The Man, the Myth, the Legend


Got a spare 300 or so minutes? That's about five hours. If you have - and are interested in history - then prepare to sit yourself down in front of the TV and get an in-depth portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte and the era named after him.

The six-video series, Napoleon: the Man, the Myth, the Legend, is a superb examination of Bonaparte's life and career and is guaranteed to teach something new to Napoleonic buffs.

It has the usual format for these types of documentaries - good narration, excellent experts, film footage and re-enactments - but Napoleon offers the viewer something most do not, and that is time.

Napoleon has the length to be able to fill in many details on important matters and not just say the bare facts, but has the experts go into little anecdotes about incidents and give a broader insight into what was going on in the period.

We should mention the experts include Professor Tim Blanning, Professor Jeremy Black, J David Markham, Alan Rooney and Digby Smith. These guys know their stuff and it is quite nice to watch the different personal views of Bonaparte coming through.

The series has been broken up into six broad themes - The Early Years, The Early Campaigns, Imperial Zenith, The Spanish Ulcer, Disaster in Russia and Waterloo - The Final Curtain - and this allows for a lot of connected information to be easily absorbed. Click here for series details.

Each episode features large-scale authentic battle reconstructions, extracts from diaries, letters and memoirs, easy-to-follow maps and graphics, as well as rare images.

If there is a slight moan to be made about Napoleon it is the overuse of film footage from Sergei Bondarchuk's War and Peace.

Just about every incident is backed up by scenes from that great movie and, if everything were to do with Austerlitz or the 1812 Invasion of Russia that would be fine. But to have the narrator talk about executing plotters while showing the scene where Moscow's incendiaries are being shot is stretching it a little.

Even for people, like myself, who know a little bit about the era the Napoleon series offers many new things of interest. Little reminders of things you might have read and had forgotten, or reminders to go and investigate the issues a bit more deeply.

One would suggest this is a must-have for history teachers and Napoleonic buffs alike. Just perfect for the home library - when all that is on offer on the Idiot Box is dross.




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