再Napoleon the Great, September 20th 2014 P77 (ナポレオンー書評)
A new biography paints Napoleon as a tactical military genius. But he made some serious strategic mistakes and was far from being a brilliant statesman. Is another long life of Napoleon really necessary? On three counts, the answer given by Andrew Roberts's impressive book is an emphatic yes. The most important is that this is the first single-volume general biography to make full use of the treasure trove of Napoleon's 33,000-odd letters, which began being published in Paris only in 2004. Second, Mr Roberts, who has previously written on Napoleon and Wellington, is a masterly analyst of the French emperor's many battles. Third, his book is beautifully written and a pleasure to read. Mr Roberts admits having taken longer to research and write it than the seven years that Napoleon spent both on Elba and on St Helena. He visited no fewer than 53 of the 60 battlefields, as well as Elba and even Longwood on St Helena, where Napoleon died at just 51. He captures well the frenetic energy and will of the man, shown not just in the furious pace and number of his letters but also in his many (mostly short-lived and often unsuccessful) sexual liaisons. What comes across most strongly are Napoleon's extraordinary military gifts. His political impact on his country and Europe was clearly profound, but it was his revolutionising of warfare, military supplies, logistics and the use of artillery and tactics, especially in such battles as Austerliz in 1805 and Friedland in 1807, that stands out. Yet as Mr Roberts's own analysis demonstrates, even here Napoleon had flaws. He was lucky at Marengo in 1800, he all but lost Wagram in 1809 and he should really have won Waterloo in 1815. Mr Roberts is clear-eyed about Napoleon's tactical mistakes, but too forgiving of his broader strategic failings. The most obvious was the catastrophic invasion of Russia in 1812, when he underestimated not just the skill of such generals as Barclay de Tolly and the fighting quality of Russian troops, but also the determination of the tsar. Yet Napoleon also erred in invading Spain in 1808 and repeatedly picked unnecessary fights with the Austrians and Prusshans. He was also hopeless when it came to sea power. Mr Roberts concedes that “Napoleon's understanding of naval affairs was dismal.” But this understates the significance of his failing. In many ways the decisive battle of his wars was not Austerlitz or even Waterloo but Trafalgar in 1805, to which Mr Roberts devotes only half a page. It was Trafalgar that finally killed French hopes of invading England and cut Europe off from burgeoning world trade. As a consequence the British economy continued to grow strongly, while (thanks in part to Napoleon's atavistic protectionism) even by 1815 France had barely reached Britain's level of industralisation in 1780. Then there are Napoleon's flaws as a political leader. Mr Roberts, who is an ardent fan, portrays him as an Enlightenment figure whom many saw as the embodiment of progress and meritocracy. He certainly did much to reform France and Europe, not least through what became the Napoleonic legal code. Yet he was also a dictator, and he lied about his battles, instigated the Brumaire coup in 1799, made himself emperor and was guilty of such crimes as the kidnap and murder of the Duc d'Enghien. Beethoven, a true believer in the Enlightenment, tore up his dedication of the “Eroica” symphony to Napoleon in 1804. Perhaps worst of all was Napoleon's habit of indulging and promoting his own families, especially his brothers. Mr Roberts is right to detect Corsican roots in this. But Napoleon's crowning of Joseph, first in Naples and then in Spain, of Louis in the Netherlands and then of Jerome in Westphalia all proved costly mistakes. And his proclamation of his infant son (conceived with Austria's Marie Louise, after his divorce from Josephine) as king of Rome was ludicrous in its pomposity. The ultimate failure of Napoleon can be seen in his legacy to his own country. He clearly promoted modernisation in Europe through such abruptly unceremonious acts as the abolition of Holy Roman Empire and of the doge in Venice. Yet when he was born in 1769 France could still claim to be Europe's predominant power, as it had been for 100 years. By the time he died in 1821, it had been pushed aside. Mr Roberts cleaves to a very French view of Napoleon, seeing him as a force for good who fed the greater glory of his country. Yet contemplating European history since his death - first the dominance of Britain, then the rise of Germany and now France's relative economic and demographic decline - that seems at best debatable and at worst plain wrong.