The Lives of Napoleon

The erstwhile emperor continues to attract biographers and readers alike. Laura O’Brien assesses recent work on his life and legacy. 

The Gardener of St Helena, French, 19th century © Bridgeman Images.

Two hundred years after his death, what more is there to say about Napoleon Bonaparte? He remains a perennially popular subject for works of history aimed at the general reader, whether conventional biographies or more specialised studies on aspects of his life, regime and cultural legacy. If, as the Napoleonic historian Philip Dwyer suggests, writing a biography is like holding up a mirror for a contemporary readership, who is the Napoleon that is reflected back at us in 2021?

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