51 books directly related to Napoleon Bonaparte 📚

All 51 Napoleon Bonaparte books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

Book cover of Britain Against Napoleon: The Organization of Victory, 1793-1815

Britain Against Napoleon: The Organization of Victory, 1793-1815

By Roger Knight

Why this book?

This book is heavier going than the first two yet answers a deep and interesting question: how in a political system with dilettante politicians and tiny departments of amateur administrators, did Britain fight and eventually win a 20-year total war against a country with twice the population. The period’s politicians are here shown at work, wearing themselves down with long hours and short weekends, setting up policies and systems that could do the job. Their sheer intelligence and professionalism is remarkable; a century later Britain almost lost World War I because it had forgotten lessons about Naval convoys learned during…

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The best books on Regency politics

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Book cover of Napoleon: Soldier of Destiny

Napoleon: Soldier of Destiny

By Michael Broers

Why this book?

Hailed by most reviewers as the definitive biography on Napoleon. It is written by the doyen of Napoleonic studies at Oxford. Based on the meticulous research and the recently completed new & expanded edition of Napoleon’s letters. Despite this Broers wears his erudition lightly and has written a gripping and page-turning life story of the man who changed Europe beyond recognition. It is by far the most European biography ever written on the French Emperor. We all await volume 3 with great anticipation!

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The best books about Napoleon, his rise to power, and his downfall

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Book cover of Napoleon

Napoleon

By Alan Forrest

Why this book?

This is by far the best single-volume history on Napoleon. Forrest is one of the foremost experts on the French Revolution and its military in the world. He has written a readable and unromanticised account of the French Emperor’s life. Particularly strong on the background, ideology, and wider forces impelling that man forward. A thoroughly enjoyable and captivating read.

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The best books about Napoleon, his rise to power, and his downfall

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Book cover of Napoleon on Napoleon: An Autobiography of the Emperor

Napoleon on Napoleon: An Autobiography of the Emperor

By Somerset de Chair

Why this book?

Where better to start trying to understand Napoleon than with his own words? If only it was that simple! In total, four of his companions took down Napoleon’s words but he died without editing them. Exiled on St Helena, Bonaparte was determined to counter what he saw as the gross distortions circulating in the English-speaking world. I delight in his confident vision, even after his ultimate defeat. This book gives us insights into his view on the nature of history, his assessment of generals through the ages, including a substantial section on himself, the key events in his career, and…

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The best books for getting inside Napoleon Bonaparte’s head

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Book cover of Napoleon: The Song Of Departure

Napoleon: The Song Of Departure

By Max Gallo, William Hobson

Why this book?

This is a fine work of fiction that forms but the first installment of a four-book masterpiece. Max Gallo was a herculean figure in French post-war life. In this volume, he tells the story of Napoleon’s life from his birth in Corsica to the moment in 1799 when he topples the ineffective Directory. I love this book because the author puts us inside Napoleon’s head. We think his thoughts and savour his words. He has put the flesh on the bones of history, conjuring a sympathetic tyro at times plagued by doubts but also willing to take daunting risks. This…

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The best books for getting inside Napoleon Bonaparte’s head

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Book cover of Napoleon Surrenders

Napoleon Surrenders

By Gilbert Martineau

Why this book?

As I fingered a copy of Napoleon Surrenders in a second-hand bookshop, a passing stranger said to me, "Read anything by Martineau, it’s all good, and that one is brilliant." Encouraged, I willingly paid £2 for my copy. Well, I have never spent so well! This detailed account whisks us from the evening after Waterloo to HMS Northumberland under sail for St Helena. Until I read this book, it was too easy to see Bonaparte’s story as over once he was defeated by the Duke of Wellington. But Martineau changed my mind. He crafts the story of those agonising months…

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The best books for getting inside Napoleon Bonaparte’s head

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Book cover of Désirée: The Bestselling Story of Napoleon's First Love

Désirée: The Bestselling Story of Napoleon's First Love

By Annemarie Selinko

Why this book?

Sometimes you want to know what happens after. What happens after King Gustav is assassinated, his son is deemed unfit and abdicates, and the next King — Gustav’s brother Karl — dies without an heir? Eventually, Sweden ends up with a King brought in from France. Huh?! This book is a bit old-fashioned but a fun, easy read that weaves together French and Swedish history with the story of Désirée Clary, the daughter of a silk merchant who was Napoleon Bonaparte’s first love and later became Queen of Sweden as the wife of General Jean Baptiste Bernadotte. (The Bernadottes…

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The best books to unlock treasures from Sweden’s Gustavian Age

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Book cover of Napoleon Bonaparte: A Life

Napoleon Bonaparte: A Life

By Alan Schom

Why 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

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The best books on Prussia from different perspectives

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Book cover of Fashion in the French Revolution

Fashion in the French Revolution

By Aileen Ribeiro

Why this book?

Ribeiro is the author of numerous books on beauty and fashion, but this is the one I always come back to. Here, she explicitly connects social and political trends to changes in dress, beginning in the 1780s to the rise of Napoleon. The analysis is straightforward and compelling, although she also acknowledges the nuance. It’s a terrific introduction to the political importance of fashion during a period when fashion could not have been more politically salient.

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The best books on beauty and the politics of fashion

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Book cover of The War of 1812 in the Age of Napoleon

The War of 1812 in the Age of Napoleon

By Jeremy Black

Why this book?

While the Napoleonic Wars affected all aspects of life in Britain, the complete marginalization of the War of 1812 in British history is more a reflection of British historians’ interests than the experiences of people at the time. Jeremy Black, the most prolific British historian of his generation, does much to correct that oversight in his War of 1812 in the Age of Napoleon. 

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The best and most recent books on the War of 1812

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

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

By Dominic Lieven

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…

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

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Book cover of The First Total War: Napoleon's Europe and the Birth of Warfare as We Know It

The First Total War: Napoleon's Europe and the Birth of Warfare as We Know It

By David A. Bell

Why this book?

Not everyone agreed with the author’s assessment of the Napoleonic Wars as the first total war, and I can’t say that I am overly convinced myself, but Bell presents the reader with an interesting and provocative interpretation of the practice of warfare at the dawn of the modern era. I came away with a better appreciation of the horror of battle and war during this period, something that is often glossed over in the standard military histories of the era. Was the practice of ‘total war’ brought about by mass conscription or had the seeds already been planted? 

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The best books about the Napoleonic Wars and their impact on Europe

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Book cover of The Josephine B. Trilogy

The Josephine B. Trilogy

By Sandra Gulland

Why this book?

It can be difficult to recall that, while laying waste to the armies of Europe, proving himself to be one of the finest military commanders in history, Napoleon was writing salty love letters home to his wife. Narrated in first-person diary-style by Josephine, Sandra Gulland’s sensational trio of books is a credit to the sometimes-overlooked genre of historical autobiographical fiction. The events around her life with the self-anointed Emperor of the French are defined with both intimacy and sweep. Josephine emerges as a most intriguing woman, charming and clever, and a full participant aside from her husband as he rises…

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The best books about women in France

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

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

By Alan Forrest

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,…

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

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Book cover of Des grognards à Napoléon : Les cuisines de l'Empire suivi de Recettes pour les cérémonies et le bivouac

Des grognards à Napoléon : Les cuisines de l'Empire suivi de Recettes pour les cérémonies et le bivouac

By Jean-Paul Escalettes

Why this book?

This book is only available in French, but I include it because it provides such an impressive overview of a period when French cooking began to establish itself as Europe’s pre-eminent cuisine. I referred to it frequently during my own research into French gastronomy. In a few short pages we learn about the emergence of the first celebrity chefs and food critics, the evolution of how food was served in polite society in France and other parts of Europe, and the way in which new ingredients such as maize and potatoes became staples of the peasant diet. There is also…

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The best food books for thinking, not cooking

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Book cover of The Terror Before Trafalgar: Nelson, Napoleon and the Secret War

The Terror Before Trafalgar: Nelson, Napoleon and the Secret War

By Tom Pocock

Why this book?

Tom Pocock, a Naval Correspondent for The Times and Defence Correspondent for the London Evening Standard, has been described as the foremost authority on Admiral Nelson. But going past Nelson, in this book, he delves deeply into the lesser-known people that helped Nelson – and Britain – win the Napoleonic Wars, mission by mission, battle by battle.

This book is an absolute treasure-trove of information for anyone interested in the more secret ways Britain fought the first half of the Napoleonic Wars. “This book tells, through contemporary letters, journals, and newspapers, the gripping story of the secret war and…

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The best hidden histories on The Napoleonic Wars

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Book cover of Interpreting the French Revolution

Interpreting the French Revolution

By François Furet, Elborg Forster

Why this book?

This is not an easy read, but it is a seminal work by the greatest modern historian of the French Revolution, which made an enormous impression on me when I first read it as a student in the 1980s. It marked a decisive break with what up until then had been the standard view of the Revolution as a class struggle. For Furet, the Revolution’s real importance lay elsewhere, as the first modern experiment with democracy – in his eloquent words, "a beginning and a haunting vision of that beginning."

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The best books on the French Revolution and Napoleon

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Book cover of 1812: Napoleon’s Fatal March on Moscow

1812: Napoleon’s Fatal March on Moscow

By Adam Zamoyski

Why this book?

When I first read this book I found it unputdownable. It is a riveting account, based on a huge number of original sources and testimonies, of the watershed defeat of Napoleon’s career: his invasion of Russia, capture of Moscow, and the disastrous winter retreat that destroyed his army of half a million men. Its evocation of the accompanying horrors is often harrowing, but underlines one sobering and always relevant fact: the amount of human suffering the folly of one man can bring about.

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The best books on the French Revolution and Napoleon

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Book cover of Rebellion

Rebellion

By James McGee

Why this book?

This series about a Bow Street Runner piqued my interest as, like Reacher and Sharpe, he is a bit of a rogue but tries to do what is right while also breaking the rules at times. What appeals to me about his character is that he was unjustly discharged but did his best to secure another profession that tries to help people. The description and action scenes are very believable however Hawkwood isn’t as indestructible as Reacher. His vulnerability and pragmatism are features that I have molded into the main character in my novel too.
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The best action book series with characters who have served in the military

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Book cover of Mrs. Adams in Winter: A Journey in the Last Days of Napoleon

Mrs. Adams in Winter: A Journey in the Last Days of Napoleon

By Michael O'Brien

Why this book?

I already mentioned this gripping account of a 40-days trip of a lonely lady in a solitary carriage, hobbling from St. Petersburg, via Riga, Tilsit to Paris above. Everyone interested in the Napoleonic Wars, should also feel obliged to read her account, how she witnessed ‘houses half burnt’, a war ‘shedding its gloom around all the objects, announcing devastation and despair’. And how happy she was when being helped by allied soldiers, and upon reaching her destination safe and sound (with her little boy) in Paris, where the allied leaders were setting up their headquarters.

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The best books on how Europe waged peace after Napoleon

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Book cover of A New World Begins: The History of the French Revolution

A New World Begins: The History of the French Revolution

By Jeremy D. Popkin

Why this book?

There are a thousand books on the French Revolution, but most of them focus on the foibles of the aristocracy, or the wild rage of the crowds, or the heroism of Napoleon. Popkin’s new history does a masterful job of covering all the key events and personalities in France in the years leading up to the Revolution and in its unfolding over almost two decades. He is particularly good at placing the Revolution in the context of world history (showing its relation to events in the New World, from the American Revolution to the Revolution in Haiti), and in keeping…

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The best books to discover the power and variety of revolutions across history

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Book cover of Napoleon: The End of Glory

Napoleon: The End of Glory

By Munro Price

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

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

Napoleon: Passion, Death and Resurrection 1815-1840

By Philip Dwyer

Why 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.

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The best books about Napoleon, his rise to power, and his downfall

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Book cover of The Passion

The Passion

By Jeanette Winterson

Why this book?

"What you risk reveals what you value." This struck me so deeply when I first read it that I quote it to this day.

The Passion is a gorgeous, baroque, desperate symphony of a book. A love story spanning time and place, against the odds. The writing elevates the grotesque and disturbing to art. It leads you by the hand through the giddy, opulent confusion of Venice at Carnival and freezes you in the wintery depths of Napoleonic despair. It was one of the first books I read in my teens that was overtly queer and played with gender identity.…

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The best books to warm your heart and freeze your soul

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Book cover of An Infamous Army: A Novel of Wellington, Waterloo, Love and War

An Infamous Army: A Novel of Wellington, Waterloo, Love and War

By Georgette Heyer

Why this book?

What to choose from this unique writer, who brought the Regency back into 21st century fashion with her large catalogue of novels? I love them all. They’re uniformly hilarious, adventurous, and full of mind-boggling, funny dialogue. Her detailed research is never more brilliantly revealed than in this novel, which is still highly prized by senior military figures as the greatest account of the Battle of Waterloo. All this, in a novel which succeeds on its own terms as a story. What more could one want?

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The best books for Regency wars, wit, & wisdom

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Book cover of Desiree

Desiree

By Annemarie Selinko

Why this book?

I am astounded how many people have not read Desiree despite it being the world’s second best-selling historical novel, after Gone with the Wind. A Marseilles silk merchant’s daughter gets engaged to a destitute Corsican Cadet, who ditches her in favor of Josephine de Beauharnais and goes on to become Napoleon, Emperor of France. She marries one of his generals, who is later voted King of Sweden. And yes, it’s all true, just that we didn’t know. What joy! I love the narrator’s strong, innocent, and then maturing voice, which is so porous to her emotions. This inspires me…
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The best books about history’s hidden heroines

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Book cover of Napoleon's Wars: An International History

Napoleon's Wars: An International History

By Charles J. Esdaile

Why this book?

This compelling history goes “beyond the legend that Napoleon himself helped create, to form a new, genuinely international context for his military career.”

History is most often written by the victors, and real life is never so one-sided. Esdaile writes as though he lived Napoleon’s life, and shows that many times his decisions were made (or changed) because of acts, or provocation, by British diplomats or agents. The quote by Napoleon’s stepdaughter Hortense says it all: “Any man who becomes the sole head of a great country by means other than heredity can only maintain himself in power if he…

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The best hidden histories on The Napoleonic Wars

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Book cover of The Road to Rivoli: Napoleon's First Campaign

The Road to Rivoli: Napoleon's First Campaign

By Martin Boycott-Brown

Why this book?

This is a detailed and meticulously researched book focusing on Bonaparte’s first independent command. The Army of Italy is little more than an afterthought but he forges his rag-tag troops into a force that expels the Austrians from most of northern Italy. I loved the eye-witness accounts and the author’s ability to evaluate events such as those at the bridge over the Arcole. It became part of the Napoleonic legend, immortalised in Gros’ painting, that the young general was in the thick of the fighting but this has been denounced as blatant propaganda. We learn from Boycott-Brown that both things…

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The best books for getting inside Napoleon Bonaparte’s head

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Book cover of How Far From Austerlitz?: Napoleon 1805-1815

How Far From Austerlitz?: Napoleon 1805-1815

By Alistair Horne

Why this book?

As a St Helena Lullaby puts it, quoted by Horne at the start of his scholarly but eminently readable book, "How far is St Helena from the field of Austerlitz?" Horne is a brilliant historian and he crafts a compelling book tracing Napoleon’s career from its apogee on the field of his greatest victory to its nadir with his exile to St Helena, far out in the south Atlantic. But we don’t just get the events, we get to experience the slippery nature of success, as Spain swallows troops and Russia decimates the Grande Armée. We see this through Napoleon’s…

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The best books for getting inside Napoleon Bonaparte’s head

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Book cover of The Peninsular War: A New History

The Peninsular War: A New History

By Charles J. Esdaile

Why this book?

Charles Esdaile, a specialist of Spanish history, is one of the more prolific writers on the Napoleonic Wars, so it was not easy choosing only one of the numerous books he has penned, including a general history of the wars. Spain, however, has always remained a bit of an outlier in the history of the period. Here we get an insider’s view of the situation in Spain leading to the overthrow of the Bourbon monarchy and an accessible, lively account of the often complicated events that followed. Esdaile doesn’t shy away from treating either the Spanish, the guerrillas, or Wellington…

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The best books about the Napoleonic Wars and their impact on Europe

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Book cover of Our Friends the Enemies: The Occupation of France After Napoleon

Our Friends the Enemies: The Occupation of France After Napoleon

By Christine Haynes

Why this book?

Where my book, Fighting Terror, zooms in on the Allied Council, and its encompassing security culture, Christine Haynes’ rich and detailed book reconstructs the interactions between occupying soldiers and the occupied in Paris and across the French countryside. She meticulously details how these interactions involved violence, but also promoted cultural exchange (vernacular, songs, dances, fashion, food) and reconciliation between the French and their former enemies. Her book reads as a narrative on how to transform former enemies into allies, a unique blueprint for fraternizing-through-occupying on the ground.

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The best books on how Europe waged peace after Napoleon

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Book cover of Becoming Josephine: A Novel

Becoming Josephine: A Novel

By Heather Webb

Why this book?

I think most history fans know about the ill-fated relationship between Napoleon and Josephine, but I loved that this novel also highlighted Josephine’s early—and mostly forgotten—years spent in Haiti as France’s ideals of equality spurred the bloody Haitian Revolution. Josephine then also has to survive the French Revolution before she catches Napoleon’s eye.

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The best books on forgotten women in history

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Book cover of Memoirs from Beyond the Tomb

Memoirs from Beyond the Tomb

By François-René de Chateaubriand, Robert Baldick

Why 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…

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The best books on the French court

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Book cover of Napoleon: The Path to Power 1769 - 1799

Napoleon: The Path to Power 1769 - 1799

By Philip Dwyer

Why this book?

Napoleon Bonaparte brought a decade of revolutionary upheaval to an end when he seized power with the army in November 1799, but he had been made a general by the Revolution and was one of its most celebrated soldiers. The Revolution opened up opportunities for this Corsican “outsider” which would have been impossible before the Revolution: he grabbed them. Dwyer’s prize-winning account of Napoleon’s checkered rise to power at the age of thirty is also a gripping narrative of the unpredictability and drama of the revolutionary decade. It reveals the making of a man whose brilliance, military genius, and vision…

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The best books to understand the French Revolution

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Book cover of Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris

Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris

By Graham Robb

Why this book?

If we want to understand medieval or modern Paris, we need to gain some familiarity with all of the stages along the way. Robb provides some episodic portraits of some of those stages, and the chapter on the eighteenth-century architect Charles-Axel Guillaumot is one of the most arresting discussions I’ve ever seen of how the actions of those living in one epoch can reverberate for generations to come. Guillaumot literally saved Paris from collapsing in on its medieval past by bracing up the swiss-cheese-like network of tunnels that had been left behind by its medieval quarry workers.
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The best books on the culture of France and on medieval/modern poverty

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Book cover of His Majesty's Dragon: Book One of the Temeraire

His Majesty's Dragon: Book One of the Temeraire

By Naomi Novik

Why this book?

This is the first in a series of seven books set during the Napoleonic wars – with dragons (yeah, I know I said I wasn’t going to cover any series that go on too long – but the book does stand alone). The book covers the Napoleonic War very closely and its history is very solid – with the one exception being that both sides have dragons that they use in their battles. The story follows one British officer Captain Will Laurence, and his individual dragon, Temeraire, found as an egg on a captured French ship. And I mean, just…

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The best alternative histories that you really wish had happened

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Book cover of The Life of Louis XVI

The Life of Louis XVI

By John Hardman

Why 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…

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The best books on the French Revolution and Napoleon

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Book cover of Napoleonic Wars in Cartoons

Napoleonic Wars in Cartoons

By Mark Bryant

Why this book?

This book shows the caricatures done by cartoonists of the time. If you pay enough attention to the dates, these can shed new or deeper light on accepted history. The minutiae of these cartoons teaches you a lot about the time and the thoughts of the general public, or how the media wanted to sway them to think. For example, on pages 24 and 25, the cartoons show “Citizen Fox” – showing this British subject living in France as joining the Republican system. “French Telegraph Making Signals in the Dark” (James Gillray) and “The Raft in Danger, or the Republican…

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The best hidden histories on The Napoleonic Wars

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Book cover of Toussaint L'Ouverture: A Biography and Autobiography

Toussaint L'Ouverture: A Biography and Autobiography

By John Beard

Why this book?

This is the definitive biography on Toussaint. First published in 1863, it clearly showed me why Toussaint L’Ouverture was one of the most admired world leaders of his time. They called him “the Black Napoleon!” Reading this book brought back to mind that I did a report on Haiti and Toussaint back when I was in junior high (“a long time ago in a universe far, far away!") Even at the time I was impressed by how much the Haitian Revolution influenced our own Civil War.  

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The best books featuring the life and history of Haiti

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Book cover of Uncle John's Bathroom Reader: Plunges into History

Uncle John's Bathroom Reader: Plunges into History

By Bathroom Readers' Institute

Why this book?

As a lover of trivia, you must have at least one Uncle John’s book in your personal library. The wit and charm of the narrative is the biggest reason to buy them, but this one covers the Presidents and is also a great read to learn, have fun and share facts with others. Highly recommended.

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The best American history presidential fun fact trivia books for your inquisitive brain

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Book cover of The Oxford History of the French Revolution

The Oxford History of the French Revolution

By William Doyle

Why 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.

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The best books on the history of France

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Book cover of Waverley

Waverley

By Sir Walter Scott

Why this book?

To understand the trauma caused by the Napoleonic Wars, and the craving of people in France, Europe and elsewhere to return to the ‘normal pace of times’ as the Austrian Statesman Clemens von Metternich had it, Walter Scott’s ‘Waverley’ is the best vehicle to convey ourselves into the mindset of the contemporary Europeans. Europe had to curb the ‘evil passions’ and had to ‘come to its senses’. Just as Waverley’s young hero Edward does by letting go of his romantic love for the rebellious Flora and returning in the arms of his very English, quiet and harmonious fiancée, Rose. Scott’s…

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The best books on how Europe waged peace after Napoleon

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Book cover of Memoirs of the Comtesse de Boigne 1815 - 1819

Memoirs of the Comtesse de Boigne 1815 - 1819

By Charles Nicoullaud

Why this book?

Madame de Boigne describes the same period as Chateaubriand, whom she disliked, from a liberal perspective. Both had their style and mind improved by suffering during the Emigration, which also made both, for a time, feel half-English. Boigne married a French officer who had made a fortune in India, but failed to tell her he had brought back an Indian wife. She took his money and returned to live with her parents. 

Born with what she called a ‘taste for royalty and the instinct for court life’, she described salons and quarrels, royalty and revolution, Paris and England, from 1780…

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The best books on the French court

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Book cover of The Age of Federalism: The Early American Republic, 1788 - 1800

The Age of Federalism: The Early American Republic, 1788 - 1800

By Stanley Elkins, Eric McKitrick

Why this book?

Exhaustively researched, this books illuminates the brief time in early U.S. history when Federalism dominated American politics. It remains the standard source on the Federalists’ political philosophy, the understanding of which is crucial to comprehending everything political that follows it.

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The best books on the USA in its formative years (1789-1845)

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

To Kidnap a Pope: Napoleon and Pius VII

By Ambrogio A. Caiani

Why this book?

Well over 200,000 books have been written about Napoleon, but this recent work actually manages to say something new by focusing on an aspect of his reign that has been oddly neglected – at least in the English-speaking world – his tense and turbulent relations with the Pope, Pius VII, which ended with the Pope’s kidnapping from Rome by French forces in 1809 and imprisonment in France. Though bullied, browbeaten, and even once physically manhandled by Napoleon, the elderly Pontiff steadfastly refused to make the concessions to the secular power that his captor demanded from him. Ambrogio Caiani not only…

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The best books on the French Revolution and Napoleon

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Book cover of The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction

The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction

By William Doyle

Why 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…

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The best books to understand the French Revolution

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Book cover of War and Peace

War and Peace

By Leo Tolstoy, Richard Pevear, Larissa Volokhonsky

Why this book?

Even though War and Peace is considered a hard book to read, making the effort is one of the most gratifying experiences for any reader. War and Peace doesn’t just provide a broad panorama of Russian society against the backdrop of the 1812 Napoleonic army's invasion but also elaborates like no other in the spiritual dimension of the human being and in the importance of family happiness as the last bastion against a belligerent world. The novel begins at a glittering society party in St Petersburg in 1805, where conversations are dominated by the prospect of war. Terror swiftly engulfs…

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The best Russian literature books that I consider masterpieces

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Book cover of Le Comte De Monte Cristo

Le Comte De Monte Cristo

By Alexandre Dumas

Why this book?

Whenever someone asks, c’est mon roman préféré. Un adventure sans égal – le drame, les personnages, les enjeux. It’s hard to imagine a serialized novel like this one capturing the public imagination to the degree that Game of Thrones did recently back in 1845, but that’s exactly what happened. You had to get the next chapter quickly because you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing spoilers about the latest installment.

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The best books about adventure on the High Seas

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Book cover of The Time Traveller's Guide to Regency Britain

The Time Traveller's Guide to Regency Britain

By Ian Mortimer

Why this book?

The extended period of the Regency takes us from 1789 to 1830. It’s a period of repeated war with Napoleon Bonaparte, the opening up of travel and great social and political change. Do you want to know what to wear to a ball at the Prince Regent’s Brighton Pavilion or how you might journey from London to Bath? Dr. Mortimer takes you there with a broad brush and a light touch.

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The best books for Regency wars, wit, & wisdom

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Book cover of Phantom of the Guillotine: The Real Scarlet Pimpernel, Louis Bayard - Lewis Duval 1769-1844

Phantom of the Guillotine: The Real Scarlet Pimpernel, Louis Bayard - Lewis Duval 1769-1844

By Elizabeth Sparrow

Why this book?

“This enthralling biography and detective story convincingly identifies the real-life model for Baroness Orczy’s Scarlet Pimpernel. It delves into the politics and espionage of Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras.” The real Scarlet Pimpernel, Louis Bayard was an amazing person. Baroness Orczy knew him in her childhood as Lewis Duval, a London-based French lawyer. The story of his exploits in Orczy’s novels is just a shadow of all he accomplished, which Sparrow brings to glittering life. His allies and enemies, how he influenced Napoleon and Pitt, as well as other leaders of the time, and accomplished the impossible many times over, comes…
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The best hidden histories on The Napoleonic Wars

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Book cover of The Glass Blowers

The Glass Blowers

By Daphne du Maurier

Why this book?

When most English readers think of a novel about the French Revolution, they come up with A Tale of Two Cities. In contrast, Daphne du Maurier’s The Glass Blowers is almost forgotten. This is unfair, because it is both a marvellous read and a painstakingly researched and remarkably balanced evocation of France’s upheavals from 1789 right through to the 1840s. It is a fictionalized history of Daphne du Maurier’s own ancestors, the glass-blowers of the title, and the divisions and tragedies the Revolution brought to them. A remarkable and moving book.

From the list:

The best books on the French Revolution and Napoleon

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