Between Napoleon and Tsar Alexander I

There are 2 excellent books on the war between Napoleon and Tsar Alexander I.

Zamoyski ‘s book was published in 2004. It is 644 pages thick. Lieven’ s book was published in 2009 and 618 pages thick.

Zamoyski focus is on Napoleon’s campaign to invade Russia culminating in the seizure of Moscow. Moscow in 1812 had a population of 270,184. {p 296 Zamoyski}. Unfortunately for Napoleon the Russians burnt Moscow to prevent its buildings from being used as shelter and the granaries and kept on retreating from giving battle. Napoleon had no choice but to retreat as winter was approaching.

During the retreat temperature dropped to – 30 degree Celsius on 30 Nov {p 482}.

Cannibalism was practised due to extreme hunger. {p 484}.

Was the Russian decision to avoid battles and to suck in Napoleon a deliberate strategy? Zamoyski does not think so. His book posits that the retreat was a necessity as the French were better soldiers and Napoleon a better general. {p 125}

Lieven disagrees. {p 525}. Lieven’ book covered a larger time frame. His analysis is clear. Zamoyski shies away from detailed analysis. His focus is to give the factual narratives of the campaign. Overall, Lieven’s book is better. It has better maps. There is also a useful appendix on the Russian army generals and the armies commanded by each of these generals. A surprising omission is a similar list on the French Grande Armee!

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