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Napoleon's Other War

Bandits, Rebels and their Pursuers in the Age of Revolutions


Michael Broers

The wars of Napoleon are among the best-known and most exciting episodes in world history. Less well known is the uproar the armies stirred up in their path, and even more, the chaos they left in their wake. The 'knock-on effect' of Napoleon's sweep across Europe went further than is often remembered: his invasion of Spain triggered the collapse of the Spanish Empire in Latin America, and his meddling in the Balkans destabilised the Ottomans. Many places had been riven with banditry and popular tumult from time immemorial, characteristics which worsened in the havoc wrought by the wars. Other areas had known relative calm before the arrival of the French in 1792, but even the most pacific societies were disrupted by these conflagrations.

Behind the battle fronts raged other conflicts, 'little wars' - the guerrilla (the term was born in these years) - and bigger ones, where whole provinces rose up in arms. Bandits often stood at the centre of these 'dirty wars' of ambushes, night raids, living hard in tough terrain, of plunder, rapine and early, violent death, which spread across the whole western world from Constantinople to Chile. Everywhere, they threw up unlikely characters - ordinary men who emerged as leaders, bandits who became presidents, priests who became warriors, lawyers who became murdering criminals. In studying these varying fortunes, Michael Broers provides an insight into a lost world of peasant life, a world Napoleon did so much to sweep away.

«Michael Broers writes with ... warmth and even compassion ... It makes for an enjoyable and illuminating book.» (Professor Alan Forrest, University of York)
«Michael Broers demonstrates in this lively and entertaining book that Napoleon’s ‘other war’ against draft dodgers, deserters, bandits, and guerrilla insurgents shaped Europe and the world as powerfully as conventional warfare ever did. This is a ‘tour de force’ of comparative history that very few scholars aside from Michael Broers could accomplish.» (Professor John Lawrence Tone, Georgia Institute of Technology)
«In this book Michael Broers addresses the dirty little wars engendered by conquest, revolutionary reform and military policy in the Napoleonic era. His grasp of the sources is solid; his writing is passionate. His book deserves to become a classic.» (Professor Clive Emsley, Open University)
«A brilliantly written and highly original contribution to a neglected but crucial aspect of Napoleonic Europe.» (Professor T.C.W. Blanning, University of Cambridge)
«(...) the book is a splendid addition to the literature, and all the more so as it is greatly enriched by comparative chapters on areas of Europe and the wider world that were never touched by the French armies, namely Spanish America and the Ottoman Balkans.» (Charles Esdaile, Literary Review)
«(...) this is an excellent and stimulating book, written with all the dashing prose of his mentor Richard Cobb, whom Broers warmly acknowledges.» (D.M.G. Sutherland, The Journal of Military History)
«Michael Broers has written a masterful study of banditry and insurgency in the Napoleonic age, one that in every way both complements and updates work by Eric Hobsbawm and Charles Esdaile. [...] This excellent study, well provided with maps and illustrations, should occupy pride of place on the desk of any student of modern-day insurgency and counter-insurgency.» (Alex Marshall, War in History)
«[An] outstanding work on war, state building, and banditry during the revolutionary era.» (Katherine B. Aaslestad, Journal of Social History, Spring 2013)