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Napoleon readings


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Suggestions for reading and viewing. An annotated bibliography for the 2011 Napoleon course at Mt St Joseph's LifeLearn class

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Napoleon readings

  1. 1. Napoleon Guide for Viewing, Reading & Surfing GeneralNapoleon PBS 4 hrs (2000) (N) When I started watching this I almost gave uppreparing the class. Who could compete with this? Golden-throated David McCullough, astable of French and Anglo expert talking heads, all having spent their careers studyingthe Emperor. Including Col John Elting, who wrote the West Point Atlas I’ve used foryour maps. And the visuals! The production values. Enjoy!Napoleon: The Myth, The Battles, The Legend: 2 Disks 2 hrs 25 min@ (2001) (N) Another overview. Minimal reenactments. Many British “talkingheads” with varying viewpoints from critical to adulatory. Gets “down in the weeds.” Butworthwhile for the provocative thoughts expressed.Napoleon’s Final Battle 1 hr 28 min 2006 (N) Despite the title, this NationalGeographic presentation is a succinct view of his entire career. It focuses on the HundredDays of 1815 but used flashbacks to tell his entire career. If an hour and a half is all youwant to invest, you can’t do better. Well shot costumed re-enactments of the key events.Minimal “talking heads,” but well done.Elting, John. Swords around the Throne. 1988 (2)This authoritative, comprehensive, and enthralling book describes and analyzesNapoleons most powerful weapon -- the Grande Armée, which at its peak numbered overa million soldiers. Elting examines every facet of this incredibly complex humanmachine: its organization, command system, logistics, weapons, tactics, discipline,recreation, mobile hospitals, camp followers, and more. From the army’s formation out ofthe turmoil of Revolutionary France through its swift conquests of vast territories acrossEurope to its legendary death at Waterloo, this book uses excerpts from soldiers’ letters,eyewitness accounts, and numerous firsthand details to place the reader in the boots ofNapoleon’s conscripts and generals. In Elting’s masterful hands the experience is trulyunforgettable.Chandler, David G. The Campaigns of Napoleon. 1966 (3)The Campaigns of Napoleon is an exhaustive analysis and critique of Napoleon’s art of
  2. 2. war as he himself developed and perfected it in the major military campaigns of hiscareer. Napoleon disavowed any suggestion that he worked from formula (“Je n’aijamais eu un plan d’opérations”), but military historian David Chandler demonstratesthis was at best only a half-truth. To be sure, every operation Napoleon conductedcontained unique improvisatory features. But there were from the first to the last certainbasic principles of strategic maneuver and battlefield planning that he almost invariablyput into practice. To clarify these underlying methods, as well as the style of Napoleon’sfabulous intellect, Mr. Chandler examines in detail each campaign mounted andpersonally conducted by Napoleon, analyzing the strategies employed, revealingwherever possible the probable sources of his subject’s military ideas.The book opens with a brief account of Bonaparte’s early years, his military educationand formative experiences, and his meteoric rise to the rank of general in the army of theDirectory. Introducing the elements of Napoleonic “grand tactics” as they developed inhis Italian, Egyptian, and Syrian campaigns, Mr. Chandler shows how these principleswere clearly conceived as early as the Battle of Castiglione, when Napoleon was onlytwenty –six. Several campaigns later, he was Emperor of France, busily constructing theGrande Armée. This great war machine is described in considerable detail: thecomposition of the armies and the élite Guard; the staff system and the methods ofcommand; the kind of artillery and firearms used; and the daily life of the Grande Arméeand the all-seeing and all-commanding virtuoso who presided over every aspect of itsoperation in the field.As the great machine sweeps into action in the campaigns along the Rhine and theDanube, in East Prussia and Poland, and in Portugal and Spain, David Chandler followsclosely every move that vindicates – or challenges – the legend of Napoleon’s militarygenius. As the major battles take their gory courses – Austerlitz, Jena, Fried-land – wesee Napoleon’s star reaching its zenith. Then, in the Wagram Campaign of 1809 againstthe Austrians – his last real success – the great man commits more errors of judgmentthan in all his previous wars and battles put together. As the campaigns rage on, hisdeclining powers seem to justify his own statement: “One has but a short time for war.”Then the horrors of the Russian campaign forever shatter the image of Napoleonicinvincibility. It is thereafter a short, though heroic and sanguinary, road to Waterloo andSt. Helena.Napoleon appears most strikingly in these pages as the brilliant applier of the ideas ofothers rather than as an original military thinker, his genius proving itself more practicalthan theoretical. Paradoxically, this was both his chief strength and his main weakness asa general. After bringing the French army a decade of victory, his methods becameincreasingly stereotyped and, even worse, were widely copied by his foes, who operatedagainst him with increasing effectiveness toward the end of his career. Yet even thoughhis enemies attempted to imitate his techniques, as have others in the last century and ahalf, no one ever equaled his success. As these meticulous campaign analyses testify, hismultifaceted genius was unique. Even as the end approached, as David Chandler pointsout, his eclipse was “the failure of a giant surrounded by pygmies.”“The flight of the eagle was over; the ‘ogre’ was safely caged at last, and an exhausted
  3. 3. Europe settled down once more to attempt a return to former ways of life andgovernment. But the shade of Napoleon lingered on irresistibly for many years after hisdeath in 1821. It lingers yet.”—review in The Boston GlobeBruce, Robert, Iain Dickie, Kevin Kiley et al., eds. Fighting Techniquesof the Napoleonic Age; 1792-1815. 2008 at abe for about $8-9, newIn this thematically-organized, thoroughly-illustrated reference text, five expert authorsdescribe the fighting techniques used at the height of Napoleon Bonaparte`s empire. Thebook explores the tactics and strategy required to win battles and describes how thedrastic changes in weapons technology and military systems altered the face of thebattlefield permanently. Using specially-commissioned color and black and whiteartworks to illustrate the battles, equipment and tactics of the era, Fighting Techniques ofthe Napoleonic Age shows in detail how the battles that would define Europe for years tocome were fought and won. In this thematically-organized, thoroughly-illustratedreference text, five expert authors describe the fighting tactics, equipment and techniquesused at the height of Napoleon Bonaparte`s empire as well as the developments inweapons technology and changes in military systems. The book shows in detail how thebattles that would define Europe for years to come were fought and won.Table of Contents:The Role of Infantry; Mounted Warfare; Command and Control;Artillery and Siege Warfare; Naval Warfare;Select Bibliography;IndexThe Osprey series: Freemont-Barnes. Napoleon Bonaparte; Leadership •Strategy • Conflict. 2010 at abe $10 &c.This would be my choice for a “textbook” if you’re interested in getting a single volume(64 pp.). There are probably more related titles on Napoleonic warfare in this excellentpublishing house than any other military period. You could go broke (and I probablywill) trying to get them all. My strategy is to buy them second hand through website. Saves about 20-30% off new. Osprey’s website lists thespecialized titles such as French Napoleonic Infantry Tactics 1792-1815.Napoleon : vol 3. (Bonus materials) 2 hrs 40 min 2002 (N)The Napoleon and Wellington episode (1 hr 36 min) is an excellent bi of these twoopponents, both born in 1769! A really fine intro to Napoleon’s career. It culminates inan excellent analysis of A very enthusiastic (biased) biography isavailable at this site along with many other resources.www. The website of the Fondation Napoléon. It can beviewed in either French or English. A great many resources. Many differenttypes of media. One example: a 4 minute video of N’s coronation asemperor employing period art and computer graphics @
  4. 4., His Armies and Enemies. This is the ultimate website forfinding quotations, pictures, battle maps, descriptions and accounts, links tomore information &c. If you even want more, check it out. Session i-AmbitionNapoleon : vol 1. 3 hrs 1 min 2002 (N)An A & E drama focusing more on the personal life than does our class presentation.Impressive casting. The Bonaparte (Christian Clavier) is convincing, a native Frenchspeaker, Josephine (drop dead gorgeous Isabelle Rosselini), Talleyrand (John Malkovich)and Fouché (Gerard Depardieu). Episode 1 begins on St Helena, then picks up with 13Vendimiaire and goes through the attempt on Napoleon’s life of December 1800. You’llrecognize the costumes from the historical paintings you’ve seen in classDwyer, Philip. Napoleon; The Path to Power. Yale Univ Press, 2008 This651 page volume covers the same years as our first session. The Australian professorauthor spends more time on Napoleon’s childhood and education than do mostbiographers. The notes and bibliography are impressive measures of the author’sscholarship. He is presently preparing a follow-on volume concluding Napoleon’s life.An added bonus to reading this work is the author’s review of the French Revolution atappropriate places to clarify events in Bonaparte’s biography. He doesn’t hesitate toexpose the young would-be despot’s feet of clay. Session ii-EmpireNapoleon : vol 1. 3 hrs 1 min 2002 (N)An A & E drama focusing more on the personal life than does our class presentation. Thesecond Episode begins with the search for the assassins, then skips forward to the ducd’Enghien affair (1804). Next, Napoleon’s family “issues.” Then the imperial coronation,great “back and forth” with the pope, Pius VII. Lavish re-staging. Carries the story toEylau, 1807.Potter, E. B. and Chester W. Nimitz, Sea Power; A Naval History.Prentice Hall, 1960.This was my textbook at Annapolis. It began my interest in history! It has seventy-ninepages on the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. In a text for training U.S. navalofficers. It is an excellent overview of the maritime dimension of the Napoleonic Wars.Available at abebooks.comThe Battle of Trafalgar. 55 min 1999 (N)
  5. 5. A fine job explaining the tactics of the age of fighting sail, weapons, living conditionsand the differences between the British and French navies which met in this decisivebattle. Like others in the Kultur series on Napoleonic warfare, this film containscommentary by Dr. Chandler, film clips, animations and re-enactors who deliver linesfrom the writings of actual participants. A fine account of this important event. Session iii-Third Coalition1805: The Battle of Austerlitz 55 min 1999 (N)A marvelous account of this supreme display of Napoleon’s abilities. The film footagesare from Sergei Bondarchuk’s 1965-67, War and Peace, and British films on navalwarfare. Bondarchuk made an epic reenactment of these events. He was given 120,000actors, mostly from the Red Army, a Guinness Book of Records, made possible by atotalitarian state. The graphics show how Napoleon used his eye for terrain in choosingthe place for his victory against superior numbers. The reenactors who speak lines fromthe actual memoirs of participants portray Captain Coignet of the French Imperial Guardand Austrian Major General Stutterheim. Expert analysis is provided by Professor DavidG. Chandler, long the leading authority on Napoleonic warfare. Chandler (1934 –2004) was a British historian whose study focused on the Napoleonic era. Hisbook is recommended above.As a young man he served briefly in the army, reaching the rank of captain, and inlater life he taught at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Oxford Universityawarded him the D. Litt. in 1991. He has held three Visiting Professorships atOhio State in 1970, at the Virginia Military Institute in 1988, and Marine CorpsUniversity in 1991. rather cryptic URL will take you to an impressive student Master’s degree film, 40minutes long, of the double battle of Jena Auerstädt. I highly recommend it for boththe excellent account of the campaign against Prussia in 1806 and the illustration ofNapoleonic tactics. He explains many important concepts more clearly tha is possiblewith written descriptions and static diagrams.Napoleon : vol 1. 3 hrs 1 min 2002 (N)The second Episode includes a decent re-enactment of Austerlitz. Napoleon begins hisinterest in restoring Poland and bedding Polish patriot Countess Walewska. Carries thestory to Eylau, 1807.
  6. 6. Session iv-ApogeeAsprey, Robert. The Reign of Napoleon Bonaparte. Basic Books, 2001A more popular work by a retired U S Marine veteran of two wars who has publishedaccounts of other military eras as well. He takes the story from the peak of Napoleon’spower following the victory at Austerlitz. He also has authored a “prequel” The Rise ofNapoleon Bonaparte.Napoleon : vol 2. 3 hrs 1 min 2002 (N)This 3rd episode begins with the aftermath of the battle of Eylau and takes events up tothe fire in Moscow, 1807-1812. It develops his affair with Polish Countess MarieWalewska. A nice recreation of the meeting with Alexander at Tilsit. Back in Paris,family troubles. Spain, 1808, spot on portrayal of the useless Spanish monarchs, the grimguerilla warfare. The battle of Essling, also grim. Joséphine put aside for Marie Louise ofAustria, the birth of l’Aiglon (Napoleon II), a very cursory invasion of Russia. Beautifulinteriors and good military re-enactments. Session v-Spain excellent website by Andrew C. Jackson not only gives excellent historical detailsbut also contains photos of remaining structures and terrain plus directions for the would-be battlefield and museum tourist. Most informative about the Spanish Ulcer whichbegan Bonaparte’s downfall.Napoleon : vol 2. 3 hrs 1 min 2002 (N)This 3rd episode contains a segment Spain, 1808, spot on portrayal of the useless Spanishmonarchs, the grim guerilla warfare.Napoleon: The Myth, The Battles, The Legend: Disk 2 2 hrs 25min (2001) (N) This disk includes an episode “The Spanish Ulcer” “Russia,” and“Waterloo” Summary narratives plus useful commentary from different viewpoints.Cornwell, Bernard. Sharpe’s Eagle. &c A great series of historical fiction novels set in the Napoleonic era. Dickie Sharpe, a“James Bond” type hero from the lowest class, rises to the top of the British Army bysheer courage and ability. He is accompanied by a faithful side-kick, Sergeant PatrickHarper, an Irish Catholic. The novels provide remarkable historical information in the“sugar coated’ form of page-turning adventure stories. His description of battles, hereTalavera, is positively Homeric. Each book ends with a Historical Note which points outfact from fiction. Also BBC has made a nice series, staring Sean Bean as a very
  7. 7. believable Sharpe. Cornwell has written fine historical fiction in many other periods. Ieagerly await his latest releases, currently in Anglo-Saxon times ca. 780s. Session vi-RussiaNapoleon : vol 2. 3 hrs 1 min 2002 (N)This 3rd episode ends with a very cursory invasion of Russia. The 4th carries the storyforward to its dreadful conclusion. panorama painting of the battle at its height by Franz Roubaud. There is adetailed commentary on each of nine panels. Your instructor saw this cyclorama at theBorodino museum on the outskirts of Moscow in 1972. This 19th century technique ofpainting “in-the-round,” intended to be viewed from a central point, was the forerunner ofour Cinerama and Imax techniques. Sadly, few remain. Another is the famous Gettysburgcyclorama, discovered in a barn and lovingly restored.1812: The Battle of Borodino 55 min 1999 (N)Another in the series. The film footage is from Sergei Bondarchuk’s 1965-67, War andPeace, described above. Another military historian, John Tincey, joins Chandler. Themap work is not as good as in others in the series.Napoleon’s Road to Moscow 55 min 1999 (N)A grim narration of this climactic campaign. More film footage i from SergeiBondarchuk’s War and Peace. The reenactor narrator portrays Sergeant Bourgogne ofthe French Imperial Guard. His memoirs are a vivid personalization of the hardship andsuffering of Napoleon’s coalition army. Session vii-Sixth Coalition interesting prize-winning article by a recent West Point grad on N’scampaign of 1814. This is typical of the sort of material available at this site.Napoleon : vol 2. 3 hrs 1 min 2002 (N)The 4th episode describes the defeat of Napoleon, his abdication in 1814 and his time onElba. He hears of Joséphine’s death and plans his return.
  8. 8. Session viii-Le Cent Jours1815: The Battle of Waterloo 55 min 1992 (N)Another in the series with reenactors, film excerpts and David Chandler commentaries.Nice battle diagrams and period paintings.Napoleon : vol 2. 3 hrs 1 min 2002 (N)The 4th episode concludes this biopic with the famous confrontation with Ney, adisappointing filming of Waterloo (out of budget?), his futile effort to find freedom, anda somber time on St. Helena.Waterloo 115 min 1970 (N)Terrific Hollywood job starring Rod Steiger as Napoleon and Christopher Plummer asWellington, Orson Welles as Louis XVIII. Couldn’t be better casting. Beautiful slowmotion of the futile, overextended charge of the Royal Scots Greys. Spot on shots ofNey’s charge breaking up on the British infantry squares. I can’t imagine a better filmportrayal of this famous battle.