Russia Against Napoleon: The True Story of the Campaigns of War and Peace

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A major new history of the Russian conflict immortalized by Tolstoy in War and Peace

Russia's expulsion of Napoleon's Grande Armée in 1812 is considered one of the most dramatic events in European history. However, Tolstoyan myth and an imbalance of British and French interpretations have clouded most Westerners' understanding of Russia's role in the defeat of Napoleon.

Based on a fresh examination of Russian military archives, Russia Against Napoleon provides the first-ever history of the period told from the Russian perspective. In Dominic Lieven's account, Russia's victory in 1812 was just the beginning of what would be the longest military campaign in European history, marked by Russia's epic efforts to feed and supply half a million troops as they crossed an entire continent.

Moving from the 1807 treaty signed by Napoleon and Tsar Alexander I through the Russian army's improbable entry into Paris in 1814, Lieven provides suspenseful accounts of events, such as the burning of Moscow and the great battles of Leipzig and Borodino, as well as astute analyses of the great military strategists of the time. The result is a magisterial work sure to be eagerly anticipated by military and history buffs alike.
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About the author

Dominic Lieven is a senior research fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge, and a fellow of the British Academy. He previously taught Russian Studies at the London School of Economics for 33 years. His book Russia Against Napoleon won the 2009 Wolfson Prize for History and the Prix Napoleon.
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Published on
Apr 15, 2010
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History / Europe / France
History / Military / Napoleonic Wars
History / Russia & the Former Soviet Union
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Eligible for Family Library

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Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) is one of the most illustrated political and military figures of the last two millennia. He has remained in the memory of the world as a legend that the passage of the years has failed to blur. On the contrary, Napoleon Bonaparte widely continues to be considered the personification of human genius.

Originally published in this English translation in 1942, leading Russian historian Evgeny Tarle details Napoleon’s military campaign to invade Russia in the early nineteenth century.

“The campaign of 1812 was more frankly imperialistic than any other of Napoleon’s wars; it was more directly dictated by the interests of the French upper middle class. The war of 1796-7, the conquest of Egypt in 1798-9, the second Italian campaign, and the recent defeat of the Austrians could still be justified as necessary measures of defence against the interventionists. The Napoleonic press called the Austerlitz campaign ‘self-defence’ against Russia, Austria, and England. The average Frenchman considered even the subjugation of Prussia in 1806-7 no more than a just penalty inflicted on the Prussian court for the arrogant ultimatum sent by Frederick-William III to the ‘peace-loving’ Napoleon, constantly harried by troublesome neighbours. Napoleon never ceased to speak of the fourth conquest of Austria in 1809 as a ‘defensive’ war, provoked by Austrian threats. Only the invasion of Spain and Portugal was passed over in discreet silence.

“The War of 1812 was a struggle for survival in the full sense of the word—a defensive struggle against the onslaughts of the imperialist vulture.”—E. V. Tarle
The 29th Bulletin of the Grand Armée of the French Empire arrived in the heart of Paris on the 16th of December 1812, causing an uproar and consternation. Napoleon admitted that he had lost huge numbers of the troops during the Russian campaign and had been forced to retreat. In a master work of half-truths and omissions, Napoleon attempted to put all of his talents of spin to revealing the extent of the disaster, as if to cheer the war-weary population of his Empire to the end with a flourish—“ The health of his Majesty was never better.”
The health of the remaining survivors as they struggled back through the staggering cold, with few rations, constant attacks and little hope, was very different to that of their master. Captain Labaume trudged through the ice in the company of Napoleon’s step-son Eugène with the remnants of the Italian troops. With each step he grew more determined to ensure that the loss of his comrades would not be in vain. He wrote his version of the events during the march using gunpowder and melted snow for ink. Published after Napoleon’s fall in 1814, Labaume revealed the shocking truth behind the campaign: the incompetence, bloodshed, hunger, selfishness, horror and suffering. It caused a sensation in France and was rapidly translated into English, going through many, many editions.
As visceral, gripping and graphic an account of the horrors of war as ever was written.
Author — Labaume, Eugène, 1783-1849.
Translator — Anon.
Text taken, whole and complete, from the third edition published in London. Printed for Samuel Leigh, in the Strand, 1815
Original - viii, 442 p.
Illustrations – The Plans cannot be included due to their size [A3]
An Economist Best Book of the Year
A Financial Times Best Book of the Year
Winner of the the Pushkin House Russian Book Prize
Finalist for the Lionel Gelber Prize
An Amazon Best Book of the Month (History)

One of the world’s leading scholars offers a fresh interpretation of the linked origins of World War I and the Russian Revolution

"Lieven has a double gift: first, for harvesting details to convey the essence of an era and, second, for finding new, startling, and clarifying elements in familiar stories. This is history with a heartbeat, and it could not be more engrossing."—Foreign Affairs

World War I and the Russian Revolution together shaped the twentieth century in profound ways. In The End of Tsarist Russia, acclaimed scholar Dominic Lieven connects for the first time the two events, providing both a history of the First World War’s origins from a Russian perspective and an international history of why the revolution happened.
Based on exhaustive work in seven Russian archives as well as many non-Russian sources, Dominic Lieven’s work is about far more than just Russia. By placing the crisis of empire at its core, Lieven links World War I to the sweep of twentieth-century global history. He shows how contemporary hot issues such as the struggle for Ukraine were already crucial elements in the run-up to 1914.
By incorporating into his book new approaches and comparisons, Lieven tells the story of war and revolution in a way that is truly original and thought-provoking.
From Roger Knight, established by his multi-award winning book The Pursuit of Victory as 'an authority ... none of his rivals can match' (N.A.M. Rodger), Britain Against Napoleon is the first book to explain how the British state successfully organised itself to overcome Napoleon - and how very close it came to defeat.

For more than twenty years after 1793, the French army was supreme in continental Europe, and the British population lived in fear of French invasion. How was it that despite multiple changes of government and the assassination of a Prime Minister, Britain survived and won a generation-long war against a regime which at its peak in 1807 commanded many times the resources and manpower?

This book looks beyond the familiar exploits of the army and navy to the politicians and civil servants, and examines how they made it possible to continue the war at all. It shows the degree to which, as the demands of the war remorselessly grew, the whole British population had to play its part. The intelligence war was also central. Yet no participants were more important, Roger Knight argues, than the bankers and traders of the City of London, without whose financing the armies of Britain's allies could not have taken the field.

The Duke of Wellington famously said that the battle which finally defeated Napoleon was 'the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life': this book shows how true that was for the Napoleonic War as a whole.

Roger Knight was Deputy Director of the National Maritime Museum until 2000, and now teaches at the Greenwich Maritime Institute at the University of Greenwich. In 2005 he published, with Allen Lane/Penguin, The Pursuit of Victory: The Life and Achievement of Horatio Nelson, which won the Duke of Westminster's Medal for Military History, the Mountbatten Award and the Anderson Medal of the Society for Nautical Research. The present book is a culmination of his life-long interest in the workings of the late 18th-century British state.

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