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My Multi-volume Napoleon Biography Reading Project, Book 2: Napoleon: Soldier of Destiny by Michael Broers

Napoleon: Soldier of Destiny - Michael Broers

There are some times when I am absolutely furious with myself, Today is one of those times.


Recently I discovered the New Books Network, a site which features recently published nonfiction with an academic emphasis. On their site they had a call for participants and I e-mailed them thinking it would be an opportunity to get a few free books. To my surprise, however, I was invited to start a new podcast for them on historical biography. This seemed daunting, as I'm not always comfortable with the intricacies of modern technology (which in this case involved Skype and Pamela, as well as an investment in decent-quality recording equipment) but I thought I would give it a try.


The NBN allows participants latitude in what they feature, so I decided to start with Michael Broers's new biography of Napoleon Bonaparte. I had contacted Broers in the past and he seemed friendly and accessible; moreover, it gave me an opportunity to continue with by project of sampling the multi-volume biographies of Bonaparte as a means of ascertaining their merits.


The interview was scheduled for today, and it wasn't long before I encountered technical challenges. Part of this was due to my not having downloaded the appropriate software (Skype and Pamela) until the last minute, so my experience with it was nil. This included making an international call, which took several tries for me to figure out. Fortunately Broers was incredibly understanding, and I thought that the interview went pretty well. When we through, however, I discovered to my horror that I hadn't recorded a second of it, which meant that it was for naught. Broers seemed surprisingly understanding (though I wouldn't be surprised if he is regaling people even now with a jeremiad about incompetent Americans) and we agreed to redo the interview later this week, though this did nothing to mollify my anger with myself.


I feel especially bad, too, considering how good his book is. I'm learning that you can group biographies of Napoleon Bonaparte into three categories. The first are those, such as Patrice Gueniffey's Bonaparte (which was the subject of my first MvNBRP post) which concentrate on Napoleon the person, analyzing his motivations, beliefs, and views. The second, which includes works like Andrew Roberts's Napoleon: A Life, focus more on his military career, detailing the battles and campaigns which were so critical to his success. Broers's book falls in the third category, which pivot on the political aspects of Napoleon's career. Reading it makes me realize just how much of a disservice is done to properly understanding Napoleon's accomplishments and how he attained them, as Broers makes it clear how Napoleon's political gifts and ability to manage people was at least as important to his triumph as his battlefield achievements. Broers does full justice to them in a book which is both lucid and insightful, and I hope that when we redo our interview I can give it the attention it so richly deserves.