NAPOLEON'S WARS (2007)
By Charles Esdaile
One of the most biased and one-sided books I have ever read in my life. This diatribe is as balanced as a one-legged stool. Esdaile starts with the arbitrary date of 1803 - as if France and Britain had not been fighting each other for decades. It was French support for American Independence from an imperial, dominating and arrogant British government that helped bankrupt France and bring on the Revolution of 1789. There was a British fleet under Admiral Hood actually in Toulon harbour in 1793 aiding Royalist rebels - interfering in a conflict that was no business of the British. And it was a young Napoleon who responded to this British aggression by siting his cannon so that the Royal Navy had no option but to evacuate the French town. One wonders what the corrupt aristocratic and oligarchic British government of the day would have said about French vessels suddenly appearing at Portsmouth or the Pool of London and sticking their oar into British internal affairs?
Esdaile quotes copiously from the likes of Fouché, Talleyrand, Bourrienne and Remusat - all hostile witnesses, despite himself saying their views are open to question. General John Elting in his masterly book Swords Around a Throne (1988) refused to use Bourrienne and Remusat at all because their 'memoirs' are so notoriously unreliable. He stated that: 'In preparing this book I have used original sources whenever possible but have ignored the alleged memoirs of Louis Bourrienne, Paul Barras, Clare de Remusat, Laure Permon, and Miot de Melito, which are mendacious and worthless' (P. 735). Indeed, most of them were written for a Bourbon and royalist audience.
Fouché and Talleyrand were serial traitors who betrayed Napoleon and France on innumerable occasions. No wonder a contemporary called them 'vice' and 'crime'. Bourrienne was caught with his hand in the till, Napoleon forgave him and he was given another lucrative post until he repeated his crime. Are we to trust the words of a criminal against the man who forgave him and gave him a second chance?
Esdaile is constantly contradicting himself and every thing he mentions is given a hostile spin. He even endeavours to blame Napoleon for the worst Russian winter in 100 years in 1812. Esdaile obviously knows nothing about the spate of volcanic eruptions that affected the weather of the period. The decade 1810-1820 was the coldest decade of the C19th due to those eruptions filling the atmosphere with dust - leading to widespread climate change - an El Nino event which affected world temperatures, and a low sunspot count which is also indicative of low temperatures.
According to Esdaile, Napoleon repeatedly 'forced' other countries to attack him. Everything was his fault and his fault alone. Esdaile's Napoleon is like a James Bond villain who gets up every morning with the thought of dominating the world before he has had his breakfast. It would be amusing if it wasn't so pathetic. And of course, he quotes British politicians who decry Napoleon for wanting world domination, when the British Navy was dominating the seas and forcing every other nation to bow to their will. And as for England being the 'land of the free’, yes it did abolish slavery in 1807 but this did not stop it impressing seamen from other nations and refusing thereafter to ever give them shore leave in case they 'deserted' . This insufferable arrogance led to America declaring war on Britain in 1812. No doubt, that was all Napoleon's fault too?
This isn't history - it's propaganda!
© 2014 John Tarttelin
M.A. (History) F.I.N.S (Legion of Merit)
A Souladream Production
A Souladream Production