Book Review: The Napoleonic Wars: A Global History


by Alexander Mikaberidze

Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020. Pp. xxiv, 936+. Illus., maps, tables, notes, biblio., index. $39.95. ISBN: 0199951063

The Global Impact of the French Wars

Despite the title, this is actually an impressive reinterpretation of the wars of the French Revolution and Napoleon (1792-1815), setting them into a global framework. Prof. Mikaberidze (LSU Shreveport), reminds us that the prevailing view of these wars is not only very Eurocentric, but also, depending on the nationality of the author, very Anglo-, Franco-, Germano-, Russo-, and so forth -centric. He then gives us a look at how these wars involved not only Europe, but much of the rest of the world as well, and their impact on global events.

Mikaberidze opens with a look at the deep origins and outbreak of the French Revolution, followed by an examination of how this upset the “international order” of the late eighteenth century. This upset led to nearly twenty-five years of almost continuous war, as France and Britain, each supported by an ever changing cast of allies, as various other powers sided one way or the other, in pursuit of their own interests, or survival. At the same time, the demands of war initiated changes in all countries.

Mikaberidze naturally covers the various “coalitions” that Britain put together to counter French ambitions, in the process giving us looks at the changing political, economic, and military situations that affected the course of the wars and the rise and fall of various alliances. But he also gives considerable attention to how the main event sparked, directly or indirectly, military, diplomatic, and colonial activities in many areas far from the European world. These include India, the Middle East, the Americas, where Spain’s colonial empire rapidly disintegrated, the East Indies, Japan, and even Alaska; a very good example is how a series of diplomatic deals between 1800 and 1803 linked involved France, Spain, Tuscany, Saint Domingue, Portugal, Louisiana, and the United States.

While obviously rather fond of Napoleon, Mikaberidze does recognize the man’s limitations. He notes, for example, the Napoleon relied rather too much on military victory as a way to resolve problems, leading to adventures with no clear strategic objective, such as the invasions of Spain or Russia, his rejection of rather generous Allied peace terms in 1813 and 1814, and his final bid for power in 1815.

The Napoleonic Wars: A Global History is an outstanding book for anyone interested in the French Wars or “Big History”.


Note: The Napoleonic Wars: A Global History is also available in several e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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