Napoleon Bonaparte book comparison essay

Napoleon Bonaparte / biography / military / Asprey / Schom

Essay Topic:

The comparison of two books dedicated to the life of Napoleon Bonaparte: “The Rise of Napoleon Bonaparte” by Robert Asprey and “Napoleon Bonaparte: A Life” by Alan Schom.

Essay Questions:

How deep do “The Rise of Napoleon Bonaparte” by Robert Asprey and “Napoleon Bonaparte: A Life” by Alan Schom reveal the life and the personality of Napoleon Banaparte? How does Robert Asprey portray Napoleon Banaparte? Why is “Napoleon Bonaparte: A Life” by Alan Schom considered to be a biographical sketch?

Thesis Statement:

The works of Robert Asprey and Alan Schom are discussed in terms of their reflection of Napoleon’s biography; these are two of the numerous but nevertheless very interesting examples or it is even better to say “versions” of Napoleon’s impact into the world’s history in general and into France’s history in particular.


Napoleon’s future rise.

Napoleon Bonaparte book comparison essay

“History is the version of the past events

that people have decided to agree upon”

1. Introduction

History has always been a very contradictional source causing a lot of arguments among the representatives of different historical “encampments”. It goes without saying that history is not only the past of humanity, but also its future for it gives examples and lays the path for the future generations. But what would history be without “legendary” people who created it with their own bare hands? These people ordinarily become “mysterious” and very controversial, too. One of these historically significant people is Napoleon Bonaparte. This name by itself arouses mixed feelings in the hearts of various historical “followers”. Some people think of him as of a military genius and worship his strategic talents and a great heart; others consider him to be a brutal person not able to take proper strategic military decisions and sympathize with other people. This is no surprise for any experienced reader because the more writers one reads the more different opinions he observes. Objectivity is usually lost among the numerous facts and artifacts. Napoleon Bonaparte is a figure which is very attractive for the writers due to its actuality until nowadays. Here, the works of Robert Asprey and Alan Schom are discussed in terms of their reflection of Napoleon’s biography; these are two of the numerous but nevertheless very interesting examples or it is even better to say “versions” of Napoleon’s impact into the world’s history in general and into France’s history in particular

2. “The Rise of Napoleon Bonaparte” by Robert Asprey

“The Rise of Napoleon Bonaparte” by Robert Asprey is one of the two volumes of Napoleon’s biography that examines the early years of the young Bonaparte and his “formation” in the political and military sphere from his birth in 1769 until the triumphal year of 1805 and the victory at Austerlitz. The author of the book being a former U.S. Marine captain and a military historian seems to be very inspired by everything that Napoleon Bonaparte performed within his military actions. He shows deep sympathy towards Napoleon and is explaining the nature of Napoleon’s actions through the nature of the time he was born in. He says: ”The child arrived at an awkward time in the young and almost penniless couple’s life”[1]. Napoleon’s military victories and defeats seem to fascinate the author are analyzed from the point of view of Napoleon’s devotion to his empire, to his country which is very seldom observed. Napoleon’s strategy is shown as the only way to achieve his personal perception of what the world should be like.

The military talents of the emperor are revealed with the magnificent Brumaire coup of 1799, the naval battle off Toulon in July 1795, other military events and end with the victory at Austerlitz. Due to author’s deep admiration of Napoleon Bonaparte the sense of objectivity is completely lost by him. He overemphasizes Napoleon’s first military plan realized in the Egyptian-Syrian campaigns of 1798 and does not completely explain all the expenses and senseless victims during the European campaign. He leaves out the factor of Napoleon’s “ego” constantly coming into play and causing Napoleon’s strategy “blunders”. Napoleon’s disputable expeditions to China and India and others are not reflected in the way they should leaving this space blank and making the book more of a “ode” than a deep analysis.

3. “Napoleon Bonaparte: A Life” by Alan Schom

This book is another biographical sketch of the life of Napoleon Bonaparte. It also describes Napoleon’s childhood youth and maturity on the background of his victories and fiascos. It touches Napoleon’s personally life and political and military manipulations. In comparison to Asprey’s biography this book is completely imbrued with the sense of Napoleon’s poor planning and seems to question his intellectual abilities at all. It processed with throughout the book starting completely objectively: “… Nabulio (Napoleon) would go to the Royal Military School of Brienne-le-Chateau, where he would learn what to many Corsicans was still an elusive language, French, along with history, geography, mathematics, and the other courses required prior entering the Ecole Militaire of Paris”[2]. This description gives all the premises for Napoleon’s future rise. Nevertheless, closer to the end of the book and especially while analyzing various battles the author seems to neglect Napoleon’s personal qualities and strategic abilities. The emperor is shown as an ambitious destroyer, like a bear, making terrible noise anywhere he goes. Napoleon’s historical “fabulosity” mentioned in the introduction is completely disclaimed by the book. All Napoleon’s strategy-plans some of which resulted in victories are considered by the author to be Napoleon’s personal impetuses that did not take into account the people who were dedicated to him, the consequences and therefore had nothing to do with real strategy. What especially concerns the author is the Napoleon’s attitude towards his soldiers. It is especially observed in the description of the Egyptian campaign after which the army was ravaged and weak. Schom shows that all this events could have been prevented through proper strategy planning and exploration. Napoleon is shown to be way worse than Genghis Khan and a “limited person”. It does not leave the reader the opportunity to form his own perception of Napoleon Bonaparte’s life and achievements, but tunes to the “jaundiced look” upon all of the events. It does not interact with the reader.

4. Conclusion. These two books present a completely different attitude towards Napoleon Bonaparte’s abilities as a military genius and a person who changed the life of Europe and France. Robert Asprey shows admiration to the military conduct of Napoleon, while Alan Schom shows so much negation of Napoleon’s achievements. Both of them seem to lack real objectivity so desperately required by historical biographies. Napoleon’s military activity certainly possesses a bias character with all its victories and fiascos, nevertheless it is important not only to outline his mistakes but also to reveal all the positive aspects of his decisions. The books contradict each other and need to be less subjective. Nevertheless reading them together may lead the reader to a deeper understanding of Napoleon’s life and creating his own opinion, which would not be the same with the author’s but may contain certain aspects without obtruding any subjectivity so ruinous for history.


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