9780393323412 / 0393323412

Napoleon and His Collaborators: The Making of a Dictatorship


Publisher:W. W. Norton & Company



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About the book:

In his rise to power from obscure provincial military officer to internationally renowned revolutionary firebrand, and thence to star-crossed dictator of the faltering French republic, Napoleon Bonaparte relied on the material and spiritual encouragement of many friends and allies. Yet, apart from a few exceptions, such as the shrewd politician Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand and the policeman Joseph Fouché, "Napoleon's prominent collaborators remain almost faceless men," writes Columbia University historian Isser Woloch. History has all but forgotten those who labored behind the scenes to further Bonaparte's aims, whether out of true devotion to the ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity, or out of naked self-interest and personal ambition.

Woloch's well-written book does much to amplify the historical record. Offering portraits of such men as the legislators Boulay de la Meurthe and Théophile Berlier and the state counselor J.-G. Lacuée, who worked to convert former opponents to the emperor's cause, Woloch sheds light on the rise of the French state bureaucracy, one that in many respects has endured to the present--and one that has tended to maintain a centrist position under regimes of left and right alike. Napoleon's remarkable accomplishments relied not only on a disciplined army, Woloch demonstrates, but also on committed and skillful political operatives--some of whom eventually came to oppose Napoleon's transformation from liberator to tyrant. Anyone with an interest in the Napoleonic era will find much of value in Woloch's pages. --Gregory McNamee

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