100 books like Napoleon

By Philip Dwyer,

Here are 100 books that Napoleon fans have personally recommended if you like Napoleon. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of When the King Took Flight

Peter McPhee Author Of Liberty or Death: The French Revolution

From my list on understanding the French Revolution.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have spent much of my adult life studying the French Revolution with students who, like me, are engrossed by the drama, successes and tragedies of the Revolution, and the scale of the attempts to arrest or reverse it. Why and how did an apparently stable regime collapse in 1789? Why did it prove to be so difficult to stabilize a new order? How could claims to “liberty” and “equality” be balanced? And why was there a period of “terror” in 1793-94? When the Revolution was finally over, how had France and other parts of the world been changed? The answers to those questions remain open and continue to fascinate. 

Peter's book list on understanding the French Revolution

Peter McPhee Why did Peter love this book?

At the celebrations on 14 July 1790 for the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, Louis XVI took an oath to work with the National Assembly as a constitutional monarch. Less than a year later, on 20 June 1791, the royal family tried to flee the Revolution. The king’s flight convinced masses of French people that he was a perjurer: the monarchy never recovered its mystique.

In contrast, his capture near the border with Luxembourg convinced the crowned heads of Europe that the royal family was in mortal danger. Ten months later France was at war with Marie-Antoinette’s native Austria, and Europe was engulfed in a generation of bloodshed. The great American historian of the Revolution, Timothy Tackett, recounts the engrossing story of the botched flight and its repercussions for a cast of unforgettable characters.    

By Timothy Tackett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked When the King Took Flight as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On a June night in 1791, King Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette fled Paris in disguise, hoping to escape the mounting turmoil of the French Revolution. They were arrested by a small group of citizens a few miles from the Belgian border and forced to return to Paris. Two years later they would both die at the guillotine. It is this extraordinary story, and the events leading up to and away from it, that Tackett recounts in gripping novelistic style.

The king's flight opens a window to the whole of French society during the Revolution. Each dramatic chapter spotlights a different…


Book cover of Choosing Terror: Virtue, Friendship, and Authenticity in the French Revolution

Peter McPhee Author Of Liberty or Death: The French Revolution

From my list on understanding the French Revolution.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have spent much of my adult life studying the French Revolution with students who, like me, are engrossed by the drama, successes and tragedies of the Revolution, and the scale of the attempts to arrest or reverse it. Why and how did an apparently stable regime collapse in 1789? Why did it prove to be so difficult to stabilize a new order? How could claims to “liberty” and “equality” be balanced? And why was there a period of “terror” in 1793-94? When the Revolution was finally over, how had France and other parts of the world been changed? The answers to those questions remain open and continue to fascinate. 

Peter's book list on understanding the French Revolution

Peter McPhee Why did Peter love this book?

After 1792 French revolutionaries had to confront European armies and internal counter-revolution in a battle for the survival of the Revolution – and their own lives. The Jacobins saved the Revolution, but an enormous cost in human life. Marisa Linton takes us inside the personal dimensions of this deadly struggle, examining how personal friendships and alliances among revolutionary leaders disintegrated into recrimination and killings. By the Year II (1793-94) the policies of “terror” unleashed at the armed enemies of the Revolution had been extended to other revolutionaries believed to lack the authenticity necessary to the practice of republican “virtue”. Linton unravels the deadly logic of suspicion at a time of violence and acute fear which underpinned this “politicians’ terror”.  

By Marisa Linton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Choosing Terror as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Choosing Terror: Virtue, Friendship and Authenticity in the French Revolution examines the leaders of the French Revolution - Robespierre and his fellow Jacobins - and particularly the gradual process whereby many of them came to 'choose terror'. These men led the Jacobin Club between 1789 and 1794, and were attempting to establish new democratic politics in France. Exploring revolutionary politics through the eyes of these leaders, and against a political
backdrop of a series of traumatic events, wars, and betrayals, Marisa Linton portrays the Jacobins as complex human beings who were influenced by emotions and personal loyalties, as well as…


Book cover of The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction

Peter McPhee Author Of Liberty or Death: The French Revolution

From my list on understanding the French Revolution.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have spent much of my adult life studying the French Revolution with students who, like me, are engrossed by the drama, successes and tragedies of the Revolution, and the scale of the attempts to arrest or reverse it. Why and how did an apparently stable regime collapse in 1789? Why did it prove to be so difficult to stabilize a new order? How could claims to “liberty” and “equality” be balanced? And why was there a period of “terror” in 1793-94? When the Revolution was finally over, how had France and other parts of the world been changed? The answers to those questions remain open and continue to fascinate. 

Peter's book list on understanding the French Revolution

Peter McPhee Why did Peter love this book?

Ever since 1789 people have asked how to explain such a massive upheaval in an apparently stable kingdom. Why did the Revolution follow its particular course after 1789? Why did it result in a civil war and international warfare? When was it “over”? And how “revolutionary” was the Revolution? Was France fundamentally changed as a result of it? What were the international repercussions?

An eminent historian of the eighteenth century here manages to condense decades of research and writing into a pocket-sized paperback. It is a superb, lucid, and up-to-date summary of the origins, course, and outcomes of the Revolution and of the ongoing debates about its meaning and significance, some of which involve Doyle’s own interpretations. 

By William Doyle,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The French Revolution as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The French Revolution is a time of history made familiar from Dickens, Baroness Orczy, and Tolstoy, as well as the legends of let them eat cake, and tricolours. Beginning in 1789, this period of extreme political and social unrest saw the end of the French monarchy, the death of an extraordinary number of people beneath the guillotine's blade during the Terror, and the rise of Napoleon, as well as far reaching consequences still with us today, such as the
enduring ideology of human rights, and decimalization.

In this Very Short Introduction, William Doyle introduces the French old regime and considers…


Book cover of French Revolution and the People

Peter McPhee Author Of Liberty or Death: The French Revolution

From my list on understanding the French Revolution.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have spent much of my adult life studying the French Revolution with students who, like me, are engrossed by the drama, successes and tragedies of the Revolution, and the scale of the attempts to arrest or reverse it. Why and how did an apparently stable regime collapse in 1789? Why did it prove to be so difficult to stabilize a new order? How could claims to “liberty” and “equality” be balanced? And why was there a period of “terror” in 1793-94? When the Revolution was finally over, how had France and other parts of the world been changed? The answers to those questions remain open and continue to fascinate. 

Peter's book list on understanding the French Revolution

Peter McPhee Why did Peter love this book?

The elation of the revolutionary months of May-October 1789 was soon replaced by fervent debate about whose revolution this was to be. This was a debate which involved people at every level of society across the new nation. How could the divergent hopes of middle-class politicians and officials, insurgent Parisians, and the divergent mass of the peasantry be reconciled? Others rejected the Revolution altogether. After 1792 the debate became deadly as a European coalition made war on France, often with the collaboration of internal counter-revolutionaries. David Andress has created a vivid and expert narrative of an unfolding struggle over the survival and meaning of the Revolution, with some surprising conclusions.

By David Andress,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked French Revolution and the People as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The French Revolution of 1789 was the central event of modern history. Although the Revolution started with the resistance of a minority to absolutist government, it soon spread to involve the whole nation, including the men and women who made up by far the largest part of it - the peasantry, as well as townspeople and craftsmen, the poor and those living on the margins of society. The French Revolution and the People is a portrait of the common people of France, in the towns and in the countryside; in Paris and Lyon; in the Vendee, Brittany, Provence. Popular grievances…


Book cover of The Life of Louis XVI

Munro Price Author Of Napoleon: The End of Glory

From my list on the French Revolution and Napoleon.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian who has been researching and writing on the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars for thirty-five years now. Since the age of ten I have been fascinated by these years, partly through childhood holidays in France, but also because of their sheer drama. British history in the same period has nothing to compare with the storming of the Bastille or Napoleon’s meteoric career. Specializing in this turbulent era has made me particularly interested in how regimes fall, and whether under different circumstances they could have survived.

Munro's book list on the French Revolution and Napoleon

Munro Price Why did Munro love this book?

The great strength of this book is that as well as offering a major reinterpretation of Louis, XVI, it is also a pleasure to read. John Hardman has pioneered the reappraisal of Louis that has been underway over the last twenty years. The unfortunate king has traditionally been portrayed as either reactionary or incompetent (or both). In place of this caricature, Hardman convincingly presents the monarch as a man of high intelligence who was prepared to make many more compromises with the Revolution than historians have allowed. In his view, Louis’ real weakness was not intellectual but psychological: crises of depression that paralysed him at crucial moments after 1789.

By John Hardman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Life of Louis XVI as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A thought-provoking, authoritative biography of one of history's most maligned rulers: France's Louis XVI

"The definitive contribution to our understanding of Louis XVI as a man and a monarch."-P.M. Jones, English Historical Review

"Monumental. . . . Scholars probing the mysteries of the late Old Regime and French Revolution will be working in its shadow for many years to come."-Thomas E. Kaiser, Journal of Modern History

Louis XVI of France, who was guillotined in 1793 during the Revolution and Reign of Terror, is commonly portrayed in fiction and film either as a weak and stupid despot in thrall to his…


Book cover of The Oxford History of the French Revolution

Jeremy Black Author Of France: A Short History

From my list on the history of France.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian with wide-ranging interests and publications, including, in European history, histories of Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Mediterranean, eighteenth-century Europe, Europe 1550-1800, Europe since 1945, and European warfare.

Jeremy's book list on the history of France

Jeremy Black Why did Jeremy love this book?

Bill Doyle is the leading British interpreter of the French Revolution and this is a subtle account of its causes and course. Very good on the need to look for specific political causes rather than any supposedly inevitable pattern of socio-economic conflict.

By William Doyle,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Oxford History of the French Revolution as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Since its first publication to mark the bicentenary of the French Revolution in 1989, this Oxford History has established itself as the Revolution's most authoritative and comprehensive one-volume history in English, and has recently been translated into Chinese. Running from the accession of Louis XVI in 1774, it traces the history of France through revolution, terror, and counter-revolution to the final triumph of Napoleon in 1802. It also analyses the impact of
events in France upon the rest of Europe and the world beyond. The study shows how a movement which began with optimism and general enthusiasm soon became a…


Book cover of Memoirs from Beyond the Tomb

Philip Mansel Author Of King of the World: The Life of Louis XIV

From my list on French Court.

Why am I passionate about this?

The French court has fascinated me since boyhood visits to Blois and Versailles. The appeal of its unusually dramatic history is heightened by the prominence of women, by the number and brilliance of courtiers’ letters and memoirs, and by its stupendous cultural patronage: Even after writing seven books on the French court, from Louis XIV to Louis XVIII, I remain enthralled by Versailles, Fontainebleau, and Paris where, as the new science of court studies expands, there is always more to see and learn. The power and popularity of the French presidency today confirm the importance of the French monarchy, to which it owes so much, including its physical setting, the Elysée Palace.

Philip's book list on French Court

Philip Mansel Why did Philip love this book?

In his memoirs Chateaubriand combined private life and public events, the autobiography of a Romantic with the history of the French revolution. A royalist writer, ambassador, and minister, he believed that ‘legitimate, constitutional monarchy’ was the ‘gentlest and surest path to complete freedom’. His memoirs give brilliant descriptions of the Bourbons, of whom he often despaired, including the ‘infernal vision’ of Talleyrand and Fouché entering Louis XVIII’s study, ‘vice leaning on the arm of crime’; and the bedsheets which royalist ladies converted into white Bourbon flags, to salute the entry of the allies into Paris in 1814.  For him the Hundred Days was the  ‘irredeemable crime and capital error’ of Napoleon; marriage, especially Chateaubriand’s own, was ‘the high road to all misfortunes’. Disabused of everyone, he asks: ‘is life anything but a lie?’

By François-René de Chateaubriand, Robert Baldick (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Memoirs from Beyond the Tomb as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The most enjoyable, glamorous and gripping of all 19th-century autobiographies - a tumultuous account of France hit by wave after wave of revolutions

Memoirs from Beyond the Tomb is the greatest and most influential of all French autobiographies - an extraordinary, highly entertaining account of a uniquely adventurous and frenzied life. Chateaubriand gives a superb narrative of the major events of his life - which spanned the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Era and the uneasy period that led up to the Revolution of 1830.


Book cover of Napoleon Bonaparte

James Charles Roy Author Of The Vanished Kingdom: Travels Through the History of Prussia

From my list on Prussia from different perspectives.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am what is euphemistically called an "independent scholar," meaning I have no academic affiliation, no straightforward road I must follow (in order, let’s say, to gain tenure), and no duty per se to follow a pre-ordained or politically correct point of view. But being a "freelance"  has obligations which I take very seriously. I feel that my job, in any subject I choose to pursue, is to engage the reader in a joint venture. I must instill in them the same enthusiasm I have for whatever I’m writing about, which in this case is the history of Prussia, and the state of this footprint on earth which war and ceaseless conflict have rearranged countless times. To do that, I usually take an often oblique and "off the radar" approach that I think will pull the reader along with me, making the journey for both of us something that matters.

James' book list on Prussia from different perspectives

James Charles Roy Why did James love this book?

This relatively recent biography of Napoleon, well researched and written, has Prussia all over it (tangentially), mostly because of the French emperor’s insatiably aggressive appetite, which involved all his neighbors diplomatically, socially, militarily, and economically. Everything Napoleon did had ramifications everywhere else, and it took a united Europe to thwart him. Prussia, along with Great Britain, was in the forefront of this effort. Marshal Blücher's Prussian forces, in fact, provided the last-minute, decisive intervention that led to Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo in 1814, a pivotal moment in European and Prussia history

By Alan Schom,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Napoleon Bonaparte as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A definitive biography of Bonaparte from his birth in Corsica to his death in exile on St Helena, this book examines all aspects of Bonaparte's spectacular rise to power and his dizzying fall. It offers close examination of battlefield victories, personal torments, military genius, Bonaparte's titanic ego and his relationships with the French government, Talleyrand, Wellington and Josephine. It is a consummate biography of a complex man.


Book cover of Napoleon: Passion, Death and Resurrection 1815-1840

Ambrogio A. Caiani Author Of To Kidnap a Pope: Napoleon and Pius VII

From my list on Napoleon, his rise to power, and his downfall.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in Catholic Ireland in the 1980s and 1990s a time of rapid change just before the advent of the Celtic tiger. Experiencing such a transformative moment in the history of that island I became fascinated by revolution. With my Italian roots, I was always outward-looking and interested in just how interconnected European history can be. My work started with a book on the downward spiral of Louis XVI’s court in 1789-1792, but recently I became interested in how Napoleon exported the culture of the French Revolution wherever he went. Now I am preparing a book on Catholicism and the politics of religion during the age of revolutions 1700-1903.

Ambrogio's book list on Napoleon, his rise to power, and his downfall

Ambrogio A. Caiani Why did Ambrogio love this book?

Bizarrely not many quality works on Napoleon’s exile and afterlife exist in English. It is much to Dwyer’s credit to have written a superb account of the stricken eagle’s exile on Saint Helena.

It depicts well how the reality of confinement contrasted markedly with the myth that was fostered by exiles. This is an excellent analysis of these humid days on the South Atlantic followed in the second half by a masterful analysis of how Napoleon became the new Prometheus and Christ for liberals who opposed the Restoration. A riveting read.

By Philip Dwyer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Napoleon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Vibrant and illuminating ... [Dywer] tells a fascinating tale' The Times

This meticulously researched study opens with Napoleon no longer in power, but instead a prisoner on the island of St Helena. This may have been a great fall from power, but Napoleon still held immense attraction. Every day, huge crowds would gather on the far shore in the hope of catching a glimpse of him.

Philip Dwyer closes his ambitious trilogy exploring Napoleon's life, legacy and myth by moving from those first months of imprisonment, through the years of exile, up to death and then beyond, examining how the…


Book cover of A Place of Greater Safety

John Xiao Zhang Author Of Sailing Across the Red Storm

From my list on revolutionary background that stir your heart.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a retired lecturer at Southampton University, but used to live in China for many years. I experienced the horrible Chinese Cultural Revolution between the 1960s and 1970s, which was similar to Stalin’s Great Purges. I was put in jail and suffered cruel torture. So personally, I can more understand how, in all revolutionary movement, people were struggling with the threat of death and hopelessness; how they were torn between the new value of the revolution and the damage to the existing moral system; and how the strength of humanity could shine in the bloody darkness of terror.

John's book list on revolutionary background that stir your heart

John Xiao Zhang Why did John love this book?

A compelling historical fiction with the background of the French Revolution. The book describes the three main figures from the outside province to Paris who made the agitated and bloody history. Camille was related to the capture of Bastille; Danton made the execution of Louis XVI and Robespierre—the Terror. They enjoyed the happiness of power, but also paid a heavy price for it. We can see how humanity was lost in the turbulent revolutionary storm. 

By Hilary Mantel,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked A Place of Greater Safety as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This novel follows the lives of three major figures in the French Revolution - Robespierre, Danton and Desmoulins - from their childhoods in Northern France through to the last terrifying moments of their execution. The book juxataposes private occasions with public events.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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