History of War


Between 1798-99, Napoleon Bonaparte experienced one of the most dramatic campaigns in his long military career. Then a general in the French Army, he led an invasion of Egypt and a subsequent campaign into Syria and Palestine that propelled his career to new heights. His time in the Middle East has since been viewed as an intoxicating blend of heroic romance and huge bloodshed, that was ultimately a costly adventure.

For Adam Zamoyski, a bestselling author of Napoleonic history, Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign was a crucial episode that set him on the path to ruling France. However, he also believes that Napoleon’s role, motives and actions during this experience have been misunderstood. Zamoyski reveals a confident young Napoleon who was ambitious and occasionally ruthless but also idealistic, religiously tolerant and hungry for both knowledge and power.

A chance for glory

Despite the fame that Napoleon gained in Egypt, the plan for the campaign reflected his less powerful position in 1798, “Invading Egypt wasn’t his idea and he wasn’t emperor of France – he was just a general. It was the French government – the Directory – whose decision it was to send him to Egypt and they did this for two reasons,” Zamoyski explains.

“[First], France had lost her Caribbean colonies to Britain and was short of colonial goods. It seemed a good idea to replace these western colonies, which they had no way of recapturing, by taking Egypt. They thought it could supply all of the same produce and was far closer to home in the Mediterranean Sea, which they largely controlled. If France could take Egypt she might be able to resupply and indeed reconquer the former colonies they had lost. It would also threaten Britain’s position in India, which the French reckoned accounted for a large percentage of its global power.

“There was also the need to

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