#24 – The Invasion Of Russia (Part I)

On June 24, 1812, the Grande Armée of approximately 600,000 men, the largest army assembled up to that point in European history, crossed the river Neman and headed towards Moscow. In this episode, we focus on the first few months, and follow Napoleon as he captures Vilna, Vitebsk and Smolensk.

We examine why Napoleon was so confident that the campaign would be a short one and why he was so very, very wrong. We also discuss what was happening in the Russian camp and look at the political implications of their retreat.


#23 – The Road To Moscow

In this episode we explore the political events that resulted in Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812, the tragedy that formed the central events of Tolstoy’s War and Peace and which saw Napoleon raise the largest army in history up until that time, 500,000 – 700,000 men (historians vary on exactly how many there were).

Napoleon is often accused of being the instigator of this war (something Tolstoy, a Russian, was happy to suggest) but David and I examine the facts behind this perspective.

While this is a tragic and deeply moving period of Napoleonic history, it is also one of the most fascinating, both from a military and a humanist perspective.

Perhaps the best graphical representation of this unfortunate episode (or, in fact, one of the greatest use of informational graphics ever) is this image by French engineer Charles Minard.

Edward Tufte called it “the best statistical graphic ever drawn” and uses it as a prime example in The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. (source)


1815 Battle of Waterloo reenactment draws thousands

This story from the St Paul Tribune in Minnesota tells about a recent reenactment of the Battle Of Waterloo held on the site of the actual battle in Belgium:

History buffs from Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, Holland and elsewhere said the Waterloo commemoration is one of the most important events on their calendars. The actual anniversary of the battle was Monday but the event was on the weekend.

Napoleon’s Marengo sword sold

Napoleon's sword

The sword was carried by Napoleon — who was not yet emperor — into the battle of Marengo in June 1800, when he launched a surprise attack to push the Austrian army from Italy and seal France’s victory, sold Sunday for more than $6.4 million, an auction house said.

Read the full details here.

#22 – Au Revoir Josphine, Bonjour Marie-Louise and the King of Rome!

Welcome back! It’s been a long time between episodes. To celebrate our return, we have a very special guest co-host – Prof. Bob Packett from “History According To Bob”! Bob is the Godfather of History podcasting. It was his show that gave me the idea to start our little Napoleon podcast and we’re very excited about having him join us. If you have never listened to his show, we highly recommend it.

In this episode we cover some of the events that happened in Napoleon’s private life during the peace that lasted from Wagram in 1809 until The Sixth Coalition in 1812, including:

  • Napoleon’s divorce from Josephine
  • His attempts to wed Tsar Alexander’s sister Anna
  • His eventual marriage to Marie-Louise of Austria
  • The birth of his first legitimate son known as the King of Rome aka Napoleon II

At the end of the show we have provided a suggested bibliography for this period, thanks to a suggestion from listener Jackm over on the forums.


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By the way, we apologize for the delay in episodes – David is currently in Israel. But we plan to have a new episode with a very special guest out early June!

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