No one in history has provoked more controversy than Napoleon Bonaparte. Was he an enlightened ruler or brutal tyrant? Was he an insatiable warmonger or a defender of France against the aggression of the other great powers. Was he kind or cruel, farsighted or blinkered, a sophisticate or a philistine, a builder or a destroyer? Napoleon was at once all that his partisans laud, his enemies condemn, and much more. He remains fascinating, both because he so dramatically changed the course of history and had such a complex, paradoxical character.
One thing is certain, if the art of leadership is about getting what one wants, then Napoleon was among history’s greatest masters. He understood and asserted the dynamic relationship among military, economic, diplomatic, technological, cultural, psychological, and thus political power. War was the medium through which he was able to demonstrate his innate skills, leading his armies to victories across Europe. He overthrew France’s corrupt republican government in a coup then asserted near dictatorial powers. Those powers were then wielded with great dexterity in transforming France from feudalism to modernity with a new law code, canals, roads, ports, schools, factories, national bank, currency, and standard weights and measures. With those successes, he convinced the Senate to proclaim him France’s emperor and even got the pope to preside over his coronation. He reorganized swaths of Europe into new states and placed his brothers and sisters on the thrones.
This is Napoleon as has never been seen before. No previous book has explored deeper or broader into his seething labyrinth of a mind and revealed more of its complex, fascinating, provocative, and paradoxical dimensions. Napoleon has never before spoken so thoroughly about his life and times through the pages of a book, nor has an author so deftly examined the veracity or mendacity of his words. Within are dimensions of Napoleon that may charm, appall, or perplex, many buried for two centuries and brought to light for the first time.
Napoleon and the Art of Leadership is a psychologically penetrating study of the man who had such a profound effect on the world around him that the entire era still bears his name.
Dr WILLIAM NESTER, a Professor at the Department of Government and Politics, St. John’s University, New York, is the author of thirty-seven books on history and politics. His book George Rogers Clark: I Glory in War won the Army Historical Foundation's best biography award for 2013, and Titan: The Art of British Power in the Age of Revolution and Napoleon, won the New York Military Affairs Symposium's 2016 Arthur Goodzett Book Award.