I bought this book for three reasons and paid full price at the Musee de l’armee in Paris where Napoleon is buried in a magnificent gaudy display. I would highly recommend anyone wanting to learn about the emperor to buy it for this price plus three bucks shipping. Its an excellent short but comprehensive and intelligent summary. That is one of the reasons I bought it. I’ve read three massive books on Hitler and Stalin and I wanted something quick to read about the man who helped inform their ambitions before I dove into my own book writing which I hope to begin shortly.
The other reasons were these. 2. The reviews on the cover were sterling. 3. I like buying books at the very place where the subject I’m interested in is located. Napoleon’s tomb was as close as I could get.
Bear in mind that my pilgrimage to France on the hundreth anniversary of the action that led to my Grandfather’s being awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor did not prevent me from seeing that war as my historian Grandfather did – as a monumentally stupid and colossal waste of life. And that is this eminent biographer and historian’s take on Napoleon. He was a smart but shallow, murderous, self centered authoritarian. So were Hitler, Stalin, and Mao.
What made Napoleon different was not ambition but the success of the propaganda empire he fostered and which later Napoleons advanced. Think Donald Trump. Napoleon saw opportunities and seized them. So did the other four dictators I listed. Circumstance was good for them as they were for Napoleon. Author Johnson makes the cost of Napoleon’s actions clear. The deaths in a proto industrial age of four or five millions of people. His concluding paragraph struck me hard as a devotee of Abe Lincoln. Johnson reminded me that true greatness comes with a sense of humility.
Trump’s vile life shows no sign of that quality. His admirers are blind to this. I can not forgive the Republican Party for so debasing itself on planks they only used as political weapons but had only slender belief in to disgust American voters into electing Trump. Thank you Senator McConnell.
I’ll proof read this later.