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Napoleon in Egypt


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Paul Strathern studied philosophy at Trinity College, Dublin. He has lectured in philosophy and mathematics and is a Somerset Maugham Prize-winning novelist. He is the bestselling author of several books of nonfiction, including the series Philosophers in 90 Minutes and The Big Idea: Scientists Who Changed the World.


In 1797, eight years after the French Revolution, an obscure general, Napoleon Bonaparte, became a national hero after a brilliant campaign in Italy. Equally impressed with his own genius, he formed the idea of conquering Egypt and, like his idol, Alexander, marching on to India. Nonfiction author and award-winning novelist Strathern (Big Idea: Scientists Who Changed the World) turns up plenty of surprises in an enthralling history of the first of Napoleon's world-class debacles. With extraordinary logistical skill and luck, Napoleon led 40,000 men and hundreds of ships across the Mediterranean to Alexandria in 1798. Defeating local armies and occupying the capital, Cairo, proved easy, but difficulties arose despite genuine efforts to replace a corrupt government with French ideals of freedom and justice. A nasty insurgency developed; Admiral Nelson destroyed Napoleon's fleet; and the British also frustrated his invasion of Palestine. Abandoning his tattered army after a year under brutal desert conditions, Napoleon returned to France, pronouncing the invasion an unqualified success. Stories of powerful men making disastrous decisions have an endless fascination, and Strathern makes the most of it in this entertaining account. Illus., maps. (Oct. 21) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Here is a compelling narrative of an epic collision between two civilizations. In May 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte launched his ill-fated invasion of Egypt. Among his 40,000 invading troops (the Army of the Orient) was a small group of French scholars whom Napoleon included in the expedition for the sole purpose of examining all aspects of Egyptian culture. Although the French fought magnificently, the ravages of disease and British naval power brought them to their knees--but not before Napoleon's "savants" unveiled the grandeur of an ancient civilization and changed forever perceptions of the history of humankind. In this riveting account of that colossal campaign, British writer and philosopher Strathern ("Philosophers in 90 Minutes" series) evokes the incredible hardships endured by French soldiers in an unforgiving land. At the same time, he offers a poignant view of a Muslim society overwhelmed by invaders who brought death and destruction in the name of brotherhood and equality. Strathern's skillful use of memoir and other primary sources brings to life one of the most fascinating campaigns in military history. Libraries that have already purchased Juan Cole's Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East should still consider this more cohesive and less didactic account of a long-ignored Napoleonic misadventure. Specialists should also be intrigued by Strathern's analysis of the complex motives for France's invasion of Egypt. Highly recommended for both academic and public libraries.--Jim Doyle, Rome, GA Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

"A compelling narrative of an epic collision between two civilizations.... Evok[ing] the incredible hardships endured by French soldiers in an unforgiving land. At the same time, he offers a poignant view of a Muslim society overwhelmed by invaders. ... Strathern's skillful use of memoir and other primary sources brings to life one of the most fascinating campaigns in military history."--Library Journal, starred review

"In between the battle scenes, Strathern paints a portrait of Napoleon the man, sketching his humiliation over wife Josephine's infidelities and his implausibly lofty ideals, which spawned a generation of Romantic artists."--Kirkus Reviews "Paul Strathern's enthralling description of this bizarre imperial adventure reads like Conrad's Heart of Darkness....As a piece of storytelling, it is a masterpiece." --Daily Telegraph "As a stirring narrative of doomed military endeavour, [Strathern's] book could hardly be bettered." --Sunday Times "Ambitious and wonderfully detailed saga...Strathern admirably balances the various legacies of the expedition while keeping the focus on its military character." --Financial Times Magazine "Those looking for an exciting, comprehensive narrative history of the whole expedition are advised to hunt down [this book]." --Tom Reiss, author of The Orientalist "Very entertaining and well-written book. Strathern is very careful about his sources . . . so that a finely balanced picture emerges." --Times Literary Supplement "A well-written, fast-paced narrative . . . This book is a welcome and readable addition to the ever-growing library of books about this French colossus." --BBC History Magazine "[Strathern] has written a stirring narrative of the Egyptian adventure, which simultaneously demonstrates how Napoleon's experiences in Egypt foreshadowed many aspects of his later rule in France....This is popular narrative history at its best." -- Independent "Superb . . . Strathern tells the appalling tale of the forced marches across endless deserts . . . with commendable gusto." --Sunday Telegraph "Illuiminating.... Napoleon in Egypt is undoubtedly the finest account of the Savants and their contribution to the fields of archaeology, ancient history, and botany to date.... A necessary addition to any Napoleonic shelf."--Christian Science Monitor

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