Napoleon ‘Emperor Napoleon the Great’ The book Napoleon by Felix Markham is a biography of Napoleon Bonaparte, the Emperor of France in the early nineteenth century. The reader is lead through his development from a child on the island of Corsica, to his prestigious career as a French general, to his reign as the French Emperor, and finally to his exile on the small island of St. Helena. The book not only relays the events in his life but also discusses the forces in and against which Napoleon was working. There exists a good balance between Napoleon’s weaknesses and his moments of genius. Felix Markham, the author, attempts to expose the true Napoleon Bonaparte to the reader. The biography is designed to show Napoleon Bonaparte’s thoughts, as well as, actions. Markham reveals Napoleon’s personality through his deeds, journal entries, and writings by the people who surrounded him. By the end of the book Markham hopes that the reader will have a greater understanding of one of the most fascinating and powerful men in history. Felix Markham does a great job in presenting a clear picture of Napoleon’s life. He does not place all the emphasis on the battles, but rather describes all aspects of his life including military events, political movements, and his personal life. The reader is thus left with an accurate picture of Napoleon Bonaparte. Markham spends a great deal of time discussing Napoleon’s personality and the origin of his ideas. Understanding his personality is very important in understanding the choices Napoleon made throughout his life. One of the most effective mediums Markham employs is the use of documents written by people who knew Napoleon. Much is revealed by the diary entries included in the book. One of the things that sets this biography apart from other biographies of Napoleon is Markham’s references to newly discovered documents such as personal letters of Marie-Louise (his last wife) and the diaries of General Bertrand who was at St. Helena island with Napoleon during his exile. Unlike other documents, from these writings the reader can see more into the mind and character of Napoleon. Markham’s captivating style made the book very enjoyable and easy to read. Napoleon was a very entertaining yet thought provoking book. I came away wondering what might have happened had Napoleon made different choices near the end of his rule. Would Napoleon have taken over Europe and then the world? Had Napoleon made a few different choices the world may be a different place today. After all, Napoleon dreamed of a United States of Europe with all the nations becoming one people. Napoleon also made me question government and the treatment of other people. The book provided insight into the strengths and weaknesses of different forms of government. I also realized how many lives the rulers sacrificed to further their nation, self-image, and cause. Napoleon was very complex and hard to understand sometimes. His actions resulted in the deaths of millions of people and yet, paradoxily, he was very kind and gentle to those around him. For example, it seems imponderable that the English who came in contact with him after his downfall could have liked him and pitied him after all the pain and destruction he had caused. Another thing I noticed about Napoleon was that he continually contradicted himself. For example, Napoleon claimed to be the champion of equality, liberty, and nationality; however, at the same time Napoleon censored the press, executed innocent people, and unfairly rewarded his relatives positions of high power. One thing is for sure however- Napoleon was a great and powerful leader. He caused many deaths and a lot of destruction but at the same time he made many internal advancements for the nation of France. Napoleon wasn’t afraid of death, he was afraid of being forgotten. In the end Napoleon accomplished his goal- his name and actions are infamous around the world.
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