know what happened but we can be certain it was not what the history books say." It was tiring after 100 pages.
Matthew Griffiths
Jul 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
An enjoyable account of Bonaparte's rise from an obscurity to one of the central figures of French history. This book handled very well Bonaparte's careful management of his public image to create a certain impression of himself as a true republican and it also discussed his performance as a general which contrary to popular belief was not as irresistible as generally accepted history tells us.
Jul 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Napoleon's a complex historical figure and the vitriol that Dwyer seeps into his writing engages the reader to question the dimensions of what we accept as valid sources, history, and perspective on events linked to Bonaparte.
Not a book for blind Napoleon lovers.
Andrew Beedie
Jan 27, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
Stripped away some of the aura of Napoleon even though he was a military genius (30 years old and head of the most powerful country on earth) , knew how to use the media ( pamphlets , newspapers and engravings )
Nov 04, 2009 rated it liked it
This book took longer to read than expected. Filled with lots of details of Napoleon's early life and his rise to power. Found I needed to read about 10-15 pages and then but the book down. Needed a better backgroud of French history especially the pre revolution and revolutionary years.
Jan 22, 2014 rated it liked it
The writing was smooth enough to easily follow along, but a bit dry and lackluster considering the scope and topic being covered. It's Napoleon for crying out loud!
Jan 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really good- fun to read. He was in charge of france at the age of 30, you know?
May 18, 2010 rated it liked it
For Kindle. I am starting to warm to the thing.
Sue Law
Jan 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting study looking behind the legend as to what influences drove a younger son of an obscure minor Corsican family to aspire to a political career in his adoptive county of France.
Lauren Albert
This dragged for me. It's hard to know if it was just the level of detail or if it didn't cohere as a narrative. It was certainly thorough.
Taylor Kniphfer
Jul 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
A very good biography of that great man, Napoleon. Can't wait for Dwyer's second instalment in his biography of Napoleon
Oct 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
There is so much left to chance in life, but it always pays to be prepared for an unthinkable...
Well written and well presented. Joy to read.

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Philip Dwyer studied in Perth, Paris and Berlin before receiving his doctorate from the University of Western Australia. His first posting was as a Leverhulme Fellow at the University of Dundee. He has taught European History at the University of Newcastle since 1994. His primary research interest is eighteenth-century Europe with a particular emphasis on the Napoleonic Empire. Volume one of his ...more

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