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Napoleon Against Great Odds


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"Napoleon's campaign of 1814 has habitually been framed in the language and emotions of nationalism. Professor Ashby takes a fresh look at the evidence. He persuades us that the Allies won not because Napoleon was betrayed, hadn't enough men, was hampered by bureaucratic ineptitude, fought without a number of his best marshals, and was undermined by French war weariness. All these played a part, but Ashby convincingly argues Napoleon just ran out of time. Tsar Alexander and Field Marshal Blucher, driven by a lust for revenge, insisted the Allies invade France in the winter rather than wait for spring. Even Napoleon was unable to stall long enough to build a viable army let alone fend off the assault." -- David P. Jordan, Distinguished Professor of French History, Emeritus, University of Illinois at Chicago "Body and soul of the Napoleonic triumph, the French army shouldered the responsibility for the Empire's defeat. In this fast-paced, even-handed, and well-argued account, Ashby re-examines the defense of France in 1814, suggesting new explanations for the success and failure on and off the battlefield that led to the Emperor's exile to Elba." -- William A. Hoisington, Jr., Professor Emeritus of Modern European History, University of Illinois at Chicago "Napoleon, his campaigns and regime fascinated his contemporaries and continue to fascinate us two centuries later. Ralph Ashby's Against Great Odds: Napoleon and the Defenders of France, 1814 is the latest addition to Napoleonic scholarship and is an important one at that. Ashby challenges us to reconsider the assumption of war-weariness in 1814 France and posits a deeper interpretation of the factors which led to the demise of the empire. Ashby's examination of Napoleon's oft-overlooked campaign of 1814 offers a more subtle analysis that promises to become the standard in the field for years to come." -- Eugene Beiriger, Associate Professor, Department of History, DePaul University, and author of Churchill, Munitions and Mechanical Warfare

About the Author

Ralph Ashby is a visiting assistant professor at Eastern Illinois University.


"Military historian/US armed forces veteran Ashby (Eastern Illinois U., Charleston) focuses on Napoleon's campaign of 1814 against a coalition force, rather than on the more widely-studied Napoleonic War defeats in the 1812 Russian campaign and the battle of Waterloo (1815). From an analysis of the diverse backgrounds and performance of the soldiers, partisans, and civilians who defended the Empire, he questions conventional interpretations that attribute the French loss wholly to a dramatic decline in recruits due to war- weariness and reduced support for the regime. He also places blame on Napoleon's poor strategic planning, diplomatic blunders, and material shortages. The book includes maps and illustrations." - Reference & Research Book News

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