- My NYPL
Tools and Services
- Using the Library
I am a...
- Classes & Events
- Support the Library
Napoleonic Era: A Research Guide
Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) came to prominence in France as a military and political figure by 1796. He consolidated his political power in 1800 and had himself constituted sole ruler of France in 1804. Napoleon I, Emperor of the French, presided over an empire that ran from May 1804 to April 1814. His return from exile and second reign ended abruptly after the Hundred Days on the battlefield of Waterloo in June 1815. This research guide will focus on scholarly resources in The New York Public Library that pertain to biographical, historical, military, and literary publications on Napoleon and his times—a period of sweeping social change in Europe.
A Note on Subject Scope:
The literature written on the Napoleonic era is staggering in numbers. As of September 2004, The New York Public Library’s online CATNYP catalog contains 2695 entries under Napoleon I alone and 117 records for his first Empress, Josephine. 760 entries appear for France—History—Consulate and First Empire, 1799-1815.
This research guide is intended to provide direct access to the broadest, most authoritative popular history book publications in the English language on this subject. Works cited are by British, American, and European scholars in translations. The study of Napoleon and his world has received much critical reappraisal in the later 20th century. Many of the resources annotated here were consulted during research preparation for The New York Public Library exhibition, Decoration in the Age of Napoleon: Empire Elegance Versus Regency Refinement, Edna Barnes Salomon Gallery, September 3, 2004 – April 2, 2005.
If you need further assistance, visit our reference desk, or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Compiled by Paula A. Baxter, Art & Architecture Collection, 12/04
Using the Library’s Catalog
The Empire and Regency styles do not have direct headings in the Library of Congress Subject Headings volumes. Instead, the terms used are:
Decoration and Ornament—Empire Style
Decoration and Ornament—Regency Style
Also, geographic subdivisions can be used, as in
Decoration and Ornament—France—Empire Style
Related headings of use may be:
Furniture, Regency —Great Britain
England—Social life and customs—19th century
France—Social life and customs—19th century
Chronology of Key Events
|1769 -||August 18, Napoleon born at Ajaccio, Corsica|
|1784 -||October, Napoleon secures appointment to Ecole Militaire in Paris and a year later (September 1, 1785) is commissioned a second lieutenant in the French Army|
|1789 -||July 14, the Bastille is stormed and events lead up to the French Revolution|
|1793 -||September 16-December 19, Napoleon distinguishes himself at the Siege of Toulon|
|1794 -||February 6, given command of artillery of the Army of Italy|
|1796 -||March 2, appointed head of the Army of Italy|
|1796 -||March 9, marriage of Napoleon Bonaparte and Josephine Beauharnais|
|1798 -||May 19, beginning of Napoleon’s campaign expedition to Egypt, departs for Paris in August 1799|
|1798 -||August 1, Battle of the Nile, English Admiral Nelson’s naval forces decimate the French fleet at anchor in Abukir Bay|
|1800 -||June 14, Battle of Marengo, defeats the Austrian army|
|1804 -||May 18, Napoleon constitutes himself Emperor, confirmed by plebiscite|
|1804 -||December 2, coronation ceremonies for Napoleon I and Empress Josephine in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, with Pope Pius VII in attendance|
|1805 -||October 21, Battle of Trafalgar effectively eliminates threat of French Fleet|
|1805 -||December 2, Battle of Austerlitz, Napoleon defeats Austrians and Russians|
|1807 -||1 November 19, French army invades Portugal|
|1808 -||February 16, French army invades Spain, national revolts by Spanish from May onwards|
|1810 -||April, marriage of Napoleon to Archduchess Marie Louise of Austria; the Empress Josephine was divorced in 1809|
|1811 -||March 20, birth of Napoleon’s heir, the King of Rome|
|1812 -||June to December, invasion of Russia, Battle of Borodino on September 7 and Napoleon enters Moscow on September 14, city on fire until September 19, retreat from Russia begins on October 19|
|1814 -||April 6, Napoleon’s first abdication, he is exiled to the island of Elba in the Mediterranean|
February 26 to March 1, Napoleon escapes from Elba, start of the Hundred Days
|1815 -||June 16-18, Battle of Waterloo, the French forces are defeated|
|1815 -||June 22, Napoleon’s second abdication|
|1815 -||October 15, Napoleon lands on the island where he is to be interned, St. Helena in the South Atlantic|
|1821 -||May 5, death of Napoleon|
|1840 -||December 15, Napoleon’s remains are interred at the D ôme des Invalides|
Conner, Susan P. The Age of Napoleon. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2004. (JFE 04-6012)
Provides chronological, biographical, and bibliographic citations to major historic events.
Nafziger, George F. Historical Dictionary of the Napoleonic Era. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2002. (*R-DG 02-3989)Authoritative summary of reference tools related to all aspects of Napoleon’s times and career.
Palmer, Alan W. An Encyclopedia of Napoleon’s Europe. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1984. (JFE 85-184) Dictionary-style format to biographical and historical information.
Gengembre, Gérard. Napoleon: The Immortal Emperor. New York: Vendome Press, 2003. (JFF 03-3292)
A visual survey of Napoleon’s life and career, and the many historical depictions and recreations made from his persona.
Giles, Frank. Napoleon Bonaparte: England’s Prisoner. London: Constable, 2001. (JFE 01-16801)
Surveys Napoleon’s life in exile on St. Helena, 1815-1821.
Hibbert, Christopher. Napoleon: His Wives and Women. New York: W.W. Norton, 2002. (JFE 03-9610)
A social historical evaluation of Napoleon’s complicated and often contradictory relations with women.
Horne, Alistair. The Age of Napoleon. New York: Modern Library, 2004. (JFC 04-1482)
Concise biographical summary of Napoleon’s influence on his times.
Johnson, Paul. Napoleon. New York: Viking, 2002. (JFD 02-14657)
A biographical examination of Napoleon’s political strengths and weaknesses.
Méneval, Claude-François, Baron de. Memoirs of Napoleon Bonaparte, theCcourt of the First Empire. New York: P.F. Collier, 1910. (DGD Méneval)
A translation of Napoleon’s memoirs dictated to his court secretary; gives a sense of Napoleon’s own concern for how posterity should view his accomplishments.
Napoléon Bonaparte. Edited by Raymond and Loretta Obstfeld. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 2001. (JFD 02-23187)
A terse summary of Napoleon’s career and influence in its broadest social context.
Ratcliffe, Bertram. Prelude to Fame: An Account of the Early Life of Napoleon up to the Battle of Montenotte. London: Warne, 1981. (JFD 82-3925)
Explores the childhood and youth of the future French emperor.
DeLorme, Eleanor P. Josephine: Napoleon’s Incomparable Empress. New York: H.N. Abrams, 2002. (JFF 02-5405)
An examination of Josephine’s accomplishments as Empress, her personal influence, and relationship with Napoleon.
Epton, Nina C. Josephine; The Empress and her Children. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1975. (JFD 76-1261)
Biographical portrait with emphasis on her son and daughter by her first marriage, and their significance as Napoleon ’s stepchildren.
Erickson, Carolly. Josephine: A Life of the Empress. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999. (JFE 99-9336)
Focuses on the emotional highs and lows of Josephine’s life, and examines the social and moral conditions for well-born women of pre- and post-Revolutionary France.
Markham, Felix. The Bonapartes. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1975. (JFF 76-308)
Social history of the Corsican-born Bonaparte family: Napoleon’s formidable mother, his various siblings and their roles in Napoleon’s empire-building.
Normington, Susan. Napoleon’s Children. Wolfeboro Falls, NH: A. Sutton, 1993. (JFF 93-1816)
Examines the lives of Napoleon’s two stepchildren, his illegitimate children by various mistresses, and his short-lived heir, Napoleon II, known after his father’s fall as the Duke of Reichstadt and raised in the Austrian imperial court.
Palmer, Alan W. Napoleon and Marie Louise. London: Constable, 2000. (JFE 01-3633)
Biographical portrait of Napoleon’s second, political marriage to the young daughter of the Austrian Emperor, and the mother of his legitimate heir.
Seward, Desmond. Napoleon’s Family. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1986. (JFE 86-2223)
All all-embracing view of the Bonaparte family and their role in Napoleon’s development; treats Napoleon’s fierce family loyalty and the roles he wanted his various brothers and sisters to play in his empire.
Social History Resources
Dallas, Gregor. 1815: The Roads to Waterloo. London: Richard Cohen Books, 1996. (JFE 97-2263)
Investigates the complicated historical, social, and foreign relations that led to Europe’s final confrontation with Napoleon on the battlefield of Waterloo.
Ellis, Geoffrey. The Napoleonic Empire. London: Macmillan Education, 1991. (JFD 91-9143) Authoritative survey history of the First Empire in France, with cogent explanations of Napoleon’s Continental System and the resultant economic effects of this blockade on England and Europe.
Herold, J. Christopher. The Horizon Book of the Age of Napoleon. New York: American Heritage Pub. Co., 1963. (G-10 1439)
Textbook-style summaries of Napoleon ’s career and historic context.
Lyons, Martyn. Napoleon Bonaparte and the Legacy of the French Revolution. Houndmills, UK: Macmillan, 1994. (JFD 95-6845)
Historical survey that evaluates the relationships between Napoleon and the ideals of the French Revolution; describes the role of France within Europe at that time.
Roberts, Andrew. Napoleon and Wellington. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2001. (JFE 01-16566)
Terse study in biographical and ideological contrasts between Napoleon and his English military adversary.
Shaw, Philip. Waterloo and the Romantic Imagination. New York: Palgrave/Macmillan, 2002. (JFD 02-26267)
Explores Napoleon’s last great battle within the context of Romantic Era literature, and assesses the use of Waterloo as a metaphor within Romanticism in general.
Sutherland, Donald. The French Revolution and Empire: The Quest for a Civic Order. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub., 2003. (JFE 03-3376)
Evaluates the changes in civil liberties for the French nation in the period between the beginning of the Revolution and the end of the First Empire.
Broers, Michael. Europe Under Napoleon 1799-1815. London: St. Martin’s Press, 1996. (JFE 97-489)
Discusses Napoleon’s foreign relations policies during his years of influence.
Madelin, Louis. The Consulate and the Empire, 1809-1815. New York: AMS Press, 1967. (DAF The National History of France, vol. 7)
Official political history with bibliographies.
Muir, Rory. Britain and the Defeat of Napoleon, 1807-1815. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996. (JFE 96-6112)
Evaluates Britain’s steadfast political policy of opposition to the French Emperor, and the consequences of British army opposition to the French forces.
Schom, Alan. One Hundred Days: Napoleon’s Road to Waterloo. New York: Atheneum; Maxwell Macmillan International, 1992. (JFE 92-10604)
In-depth examination of the confluence of political and diplomatic factors that determined Napoleon’s escape from Elba and the circumstances leading to his last stand at Waterloo.
The Age of Napoleon: Costume from Revolution to Empire, 1789-1815. Katell le Bourhis, general editor. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art; H.N. Abrams, 1989. (3-MML+ 90-4501)
Visually impressive survey history of dress during these periods, based on a popular exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum ’s Costume Institute.
For a more exhaustive bibliography of arts in the age of Napoleon, see The Empire and Regency Styles.
Military History Resources
Adkin, Mark. The Waterloo Companion. London: Aurum Press, 2001. (JFF 02-378)
An exhaustive compendium of data about this decisive battle for the armchair military history enthusiast. Reviews such significant factors as the battle orders, battlefield itself, infantry, cavalry, and artillery actions, battle highlights, and aftermath events. A section on myths and controversies reveals just how variable the battle’s outcome could have been.
Esdaile, Charles J. The French Wars, 1792-1815. London; New York: Routledge, 2001. (JFD 01-16265)
Concise guide to the War of the First Coalition, 1792-1797, the War of the Second Coalition, 1798-1801, and the Napoleonic Wars.
Glover, Michael. The Peninsular War, 1807-1814: A Concise Military History. London: Penguin, 2001, c.1974. (JFD 02-3638)
Tracks the stages of warfare in the Spanish Peninsula from the time of the arrival of British troops to the last drive into southern France.
Lefebvre, Georges. Napoleon; From Tilsit to Waterloo, 1807-1815. New York: Columbia University Press, 1969. (JFD 94-4474)
Documents major battles during a major transition period in the First Empire’s fortunes, tracing the arc from triumph to decline.
Neillands, Robin. Wellington and Napoleon: Clash of Arms 1807-1815. London: John Murray, 1994. (JFE 94-16885)
Compares the generalship tactics and styles of Napoleon and the English commander, Wellington.
Rothenberg, Gunther. The Napoleonic Wars. London: Cassell, 1999. (JFF 00-323)
Authoritative evaluation and documentation on Napoleon’s military leadership.
Schom, Alan. Trafalgar: Countdown to Battle 1803-1805. London: Joseph, 1990. (JFE 90-7408)
Explains the political and military circumstances leading to the major sea battle at Trafalgar in 1805, an engagement that brought crippling defeat to the French Fleet and a heroic death to England’s beloved Admiral Horatio Nelson.
Zamoyski, Adam. 1812: Napoleon’s Fatal March on Moscow. London: HarperCollins, 2004. (JFE 04-8489)
A detailed account of Napoleon’s campaign against Russia in the fall of 1812, offering new evaluations of the Russian army response and the circumstances whereby Napoleon’s troops were defeated and destroyed.
Delderfield, R.F. The March of the Twenty-six; The Story of Napoleon’s Marshals. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1962. (D-13 8177)
A portrait of the generals whom Napoleon appointed to lead his armies and stage his military campaigns.
Palmer, Alan. Bernadotte: Napoleon’s Marshal, Sweden’s King. London: John Murray, 1990. (JFE 91-3440)
A biography of one of Napoleon’s most colorful Marshals—and rivals—and the man who was chosen by Sweden to replace their previously hereditary ruling dynasty. Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte (1763-1844) started his career as a soldier in the army of Louis XVI and ended as Carl XIV Johan, King of Sweden.
Young, Peter. Napoleon’s Marshals. Reading: Osprey Publishing, 1973. (JFE 74-1214)
Authoritative guide to the dress, ornamentation and field practices of Napoleon ’s leading generals.
Chartrand, Rene. Napoleonic Wars: Napoleon’s Army. London; Herndon, VA: Brassey’s, 1996. (JFG 97-128)
Part of the Brassey’s History of Uniforms series, with information on regimental dress, details, and colors for the French army.
Fletcher, Ian. Napoleonic Wars: Wellington’s Army. London; Herndon, VA: Brassey’s, 1996. (JFG 97-252)
Describes uniforms, details, and colors for the English army that opposed Napoleon.
Pericoli, Ugo. 1815: The Armies at Waterloo. New York: Scribner, 1973. (JFF 74-957)
Information on the military dress of Napoleon’s remaining Grande Armee, along with those of the English and their
Literature and Fiction
Napoleon did not foster the literary arts in the same way he did the fine arts. He opposed the freedom of speech espoused by literary figures and was unsympathetic to the two great writers of his era.
Vicomte Francois-René de Chateaubriand (1768-1817)
Atala (1801) short story.
Le Génie du christianisme (1802).
Regular contributor to Mercure de France 1800-1814.
Anne-Louise-Germaine Necker, Madame de Staël (1766-1817)
Delphine (1802) and Corinne (1807) are novels.
Her non-fiction work led to several exiles by Napoleon.
Chateaubriand and Mme de Staël were early leaders of French Romanticism in literature and modern criticism. However, Napoleon ignored Chateaubriand and actively disliked Mme de Staël, exiling her at various intervals during his reign. The literary arts in France flourished better after Napoleon’s reign ended. One notable novelist and critic, Stendhal (Henri Beyle 1783-1842), served in Napoleon’s army under the Commissariat branch, in the early part of his career. His experiences form a backdrop to the themes of his great works, The Charterhouse of Parma (1839) and The Red and the Black (1830). The Romantic Movement of the early nineteenth century guided the development of “Le Romantisme” in French literature, which would flower later on with the works of Théophile Gautier (1811-1872), Victor Hugo (1802-1885), and Alphonse-Marie-Louis de Prat de Lamartine (1790-1869).
Fiction about the Napoleonic Era
A number of later works have been produced that feature the First Empire of Napoleon.
Burgess, Anthony. Napoleon Symphony. 1974.
Cornwell, Bernard. Sharpe’s Trafalgar. 2001.
Part of the Richard Sharp series, various dates, mainly covering the wartime adventures of an English rifleman fighting the French during the Peninsular War.
The Company of Jehu. 1894.
The Last Great Dance on Earth. 2000.
Orczy, Emmuska, Baroness. The Bronze Eagle: A Story of the Hundred Days. c.1915.
The Retreat. 2004. a third installment will be forthcoming.
Selinko, Annemarie. Désirée. 1953.
Teegan, Thomas Henry. With the Grand Army to Moscow: An Historical Novel. 1900.
Tolstoy, Leo. War and Peace. 1865-9. The great classic.
Locating Journal Articles
A wealth of articles within the periodical literature can be found on Napoleon and his era. The following indexing and abstracting tools may be used to locate relevant articles on this subject in periodicals, collected works, and newspapers. For a complete description of these and other related tools, please visit the Library’s Selected Electronic Resources page, located on dedicated computers in Room 315, the Public Catalog Room and the Rose Main Reading Room, as well as in most of the divisions throughout the Library:
Academic Search Premier
Art Index Retrospective
Facts on File History Database
Nineteenth Century Masterfile
Social Sciences Abstracts
Selected Internet Sites
A wealth of information-in various guises-appears on the Internet. Web sites range from grandly conceived visual histories to subject-specific collections related to Napoleon and his place in history. As with many web sites, context and biases vary: viewers should be acutely aware of the lack of quality control for posted information. One may find anything from the latest conspiracy theories about Napoleon's death on St. Helena to surveys of decorative and commemorative collectibles. Obviously, some of the most impressive sites originate from France.
Royalty-World Royalty-Napoleon Bonaparte