Napoleon's attack on Egypt in 1798 was the first on a Middle Eastern country by a Western power in modern times. With 335 ships and 40,000 men, it was the largest long-distance seaborne force the world had ever seen. Napoleon's assault was intended to be much more than a colonial adventure, however, for he took with him over one hundred and fifty scientists, mathematicians, artists and writers - a 'Legion of Culture' - with a view to bringing Western civilization to 'backward' Egypt.
Ironically, what these intellectuals discovered in Egypt would transform our knowledge of Western civilization and form the basis of Egyptology. But there were also setbacks. Nelson's destruction of the French fleet at the Battle of the Nile apparently put an end to Napoleon's secret plans to follow in the footsteps of Alexander the Great and invade India.
Napoleon was just twenty-eight when he invaded Egypt and it was an episode which contained in embryo many seminal events of his later career and set the standard for his brilliant, ambitious and ultimately disastrous career.
Recommend this book
Add your recommendation
Only registered users can recommend books. Please use the buttons below to either create a new account, or sign-in to an existing account.
Paul Strathern's enthralling description of this bizarre imperial adventure reads like Conrad's Heart of Darkness...as a piece of storytelling, it is a masterpiece - Daily Telegraph
To begin with, the book leaps off the shelf-display into the hands: the dustjacket is a remarkably fine reproduction of a painting of Napoleon...This is an illuminating and most engaging book - Spectator
Superb... Strathern tells the appalling tale of the forced marches across endless deserts...with commendable gusto - Sunday Telegraph
An ambitious and wonderfully detailed saga - Financial Times
This is popular narrative history at its best - Independent on Sunday
A comprehensive and gripping read, as great an overview of war and hubris as can be managed in 400 pages - Scotland on Sunday
A well-written, fast-paced narrative... This book is a welcome and readable addition to the ever-growing library of books about this French colossus - BBC History Magazine
As a stirring narrative of doomed military endeavour, his book could hardly be bettered - Sunday Times
His account of the 6 week odyssey to Alexandria provides an intimate portrait of the squalid, fetid life on board eighteenth century ships, and his description of the successive stages of the expedition are well-judged. He also captures the tensions of the occupation with skill - Herald
Paul Strathern studied philosophy at Trinity College, Dublin. He has lectured in philosophy and mathematics. He is a Somerset Maugham prize-winning novelist; the author of two series of books - Philosophers in 90 Minutes and The Big Idea: Scientists who Changed the World; The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance; and, most recently, has written Mendeleyev's Dream (shortlisted for the Aventis Science Book Prize) and Dr. Strangelove's Game: A History of Economic Genius.