Frederick Kagan
The End of the Old Order: Napoleon & Europe, 1801-1805.
Da Capo, 774 pages, $40

The shelf of Napoleonic literature is not bare. It seems there is hardly any corner unexamined, and yet each season brings a notable book or two. Occasionally it is a groundbreaking study like Isser Woloch’s Napoleon and His Collaborators: The Making of a Dictatorship (2001). More often it is a useful primary source like At Wellington’s Right Hand: The Letters of Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Alexander Gordon (2003) or a finer synthesis of an old topic like Stephen Englund’s Napoleon: A Political Life (2004) or a microscopic examination like Peter Trew’s new Rodney and the Breaking of the Line.

What is rare are books like Frederick Kagan’s End of the Old Order. It is not the size, though the book is notable for being 750-plus pages and just the first of...

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