The Shadow Emperor

Alan Strauss-Schom. St. Martin’s, $32.50 (512p) ISBN 978-1-250-05778-5
Napoleon III, emperor of France from 1852 to 1870, is most often presented in English-language sources as a figure of fun or pathos, a simulacrum of his world-striding uncle, Napoleon Bonaparte. Historian Strauss-Schom inverts these stereotypes in an excellent biography, portraying Napoleon III as a builder and a reformer, a planter of forests, and a reclaimer of wasteland. He reconstructed and redefined Paris. He created jobs and sponsored department stores, overhauled educational and financial systems, and encouraged scientific and technical research. In these pages, he emerges as the underwriter of modern France. Yet, unlike his uncle, a man of war and statecraft, Napoleon III was a mediocre diplomat and an ineffective commander. He came to power at a time when Europe’s map was being redrawn, and he frequently misjudged international situations: his imperial ambitions generated unwanted confrontations with Britain; his Italian policies enabled unification, but did not complete the process; above all, he was repeatedly and spectacularly outmaneuvered by Prussia’s Otto von Bismarck. Napoleon III’s failures led directly to his own downfall and to France’s displacement as Europe’s primary power. This work’s perceptive synthesis of recent research will interest scholars, and its engaging presentation and fast-paced narrative will attract general readers. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/21/2018
Release date: 05/29/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 512 pages - 978-1-4456-8419-2
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