Jacques-Olivier Boudon, La Campagne d'Egypte. Paris: Belin, 2018. 320 pp. 24€ (pb). ISBN 9782410015270.
Reviewed by Ian Coller, University of California,
H-France Review Vol. 20 (June 2020), No. 90
"In his own words, [Boudon] sets out to reveal a “more differentiated reality” (une realité plus contrastée) behind the “façade” (p. 10). In this, the book is a success, offering a significant advance in charting the atrocity of combat and civilian repression, confronting the realities of physical and sexual violence in ways few previous accounts have done....Boudon is not a historian of Egypt or the Middle East: in line with his other works on Napoleonic warfare, he approaches events from a French perspective, focusing primarily on the experience of French soldiers and savants and offering a fine-grained analysis of the military campaign on the ground....Ultimately, despite its glossy packaging, this is not a book with many heroes. Its strength is in bringing this exoticized and mythologized event into a more prosaic relation with other military campaigns, while recognizing its brutality, not as an outlier, but as an innovation that would feed other conflicts to come: from the ghastly attempt to reimpose slavery on Haiti to the guerilla war in Spain that would give rise to the horrors unforgettably drawn by Goya, and ultimately help to condition the colonial violence of France’s empire in North Africa and beyond."