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Monday, October 21, 2013

“The Military Maxims of Napoleon”, by Napoleon Bonaparte, edited by David G. Chandler

256 pages, Greenhill Books, ISBN-13: 978-1853675126

Here is a distillation in one slim volume of the knowledge and wisdom of one of history’s greatest military commander. Napoleon’s unparalleled success was built on practical experience combined with his own study of the great empire-builders, from Alexander to Fredrick the Great, and the essence of what he learned from them is incorporated in this book. His thoughts, theories and commentaries on the subject are here presented in the form of accessible and readable maxims and these, with explanatory comments, reveal the fundamentals of Napoleon’s art of waging war. David Chandler has added to the explanatory comments and provided the necessary context for modern readers to compare Napoleon’s principles with the experience of war in the modern age. This revealing guide presents those principles of war and his art of conducting statecraft; it is a fascinating insight into a great mind and a unique collection of tenets on warfare in the Napoleonic era. Napoleon’s Maxims total more than ninety, and the totality of ALL of these are invaluable to the student of military history. Yet only a fraction of them were translated in this original volume that first appeared in the early 20th Century; even worse, Chandler did not complete the job since this would have been a golden opportunity to showcase the previously omitted and rarely-seen Maxims. Hopefully, some historian will do the complete job the next time.

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