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The Napoléonic Wars: A Global History, by Alexander Mikaberidze, Oxford University Press, New York, 2020, $39.95

The wars involving Napoléon Bonaparte, as either a participant or the central figure, raged from 1792 until the French emperor’s final fall in 1815. As that is more than twice as long as the world wars combined, one can appreciate the ambitious scale of the subject author Alexander Mikaberidze has chosen to tackle. The Napoléonic Wars is not merely a chronicle of campaigns and battles, but an in-depth study of the military, political, social and cultural changes the conflict wrought on the entire world.

As the author demonstrates, the Napoléonic wars had lasting effects in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Americas. The wars established Britain as the premier world superpower for the next century. Peripherally, the Louisiana Purchase doubled the size of the United States. In a succession of sideshow wars against France, the Barbary pirates and Britain the young republic confirmed its status as an independent nation. Also during that period Haiti became the second independent nation in the Western Hemisphere, and the Latin American movement toward independence from Spain and Portugal began. As the author shows, the effects were felt as far away as China and Japan.

Given the subject matter encompassed between its covers, the wonder is not that this fascinating book is 960 pages long, but that it is only 960 pages long.

—Robert Guttman

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