Known collectively as the 'Great War', for over a decade the Napoleonic Wars engulfed not only a whole continent but also the overseas possessions of the leading European states. A war of unprecedented scale and intensity, it was in many ways a product of change that acted as a catalyst for upheaval and reform across much of Europe, with aspects of its legacy lingering to this very day. There is a mass of literature on Napoleon and his times. Yet there are only a handful of scholarly works that seek to cover the Napoleonic Wars in their entirety, and fewer still that place the conflict in any broader framework. This study redresses the balance. Drawing on recent findings and applying a 'total' history approach, it explores the causes and effects of the conflict, and places it in the context of the evolution of modern warfare. It reappraises the most significant and controversial military ventures, including the war at sea and Napoleon's campaigns of 1805-9. The study gives an insight into the factors that shaped the war, setting the struggle in its wider economic, cultural, political and intellectual dimensions.
David Gates is Deputy Director and Senior Fellow of the Centre for Defence and International Security Studies at the University of Lancaster. He is the author of The Spanish Ulcer, and lives in Lancashire.