Book Review: Napoleon’s Army, 1807-1814, as Depicted in the Prints of Aaron Martinet (Guy C. Dempsey, Jr.) : MH
Napoleon’s Army, 1807-1814, as Depicted in the Prints of Aaron Martinet, by Guy C. Dempsey, Jr., Arms and Armour Press, London, distributed through Sterling Publishers, Inc., New York, 1997, $29.95.
Military uniforms and regimental esprit de corps were not new when Napoleon I became emperor of France in 1804, but he developed an unprecedented cult status for them. Aided by his early successes on the battlefield, Napoleon turned the French army from an unorganized rabble into an efficient fighting machine by combining the ideals of the Revolution and nationalism with the virtues of loyalty to the emperor–in effect, himself. One result was a proliferation of distinctive uniforms and heraldry within his army. Another was the exposure of that army to the public through everything from prints to toy soldiers–a practice that has certainly outlasted Napoleon in France to this day.
One prominent publisher who jumped on the bandwagon of the Napoleonic martial cult was Aaron Martinet, who produced a remarkably extensive series of prints that depicted the regiments of the Troupes Françaises between 1807 and 1814. Napoleon’s Army, 18071814 brings to-gether Martinet’s prints in full color, along with a detailed commentary by compiler Guy C. Dempsey, Jr., on their origin and their varying degrees of authenticity.
The military cult that Napoleon fostered has taken a different form, but as a historical compilation, Napoleon’s Army, 18071814 is a useful document that should create renewed enthusiasm in a more retrospective audience.