Napoleon and the British


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Stuart Semmel

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What did Napoleon Bonaparte mean to the British people? This engaging book reconstructs the role that the French leader played in the British political, cultural, and religious imagination in the early nineteenth century. Denounced by many as a tyrant or monster, Napoleon nevertheless had sympathizers in Britain. Stuart Semmel explores the ways in which the British used Napoleon to think about their own history, identity, and destiny.

Many attacked Napoleon but worried that the British national character might not be adequate to the task of defeating him. Others, radicals and reformers, used Napoleon’s example to criticize the British constitution. Semmel mines a wide array of sources—ranging from political pamphlets and astrological almanacs to sonnets by canonical Romantic poets—to reveal surprising corners of late Hanoverian politics and culture.

Stuart Semmel is assistant professor of history at the University of Delaware.

[An] impeccably researched and well-crafted monograph. . . . There is an enormous amount to ponder and enjoy in Semmel's fine achievement."—Clive Emsley, American Historical Review


"The great merit of Semmel's book is that it reveals the complex discourse that lay behind the image. . . . Semmel has done us good service in bringing the other side out of the shadows. . . . Napoleon and the British tells us much that we need to know."—J.E. Cookson, H-France Review

"Napoleon and the British is engagingly written, providing insights for scholars and general readers interested in history and the media's role in shaping public opinion."—Dorothy Potter, History: Reviews of New Books

'Semmel succeeds admirably in re-examining British opinions of Napoleon. On a historiographical level, he also gives a significant critique to the overemphasis on loyalist sentiment in early nineteenth-century Britain. ... The history of British opinions of Napoleon turns out to be less simple than we thought.' - Noah Shusterman, H-War

"What sets Semmel’s book apart . . . is the extraordinary richness of his analysis, and the wealth of material he has uncovered. . . . [He] does an excellent job of recapturing the fears and hopes of this period of perilous, total war." —David A. Bell, London Review of Books

“Semmel’s is the most revealing study of the country’s political, religious and social identity during this period to be published since Linda Colley’s Britons.”—Christopher Woodward, The Spectator

“A thorough and illuminating book.”—Paul Johnson, The Sunday Telegraph

"Those interested in the political history of early-nineteenth-century England . . . would do well to consult the book."—Noah Shusterman, H-Net Reviews

"In this engaging book, the author argues cogently that Napoleon featured prominently in British politifirstcal culture, from his frist successes as general through his defeat at Waterloo, while in exile, and for years after his death on St. Helena in 1821. He demonstrates that Napoleon's existence forced the British to examine—somewhat nervously—their own identity, constitution, and history. . . . Semmel's work is rich with information, anecdotal in the English style, and a pleasure to read."—Owen Connelly, The Historian

"A rich cultural history written with aplomb and insight."—Howard G. Brown, The Journal of Modern History
ISBN: 9780300090017
Publication Date: October 11, 2004
368 pages, 6.125 x 9.25
14 b/w illus.