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Everything here is worn out…tiny Europe has not enough to offer.
We must set off for the Orient; that is where all the greatest glory is to be achieved.” —Napoleon
Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt was the first Western attack in modern times on a Middle Eastern country. In this remarkably rich and eminently readable historical account, acclaimed author Paul Strathern reconstructs a mission of conquest inspired by glory, executed in haste, and bound for disaster.
In 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte, only twenty-eight, mounted the most audacious military campaign of his already spectacular career. With 335 ships, 40,000 soldiers, and a collection of scholars, artists, scientists, and inventors, he set sail for Egypt to establish an Eastern empire in emulation of Alexander the Great. Like everything Napoleon ever attempted, it was a plan marked by unquenchable ambition, heroic romanticism, and not a little madness.
Napoleon saw himself as a liberator, freeing the Egyptians from the oppression of their Mameluke overlords. But while Napoleon thought his army would be welcomed as heroes, he tragically misunderstood Muslim culture and grossly overestimated the “gratitude” he could expect from those he’d come to save. Instead Napoleon and his men would face a grim war of attrition against an ad hoc army of Muslims led by the feared Murad Bey. Marching across seemingly endless deserts in the shadow of the pyramids, suffering extremes of heat and thirst, and pushed to the limits of human endurance, they would be plagued by mirages, suicides, and the constant threat of ambush. A crusade begun in honor and intended for glory would degenerate toward chaos and atrocity.
But Napoleon’s grand failure in Egypt also yielded vast treasures of knowledge about a culture largely lost to the West, and through the recovery of artifacts like the Rosetta Stone, it prepared the way for the translation of hieroglyphics and modern Egyptology. And it tempered the complex leader who believed it his destiny to conquer the world.
A story of war, adventure, politics, and a clash of cultures, Paul Strathern’s Napoleon in Egypt is history at once relevant and impossible to put down.
Leonardo da Vinci, Niccolò Machiavelli, and Cesare Borgia—three iconic figures whose intersecting lives provide the basis for this astonishing work of narrative history. They could not have been more different, and they would meet only for a short time in 1502, but the events that transpired when they did would significantly alter each man’s perceptions—and the course of Western history.
In 1502, Italy was riven by conflict, with the city of Florence as the ultimate prize. Machiavelli, the consummate political manipulator, attempted to placate the savage Borgia by volunteering Leonardo to be Borgia’s chief military engineer. That autumn, the three men embarked together on a brief, perilous, and fateful journey through the mountains, remote villages, and hill towns of the Italian Romagna—the details of which were revealed in Machiavelli’s frequent dispatches and Leonardo’s meticulous notebooks.
Superbly written and thoroughly researched, The Artist, the Philosopher, and the Warrior is a work of narrative genius—whose subject is the nature of genius itself.
After winning the struggle for ascendency in the late 13th century, the Republic of Venice enjoyed centuries of unprecedented glory and built a trading empire which at its apogee reached as far afield as China, Syria, and West Africa. This golden period only drew to an end with the Republic’s eventual surrender to Napoleon.
The Venetians illuminates the character of the Republic during these illustrious years by shining a light on some of the most celebrated personalities of European history—Petrarch, Marco Polo, Galileo, Titian, Vivaldi, Casanova. Frequently, though, these emblems of the city found themselves at odds with the Venetian authorities, who prized stability above all else, and were notoriously suspicious of any “cult of personality.” Was this very tension perhaps the engine for the Republic’s unprecedented rise?
Rich with biographies of some of the most exalted characters who have ever lived, The Venetians is a refreshing and authoritative new look at the history of the most evocative of city-states.
“Well-written, clear and informed, they have a breezy wit about them....I find them hard to stop reading.”—Richard Bernstein, New York Times.
“Witty, illuminating, and blessedly concise.”—Jim Holt, Wall Street Journal.
These brief and enlightening explorations of our greatest thinkers bring their ideas to life in entertaining and accessible fashion. Philosophical thought is deciphered and made comprehensive and interesting to almost everyone. Far from being a novelty, each book is a highly refined appraisal of the philosopher and his work, authoritative and clearly presented.