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European History


Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences



Historical Dictionary of the Napoleonic Era by George F. Nafziger (Historical Dictionaries of Ancient Civilizations and Historical Eras, 6: Scarecrow Press) covers one of the most explosive and the most exciting periods of world history, spanning from the eruption of the French Revolution through the end of the Napoleonic wars (1789-1815). These twenty-six years of history saw the birth of nationalism and western democracy, economic crisis and political convulsion. It saw the growth of industrialism, the death of ancient traditions, the desecularization of the Pope, and the birth and break-up of empire. It was a time of extraordinary musicians and poets, eminent diplomats. It was the time of Napoleon, who gave his name to this period of tremendous change: the period in which the roots of modern Europe were planted. This work is intended as a broad review, devoting a majority of its attention to the military and political events and personalities of the period, while also surveying the major artistic, theological, and cultural events and personalities that formed this period.

Rarely in history has one person left his mark on a period as force­fully as Napoleon did on the beginning of the 19th century (and this af­ter having reshaped the French Revolution). During this time most of Europe 's leading figures were either dominated by Napoleon or defied him while countless others were strongly influenced by the changes he wrought‑not only to warfare and diplomacy, which held center stage for a decade and a half, but also to science and the arts. Basically, this book tells who these people of the Napoleonic era were and what they accomplished. But it also looks into the economic, social and cultural background and describes the crucial and sometimes climactic events. While there was subsequently a restoration and a reaction to the restora­tion, it is impossible to understand what happened in the following cen­turies without a grounding in this extraordinary period.

This historical dictionary provides a good starting point by looking at the Napoleonic era in several ways. One is through a chronology, which makes it easier to see what happened in a particular year and fol­low the sequence of events over time, but without delving into details. The introduction provides a broad overview of the Napoleonic era. The dictionary contains more than 250 entries on significant persons, places, events and institutions. There are, of course, many battles and almost as many conferences, treaties and alliances. Because it is im­possible to get the whole picture from one book, the bibliography is a particularly useful component for anyone interested in further study of the Napoleonic era.

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