Bonaparte, Nelson, and the Battle of the Nile
Email this review


Companion piece to a Discovery Channel documentary of the same title, this generalist overview of the Napoleonic wars offers little except a few pictures of “treasures” from the destroyed French fleet. The Battle of the Nile in 1798 was one of the pivotal events in the Napleonic wars, which pitted almost all of Europe against the threatening French army. Won by the British fleet (led by Horatio Nelson), the battle stopped Napoleon’s attempted conquest of Eygpt, then controlled by the Ottomans. Employing a main narrative heavily supplemented by sidebars, journalist Foreman and former Time-Life books editor Phillips attempt to portray Nelson and Napoleon as equals pitted against each other when a more historically accurate match-up would be Nelson and Admiral Franáois Paul de Brueys, who commanded the French fleet. The book lacks any coherent structure and only gets to the battle in the last 50 pages. Before that, the authors engage in a clichÇd retelling of such well-worn topics as Napleon and Josephine, Nelson’s early career, and the French Revolution. Though mostly written in the form of sidebars, these asides serve little purpose except to muddy all sense of historical context and lose track of the book’s subject. Foreman and Phillips are competent enough, but their work lacks any imagination or new scholarship. Those really interested in the Battle of the Nile would be far better served reading any of the recent biographies of Nelson. Underwater pictures (none of them very thrilling) with a little bit of narrative around them.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-56331-831-8
Page count: 216pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1999