In this ambitious essay, Clayton Cardinal cogently argues that ambition helps explain both the rise and fall of a man who gave his name to an entire age: Napoleon. Having himself at an early age derided ambition, Napoleon soon came to self-consciously embody it, comparing himself favorably to, as Cardinal shows, “an Olympic athlete,” “a shooting star,” and “the envoy of the Grand Nation,” France. Napoleon’s desire to create what he called an “empire of the world,” however, ultimately to led to his ruin. Throughout the essay, Cardinal demonstrates strong command of the sources, which are interpreted with sophistication and nuance and seamlessly incorporated into the prose. Thanks to its clarity and concision, the writing is a pleasure to read.



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