Bonaparte at Toulon: The Right Man in the Right Place

David Chandler tells how Napoleon’s first battle with the British saved the vital port of Toulon – and opened the door to a glittering military career.

The great naval arsenal and port of Toulon served and serves French interests in the Mediterranean Sea in much the same way as Portsmouth is the main base for the Royal Navy guarding the English Channel. With its two nigh land-locked anchorages, the greater and the smaller Roads, Toulon had been an important fishing port and shipping sanctuary from before Roman times. A prosperous city sprang up on the north-eastern littoral of La Petite Rade in the Middle Ages, and by 1790 its mercantile and maritime population had grown to some 30,000 people.

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