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This is the book on war that Napoleon never had the time or the will to complete.
In exile on the island of Saint-Helena, the deposed Emperor of the French mused about a great treatise on the art of war, but in the end changed his mind and ordered the destruction of the materials he had collected for the volume. Thus was lost what would have been one of the most interesting and important books on the art of war ever written, by one of the most famous and successful military leaders of all time.
In the two centuries since, several attempts have been made to gather together some of Napoleon's 'military maxims', with varying degrees of success. But not until now has there been a systematic attempt to put Napoleon's thinking on war and strategy into a single authoritative volume, reflecting both the full spectrum of his thinking on these matters as well as the almost unparalleled range of his military experience, from heavy cavalry charges in the plains of Russia or Saxony to
counter-insurgency operations in Egypt or Spain.
To gather the material for this book, military historian Bruno Colson spent years researching Napoleon's correspondence and other writings, including a painstaking examination of perhaps the single most interesting source for his thinking about war: the copy-book of General Bertrand, the Emperor's most trusted companion on Saint-Helena, in which he unearthed a Napoleonic definition of strategy which is published here for the first time.
The huge amount of material brought together for this ground-breaking volume has been carefully organized to follow the framework of Carl von Clausewitz's classic On War, allowing a fascinating comparison between Napoleon's ideas and those of his great Prussian interpreter and adversary, and highlighting the intriguing similarities between these two founders of modern strategic thinking.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
Bruno Colson, one of the leading writers on the history of military thought at work today, has produced a book which operates on two levels: as a history designed to illuminate Napoleon's understanding of war, and as study of the phenomenon of strategy, which - like Clausewitz's - works across time. This is a major achievement, both in conception and in scale. * Sir Hew Strachan, Chichele Professor of the History of War, University of Oxford * Napoleon always intended to write such a piece himself, but never had the chance. If Colson's attempt would have received Napoleon's posthumous approval remains unanswered but the likelihood is very high * Clausewitz Magazine * This comprehensive book deals with everything from the Theory of War and the Engagement of Defence, Attack and Military Forces and almost puts the reader alongside the Emperor on the battlefield. It is an acheivement and victory he would have been proud to claim as his own. * Northern Echo, Steve Craggs * A superbly researched work of reference. * History of War * Colson has been assiduous in collection Napoleon's views from a wide variety of sources over the course of his career... [He] has arranged the material on the same plan as Clausewitz's unfinished masterpiece On War and expertly draws out the parallels and contrasts between the French emperors and the Prussian soldier's views on the nature of military conflict... This is an exceptionally stimulating book for anyone with a serious interest in military history and it
provides ample evidence of the cool, cynical pragmatism that complemented the raging ego of one of history's greatest generals. * Literary Review, Rory Muir * Napoleon on War is certainly a book from which one can learn a great deal: it is, indeed, one of the most instructive works on Napoleon that the author has read for many years. * Charles J. Esdaile, French History * An interesting, erudite, clever, and useful book. * Journal of Modern History *