The best books on Napoleon and an era that shook Europe to its core

Michael Broers Author Of Napoleon: The Decline and Fall of an Empire: 1811-1821
By Michael Broers

The Books I Picked & Why

Metternich: Strategist and Visionary

By Wolfram Siemann, Daniel Steuer

Book cover of Metternich: Strategist and Visionary

Why this book?

‘Game changer’ is a much-overused term for new academic books, but not in this case. Wolfram Siemann’s seminal biography of Metternich sheds a blinding array of new light on one of the most important figures of the age, and recasts forever our understanding of the politics and diplomacy of the Napoleonic period. At last, a great scholar has systematically exploited the private archives of the Metternich family, bringing new facts to bear on the key moments of the Napoleonic wars. It is simply indispensable, and HUP are to be saluted for making it available in English.


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Russia Against Napoleon: The Battle for Europe, 1807 to 1814

By Dominic Lieven

Book cover of Russia Against Napoleon: The Battle for Europe, 1807 to 1814

Why this book?

Perhaps the single greatest study to emerge from a formidable list of fine books on the Russian contribution to the defeat of Napoleon. Beautifully written, interlaced with vivid pen portraits of some of the most colourful characters of the age, Lieven writes with sympathy and insight of a country assailed and battered by Napoleon, and gives his readers a sensitive account of how the Tsar and his people rose to the challenge, and also of how they often came close to disaster. He follows their advance across Europe from the depths of their heartland to the Champs Elysées with the perfect blend of scholarship and humanity.


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To Kidnap a Pope: Napoleon and Pius VII

By Ambrogio A. Caiani

Book cover of To Kidnap a Pope: Napoleon and Pius VII

Why this book?

A book that can be read almost as a thriller. Caiani takes us through a tale of bullying, bungling, and petty spite by Napoleon, who meets more than his match in the mediated determination of Pius, a man so long dismissed even by his collaborators, as a second-rate leader. Caiani’s deft character analysis, born of meticulous research in a plethora of archives in Rome, Paris, Lyon, and beyond, yield the story of a tense, complex battle of wills between two men who, despite their own best efforts, came to symbolise one of the most profound, protracted culture wars of the nineteenth century. To Kidnap a Pope wears its learning lightly; a true page-turner, but that learning is fresh and invaluable.


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Napoleon: The End of Glory

By Munro Price

Book cover of Napoleon: The End of Glory

Why this book?

The accomplished historian of France across the years of Revolution, Empire and Restoration, Munro Price brings all his arsenal of erudition, archival acumen, and intellectual insight to bear on the last crisis of the empire. His attention to detail, his sensitivity to character and motivation make for one of the most penetrating, illuminating accounts of the implosion of support for Napoleon among the French elites ever written. No non-French scholar had picked through the complex politics of late Napoleonic France with as much skill or precision. Price delivers all this in elegant prose, the sign of a subtle historian.


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Napoleon's Men: The Soldiers of the Revolution and Empire

By Alan Forrest

Book cover of Napoleon's Men: The Soldiers of the Revolution and Empire

Why this book?

Not since the monumental work of Jacques Morvan in his Le Soldat Imperial, almost a century ago, has a scholar brought so much learning and insight to the experience of the soldiery of the longest wars in modern European history. Forrest brings his hallmark skills as an archival scholar to the daunting task of reassembling the lives of the men who did the fighting, endured the horrors and the hardships behind the glittering uniforms, and heroic paintings of the battles. He brings the ordinary to life and puts the extraordinary in its proper context of the hardscrabble, but adventurous, lives of the rankers. One for the ages. 


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