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Posted on Dec 8, 2007 in Books and Movies, Front Page Features

The Wars Against Napoleon – Book Review

By Jerry D. Morelock

Napoleon.jpgBook Review: The Wars Against Napoleon: Debunking the Myth of the Napoleonic Wars by General Michel Franceschi and Ben Weider

Savas Beatie, 264 pages, 32 color photos & illustrations, $32.95.

Savas Beatie website

Release date: December 15, 2007, ISBN: 978-1-932714-37-1

Busting Another Napoleon Myth

The president of the International Napoleonic Society, Canadian entrepreneur Dr. Ben Weider has done it again. The world’s foremost Napoleonic expert took on – and beat! — the entrenched battalions of the “Napoleon-istas” (French academics who consider anything even remotely Napoleonic to be their exclusive “turf”) with his 1982 book, The Murder of Napoleon, and the society’s 20-page, 2004 report, The Poisoning of Napoleon: The Final Proof, that proved beyond any reasonable doubt through exhaustive scientific testing that the emperor’s 1821 death was indeed due to systematic arsenic poisoning (see History’s Mysteries, “The Final Proof: Napoleon Was Poisoned,” July 2005 issue of Armchair General). The Napoleon-istas fumed and howled, yet Weider’s overwhelming evidence (which includes solid confirmation by the FBI’s forensic crime lab in Washington, D. C.) makes their stubborn refusal to accept what Weider has clearly proven seem merely the ranting of spoiled children. Unable to refute Weider’s findings with scientific evidence, they have been reduced to periodically waging a sort of last-ditch guerrilla war through specious “press releases” that present no new evidence but only recycle their warmed-over claims that stomach cancer did in the emperor.

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Now, in his latest book, The Wars Against Napoleon: Debunking the Myth of the Napoleonic Wars (Savas Beatie, 2007), Weider teams up with General Michel Franceschi to take on and destroy an even bigger Napoleonic myth. The authors explain, “Among the numerous conventional images concerning Napoleon, that of the megalomaniac conqueror drunk on glory is fixed in the collective imagination. Indefatigable warrior, Napoleon supposedly sacrificed world peace to his insatiable personal ambition. … But is this historically accurate? We do not believe that it is.”

In fact, as Weider and Franceschi prove, even the long-entrenched term “Napoleonic Wars,” itself, is not only misleading, it’s downright wrong! Instead, the authors clearly demonstrate that the armies amassed by the reactionary monarchies of Europe literally fought “wars against Napoleon” to counter the threat he posed to maintaining their l’ancien regimes. Horrified at the prospect of the progressive ideals let loose by revolutionary France in 1789 spreading throughout Europe to infect their own subjugated masses, Europe’s monarchs marshaled their forces to strangle the infant revolution in its cradle. When that failed – and especially after Napoleon emerged and began to regularly thrash the monarchies’ armies – Europe’s frightened kings and princes formed a series of military coalitions that waged “wars against Napoleon” for nearly two decades.

Napoleon

Napoleon on his Imperial throne, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, 1806

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2 Comments

  1. Does that mean that France really won the Napoleonic Wars?

    After all, if they were a continuation of the previous wars against Revolutionary France, and if the latter were wars of self-defence, then France would have won them if she emerged without loss of territory or change to her form of government. And this was in substance achieved. While there were some trivial losses on the Belgian and German borders, these were more than offset by other territories – Avignon/Venaissin, Montbeliard, Mulhouse and other enclaves in Alsace and Lorraine – which she annexed in the same period and was allowed to keep at the peace. So France emerged from the Revolutionary/Napoleonic Wars with somewhat more territory than she started.

    Ditto for her form of government. When war broke out in 1792, France was a Constitutional Monarchy under Louis XVI. When peace was made in 1815, she was one under Louis XVIII. True, the constitutions weren’t identical, but there was no return to the Ancien Regime, and when Charles X tried to achieve one he was quickly dsiposed of.

    So France came out of the war with a modest increase of territory and not much more undemocratic than before the wars, and thus could fairly claim to have won them. All the same, I wonder how many Frenchmen saw it that way at the time.

  2. I found this book one of the most wretchedly written I have ever encountered. The fact is that the authors do have a case, as is demonstrated in Vincent Cronin’s excellent biography of ‘Napoleon’, but this one eyed nonsense? Had the authors tried to lower their emotional input to about one per cent of what is on offer, it might come across as a serious historical book, but the actual feeling given is that of an irrational school master haranguing a class of nine year olds. If that sort of thing is your cup of tea, this book comes highly recommended, but if you want a seriously argued book covering the same ground but with wit and intelligence, go to Victor Cronin and give this one as wide a berth as possible. Alternatively, I’ll sell you mine -No money back no guarantee.

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