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The Campaigns of Napoleon

4.46  ·  Rating details ·  1,118 ratings  ·  63 reviews
The Napoleonic Wars were nothing if not complex -- an ever-shifting kaleidoscope of moves and intentions, which by themselves went a long way towards baffling and dazing his conventionally-minded opponents into that state of disconcerting moral disequilibrium which so often resulted in their catastrophic defeat."

The Campaigns of Napoleon is an exhaustive analysis and cri

Hardcover, 1216 pages
Published March 1st 1973 by Scribner (first published 1966)
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4.46  · 
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 ·  1,118 ratings  ·  63 reviews

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Dec 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Though nearly a half-century has passed since its initial publication, David Chandler's study of Napoleon Bonaparte's military campaigns remains unsurpassed -- and after reading it, it is easy to see why. Over the course of a thousand pages, Chandler charts Napoleon's military career, from his early years at the École Militaire to his final defeat in the Hundred Days campaign. Aided by a generous selection of maps, he details the maneuvers of every campaign and the course of every major battle, ...more
Jud Barry
May 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Reading this book was part of a long-term project to read all the books I own but have never read. I've owned this book since it was newly-published (1966). When I got it I was 13 and determined to become a Napoleonic marshal. No one has ever accused me of being practical or realistic.

I'm sure I started it at some point but got bogged down like the French army between Quatre Bras and Waterloo, with page after page of place-names inadequately supported by cartography churning up a muddy prose. Th
Jan 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I've always known Napoleon to be one of the great titans of military history; you can't say his name without reactions from both sides of those who have read about him. Chandler does the impossible; he writes a book so well about the mad genius of Napoleon on the battlefield I felt myself swept up in the great elan (a word that comes up throughout the entire tome) and it made me really appreciate the complications of total war.
not gonna lie though this book was a beast to read. but I loved it!
Nov 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
If you are only going to buy 1 book about Napoleonic Warfare, get this. It costs a small fortune, but it's a beautiful book complete with detailed maps and accountings of all of Napoleon's many battles. It may be more than you are looking for, but this is as complete as a single volume history can get. Recommended.
Ian Colby
Jul 31, 2014 rated it it was ok
Good god. It's like reading an 1100 page transcript of a game of Risk. I did not read this with great élan....(more detailed review when I have time.)
Walt O'Hara
Jun 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
One of those epochal works that becomes a game changer in its field. I know of few history writers specializing in Napoleon that don't reference this book at some point.
Mario Zecca
Jul 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I am generally a pacifist, idealistically, but somehow, perhaps through the so-called male "war gene," I find military history, when it is insightfully well written, fascinating. Chandler, whose painstaking research sometimes overwhelms, makes references to names and events I admit I don't bother to look up. But the meat of the text is straight forward. I find good history books shed light on my understanding of the world we live in.

This is no sugar-coated ode to Napoleon and his era, all the d
Dec 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Is there a 19 star option? This is the third time I have read this book, and I will continue to go back to it. Chandler's brilliance in making Napoleon human is unmatched in the countless other books I have read on the subject. There really is no reason to hate this book, even if you hate Napoleon. Theme of the book? "There is too much Napoleon in Napoleon."
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you lack knowledge of The Napoleanic Wars and don't mind spending a good chunk of money to rectify that problem then this is the book to get. Chandler does an amazing job of describing both Napoleon and his campaigns. The focus is obviously on the French but the opposing side is described and analysed in each campaign to give a better picture of what Napoleon did or didn't accomplish and how. In depth looks at strategy and to a lesser extent tactics make this book a must read for anyone inter ...more
Francis X DuFour
Over a year in the reading! A magnificent account of Napoleon's military actions. Not bogged down by too much detail, the author provides vivid dissections of each of the campaigns and battles, as well as information on the political situation and analysis of Napoleon's decisions in each battle. A book by which all other military histories will be measured, this a true classic.
Aug 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Excellent detailed history of Napoleon's Campaigns. Very shortcoming on maps and the political side of the Napoleonic Wars.
Will Underwood
May 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Thorough, detailed, encompassing, thoughtful, brilliant. Quite possibly the best book I’ve ever read, fiction or non.
Fred Dameron
Mar 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
A good read. Details about all of Napoleon's battles. Just enough of the politics that the battles are set in a historic context. This is a must read if you want to understand the Napoleonic era.
Sue Law
Feb 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: military-history
A comprehensive and balanced look at the military training and career of Napoleon. It does look at some of his political activities but ties these very much to his military aims.
Well worth the read.
Gerry Leb
Sep 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The definitive and authoritative history of Napoleon's campaigns. If you are really interested in military history, and you want to learn about the Napoleonic era, this is required reading.
Jan 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
One of the best biographies I've ever read. This book is not for everyone, though. I took a couple of military and strategy classes in grad school, and still struggled to understand the strategic and tactical battlefield maneuvers. But the grand strategy and high politics of the Napoleonic Wars are fairly easy to understand, so even if you can't follow the battles, this book is worth it just for the grand strategy.

Napoleon was surely a genius. This book is incredible at analyzing his strategies
Aug 18, 2015 rated it liked it
This was an average text. It has been overhyped and overrated, and is in actuality not as good as one might expect from all the positive reviews.

The quality of the writing is actually quite below par, Chandler is boring to read and the text simply does not flow at times. There are places where you have to force yourself on consciously just to get through the paragraphs he writes. The author excels when he is describing campaigns where Napoleon shone, campaigns such as those taking place during y
Jan 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Much like some of Napoleon's best battles, this book is a veritable masterpiece which I would strongly recommend to anyone interested in a broad and relatively detailed report of Napoleon's campaigns or military history of the time.

The content is extensive and well supported by references, source material and anecdotes. At the same time, the writing style is very narrative, which makes it a pleasure to read; rather than a book to fall asleep over.
The author succeeds in painting a relatively obj
Nov 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Chandler's tome on the campaigns of Napoleon is epic in scope and yet manages to convey all the crucial military details. He covers the entire arc of Napoleon's career and delves deeply into all the major battles. He explains the system of warfare pioneered by the general and future emperor. These concepts then inform the analysis of each campaign and battle. Unlike many histories (even some military histories) the maps are excellent. The battle maps display the movement of all the relevant unit ...more
Rob Markley
Sep 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: napoleonic, history
Monumental and complete assessment of the strengths and also the weaknesses of Napoleon with enough coverage of the civil & character sides to do justice - but let's face it - the military side of things is what really matters. Chandler does not hesitate to heap on the praise, but unlike the all too many hagiographic treatments is equally willing to apportion blame and criticism. It is a huge book covering a huge amount of material and appropriately fully incorporates analysis of the theoret ...more
Ian Rees
Aug 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, biography
An extremely thorough look at Napoleon's campaigns - not just his battles, but his entire military career, his campaign strategies and battle tactics. Quite a breathtaking piece of work.

I first read this in 1976 and decided to re-read it in view of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo and the end of the Napoleonic period. The work is no less brilliant, but I saw it with different eyes. The sheer scale of Napoleon's wars was staggering and the way he was quite willing to accept casualt
Nov 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
At 1100 pages, it is a doorstopper of a book. I have owned this baby for about 20 years. It is a little intimidating. I am on the Italian campaign, much more to go. I will take this in little bites because frankly the descriptions of the battles pretty much run into themselves.
Am now up to about 732 pages on the brink of the disasterous Russian campaign. This book is for the serious Napoleon fan and goes into great detail the military genius of Napoleon. Wellington said that Napoleon's presence
If there must be a Bible about the Napoleonic Wars, it is this. Well written, easy to read, and balanced around a difficult figure, Chandler gives a campaign history of Napoleon as a commander as well as giving the understanding of the tactics and style of war during the time period. Writing in the 70s, Chandler gives a proper history of Napoleon as a commander that has yet to be matched. Note: This is a campaign history of Napoleon as a commander, so wars such as the Peninsular Wars get only a ...more
JZ Temple
Aug 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
I've owned this book since college, which was back in the days when we wore racoon skin coats and boaters . Absolutely the definitive study of Napoleon's campaigns and looking through it recently I find it still stands up versus newer works. It does only cover campaigns where Napoleon was a participant, so not all the campaigns from the Napoleonic wars are covered. Also while it does give a limited biography of Napoleon it does shy away from the bigger picture of ruling France and the political, ...more
Jul 30, 2012 rated it liked it
Although the size and subject matter appears daunting, Chandler does well in structure and flow. His style of prose flows enough to allow an ease of understanding. He kept his descriptions straightforward and I didn't have to re-read in order to build comprehension.

Of course, this wasn't something I picked up off the shelf for personal reading. I had accompanying seminars for my coursework. I recommend it for use in a similar formal study of Napoleon's strategy and tactics.
Jul 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
Chandler provides an easy narrative of Napoleon's campaigns. The book supplies exceptional detail about late 18th and early 19 century military tactics, organization, and operations, providing a new reader with an accessible frame of reference, but not in such a way as to disrupt the narrative. The title, however is quite literal; campaigns on which Napoleon is not present are only briefly summarized, as are most of the diplomatic and political maneuverings of the belligerents.
Aug 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The fact that this book has maps that list almost EVERY landmark mentioned in the text warrants it 6 stars. Chandler's account is extremely crisp but never once sacrificed on detail; it's by far the most detailed account of the (purely) military aspects of the Napoleonic era. I've last read this book a few years back and stopped at the Battle of Austerlitz.

As with any serious work on military history, mapwork is absolutely vital.
Will Davies
Dec 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Militarists and the French
This book is surprisingly a page turner. Written with an almost fictional quality. While a long book it is a thriller, while detailed it is not microdetailed. Microdetailed, is that even a word? Anyway, Napoleon's Campaigns are done sweet justice in this book, you will enjoy and learn why he was good and why he lost.
Ralph Davis
Jul 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
It's interesting to read this book and compare its portrayal of Napoleon to the one Tolstoy presents in War and Peace. Another interesting comparison is Von Clausewitz's The Campaign of 1812 in Russia. He was on the Russian general staff, and gives us a searing analysis of Napoleon's dumbest mistake.
Mar 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: napoleon
A monumental book. The chapter on the Napoleonic way of war is worth the cost of the book by itself. Be aware that this book is NOT a history of the Napoleonic Wars. It deals with the campaigns that Napoleon was present, which means that whole sections of the Peninsular War are ignored. The loss of a star was for the spotty nature of the maps. A work this length should have much better maps.
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David G. Chandler was a British historian whose study focused on the Napoleonic era. As a young man he served briefly in the army, reaching the rank of captain, and in later life he taught at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. According to his obituary in the The Daily Telegraph, his "comprehensive account of Napoleon's battles" (his classic "The Campaigns of Napoleon") is "unlikely to be impr ...more