The Napoleonic Wars 1803-1815

Gates, David
Date published: 
October 1997

Winner of the 1998 International Napoleonic Society prize: Significant Contribution to Napoleonic Studies. Until it was surpassed by the war of 1914-1918, the Napoleonic Wars of 1803-15 were often collectively tagged 'The Great War'. Following hard on the heels of the French Revolutionary Wars, the struggle between the First French Empire and the other major powers soon took on a very different complexion from the earlier conflict. Progressively engulfing not only the whole of the continent but also the overseas possessions of the leading European states, it was a war of unprecedented scale and intensity. In many ways a product of change, it acted as a catalyst for upheaval and reform across much of Europe. There is a mass of literature on Napoleon and his times, yet there are but a handful of scholarly works that seek to cover the Napoleonic Wars in their entirety, and fewer still that place the conflict in any broader frameworks. This new study redresses the balance. Drawing on recent findings and applying a 'total' history approach, it covers the causes and effects of the conflict and its place in the evolution of modern warfare. It explores and reappraises the most significant and controversial military ventures, including the war at sea and Napoleon's campaigns of 1805-9, yet demonstrates, in interspersed thematic sections, how incomplete our understanding of the struggle must be without an appreciation of the wider economic, cultural, political, and intellectual dimensions.