In this wide-ranging study of the Napoleonic regime, Digby Smith tracks Napoleon's rise to power, his stewardship of France from 1804–15, and his exile. He highlights his military mistakes, such as his unwillingness to appoint an effective overall supremo in the Iberian Peninsula, and the decision to invade Russia while the Spanish situation was spiralling out of control.
Smith also scrutinises naval mistakes – notably, Napoleon's inability to comprehend the intricacies of naval operations, his impatience with his admirals, and his failure to invest in ships and men. Smith also tracks diplomatic and political errors, highlighting his inability to conclude lasting peace and to compromise.
Smith finally addresses domestic and economic blunders, such as the establishing and maintenance of the Continental System across Europe, the imposition of a ban on direct trade with Russia (which led to France paying higher prices for naval stores of Russian origin after they passed through the hands of German middlemen), and the cost of creating various kingdoms and principalities and deposing incumbent rulers to place his relatives on their thrones.
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