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Juan Cole , Grover Gardner

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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 3.8 étoiles sur 5  22 commentaires
26 internautes sur 29 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Three quarters of the game... 19 décembre 2008
Par John Chamberlain - Publié sur
This book was difficult to rate. Where it was good, it was very good. Where it was bad, it was very bad. So, I compromised at three stars.

At first I almost didn't buy it. The topic was intriguing because I have an interest in the Napoleonic wars. But I looked on the back cover and found five intellectually bankrupt quotes from academic reviewers who were, directly or indirectly, trying to draw parallels between Napoleon's invasion of Egypt and the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Only a politically fevered college sophomore, or an academic desperate to be a star at their next wine and cheese party, could make such an equivalency, moral or otherwise. So, I feared for what might be in the book. I bought it anyway, and was pleasantly surprised by most of it.

Cole does an excellent job of taking you through (part of) Napoleon's Egyptian campaign. Using accounts drawn from contemporary journals, he weaves together numerous tales of adventure and misadventure into an interesting whole. At the same time, he provides genuine insight into the complex clash of two very different cultures. That's the good part.

The bad part comes at the end of the book.

Try to imagine yourself listening to a detailed account of a football game; then, when the commentator gets to the fourth quarter, he says: "Then they ran a bunch of plays and everyone went home." That is basically what Cole does to the reader.

The siege of El Arish, the capture and sack of Jaffa and of Gaza, are handled in THREE SENTENCES! The siege of Acre gets a whole paragraph; but the two-month battle, in which a British Naval officer defeated Napoleon on land (!), is reduced to "[Cezzar Pasha] enjoyed naval backing from the British."


And that doesn't even get us to Napoleon's disastrous retreat from Acre (one sentence), the British landing and battle at Abuqir Bay (two sentences), the dramatic deaths of Murad Bey and of General Kleber (one sentence each), and so on.

If three quarters of Napoleon's Egyptian campaign story is all you're interested in, this book is for you. It's excellent. But if you want to hear the fourth quarter of the game as well, you'll need to try another commentator.
44 internautes sur 52 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 What a read! 15 août 2007
Par Alan J. White - Publié sur
I'm a recent graduate of UC Santa Cruz (History of the Islamic World '05), and I've completed additional course work in Arabic at the University of Jordan in Amman. As a somewhat informed reader, Juan Cole's new book appears to me to be a refreshing synthesis of modern historiographical trends, with a classic writing style. When I pre-ordered the book in July, I had only been familiar with Cole's writing in his blog Informed Comment (a staple in my morning reading). While I love his commentary and analysis in the blog format, I felt compelled to write and comment on how wonderfully surprised I was by his historical writing, as exemplified by this book. The research and the narrative style compliment each other quite nicely, and it's a pleasure to read. Perhaps it's time for me to purchase Sacred Space and Holy War?
21 internautes sur 26 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Hubris and flight! 7 juillet 2008
Par Brian Comnes - Publié sur
I recently finished this book. I liked it a lot. I would recommend it to anyone seeking a longer view on relations and their consequences between Europe and the Middle East. Professor Cole's has done a great job of capturing the essence of this story which rings frightfully true today - a self absorbed megalomaniacal leader, telling fibs to his troops about the noble reasons for going, making major blunders along the way (Nelson burned and sank the French fleet - oops), presiding over the degradation of his own troops, and then total bewilderment as to why these "Mohammedans" just don't "get it", in spite of lavish French (occupier) spectacle followed with mostly vain attempts to co-opt other portions of the local population, ending with a rapid personal withdrawal from the whole affair leaving it to others to clean up the mess left behind. Sound familiar? In any case, the book is well written and documented thoroughly with source material. If I was to improve the book I would have added an epilogue as to the consequences of this campaign to Napoleon's imminent ascension in French life.
37 internautes sur 48 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A lovely read, timely too 27 août 2007
Par Agnostic - Publié sur
Napoleon had the most advanced, highly trained, effective and best armed army in his known universe. He was, in a way, the leader of an economic and military superpower. Then he invaded and occupied Egypt. In almost every battle, his superior forces won. In almost every deliberate move, his forces persevered and succeeded. Except for one pesky problem. He was stuck in the muddle east, where no invader is safe, no matter how much larger, richer and more superior their tactics and weapons were.

Sounds familiar? It should About 10 pages into the book you get this sense that the same description, the same arguments, the same approach was used by Team Bush. Yet, clearly, such a comparison was not Prof. Cole's purpose or intent.

I had little interest in reading about Napoleon's Little Egyptian invasion. In fact, what little I knew about it bored me. Then, I read this book. It is an eye opener. It is a serious, informative, and enjoyable read, while never lecturing or sounding like a college text.

Cole has a nice touch, and treats every subject he writes on with respect and a scholar's vision. This book is no different.
Whether you are interested in current affairs, and the IraqNam fiasco, or whether you love history, or even if you simply want a good read, I strongly recommend this book.
10 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Napoleon's Egypt or Egypt's Napoleon? 23 septembre 2007
Par Scott Banks - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
Both a military and a cultural history, and for good reason. After Napoleon's infantry squares and artillery techniques prove absolutely lethal to fast and courageous Ottoman cavalry, the war becomes an occupation, and the occupation will not be decided by military might alone. It is a joy to watch the gifted and ruthless Napoleon gamely struggling to master occupation politics in a cultural setting of which he has only the dimmest grasp, and to watch his opponents outwit him using time-tested strategies of resistance while making up a few of their own.

Unforgettable moments range from the ridiculous to the macabre. Napoleon lets word get out that he might convert to Islam and bring his army with him, in an attempt to curry favor among Muslim clerics, but his army quickly nixes the idea, as the French were unwilling to endure circumcision and give up wine. French officers discover the pleasures and perils of harems. And in a remote desert fortification, one third of Napoleon's soldiers contract a local disease that causes their eyelids to flip inside out and they go blind. An attack comes, and the blind soldiers are pushed to the front by their comrades and told not to fire until the enemy closes to 75 yards.

Juan Cole is a mideast expert and knows Arabic, so he well understands the Egyptian context and can show how locals perceived the French as well as the reverse. He enjoys the occasional victories of the Egyptian underdogs while at the same time retaining empathy for the French as they try to adapt to what becomes a terrible predicament.
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