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1812: Napoleon's Fatal March on Moscow


Author Adam Zamoyski

The saga of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia and the catastrophic retreat from Moscow has fascinated not only military historians; Tolstoy’s War and Peace demonstrates the dramatic appeal of those events at a universal human level. This is the story of how the most powerful man on earth met his doom, and how the greatest fighting force ever assembled was wiped out.
By 1810 Napoleon was master of Europe, defied only by Britain, which he could not defeat because he had no navy. His intention was to destroy Britain through a total blockade, the Continental System. But Tsar Alexander of Russia now refused to apply the blockade, and Napoleon decided to bring him to heel.
Napoleon quickly realised that nemesis awaited him, and the events of 1812 had a colossal impact on the fate of Europe: a great patriotic surge helped turn the Russians into a nation (hence Tchaikovsky’s ‘1812’ overture) and led them to reject Western values; the Germans began their fateful ‘Prussification’; the French lost their cultural dominance. And Napoleon’s legend – as man of destiny – began to exert its insidious fascination.

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