Napoleon: The Decline and Fall of an Empire, 1811–1821

Pegasus. Jul. 2022. 496p. ISBN 9781639361779. $39.95. BIOG
With his ninth book about Napoleon Bonaparte, Broers (history, Oxford Univ.; The Napoleonic Empire in Italy) demonstrates the pleasures of methodical, detailed history. On December 10, 1810, Napoleon communicated to his senate: “A new order of things directs the universe.” All seemed to be well in his new empire. He had a new wife and would soon have a son, while centralization and uniformity were being spread across his domains by the cadre of bureaucrats he’d groomed. Russia and France were at peace (though for how long?); Spain was a running sore, but enough troops should settle that. Napoleon was sure his Continental Blockade would bring enemy Britain (that “nation of shopkeepers,” as he called them) to their knees. Then, in the summer of 1812, Napoleon entered Russia on a three-week expedition to snip off a piece of its western edge; five and a half months later, only 120,000 of the 450,000 Napoleonic troops left Russia alive. Broers analyzes this stunning defeat in Russia, with a particularly insightful comparison between Napoleon and Czar Alexander I. Broers is equally adept at narrating battles and teasing out the implications of events.
VERDICT A masterful and unfailingly insightful examination of Napoleon’s final years.
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