IVP - Andy Unedited

July 17, 2018

History More Interesting Than the Myths

Napoleon and Wellington are historically joined at the hip because of their epic encounter at Waterloo. Yet other apparent similarities are striking: both were born in the same year (1769), both were born of prominent fathers who died when the boys were in early adolescence, both had four brothers and three sisters, both spoke French as their second language, both were self-taught in military matters, both led their nations (Wellington as prime minister from 1828-30), they even shared two mistresses (though perhaps less remarkably Wellington picked them up after Napoleon's defeat), and one of Wellington's brothers even married the sister-in-law of the ex-wife of one of Napoleon's brothers.

But Napolean and Wellington.jpgin Napoleon and Wellington Andrew Roberts has not set out to offer a full-orbed dual biography. Rather his purpose is to compare and contrast Napoleon and Wellington especially as their lives and events led up to and followed Waterloo. In particular, he focuses on what the two thought of each other before and after 1815.

Perhaps because of Napoleon's outsized personality, genius, and accomplishments, historians have been prone to see the contrasts between the two adversaries in high relief. As one put it, "Whereas Napoleon consistently misunderstood and underrated Wellington, Wellington was never in doubt about the genius of Napoleon."

Roberts comments, "Yet the reality is not nearly so simple. History might not repeat itself, but historians repeat one another, and the myth has grown up of ludicrous Napoleonic over-confidence. This in turn almost for the sake of contrast, has spawned a mirror myth of Wellington's modesty and near-perfect gentlemanliness, always ready to accord Napoleon the first place in the hierarchy of generalship. It is these two myths that the present work sets out to dispel, for the truth is far less straightforward and much more interesting." (pp xxxi-xxxii).

To do so, Roberts largely follows Wellington's career and brings in Napoleon as needed to round out the larger context and to lead up to their confrontation in 1815. I was happy with that choice since I knew less of Wellington and since even summarizing Napoleon's life would have unbalanced the work. Wellington's campaign against French forces in Portugal and Spain (1808-13) was especially instructive in understanding his military mind and his approach to Waterloo.

No, Wellington was not always the consummate, self-effacing gentleman. Roberts's thesis (spoiler alert) is that Wellington did indeed always praise Napoleon publicly for his military prowess since to denigrate the emperor would be to tarnish Wellington's own reputation as the conqueror of the world's greatest general. In private, however, Wellington was quite critical of Napoleon's strategies and tactics especially in the Russian campaign as well as at Waterloo.

Napoleon, on the other hand, expressed considerable appreciation for Wellington and his victories prior to Waterloo. To put himself in a better light following 1815, however, he criticized Wellington and chalked up his victory to dumb luck and to the mistakes of Bonaparte's own underlings.

And who won history? Europe today more closely resembles Napoleon's vision of a united continent significantly influenced by a logical, organized Napoleonic legal code (though not under French hegemony) than it resembles Wellington's aristocratic sensibilities and a legal system based on precedent.

Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:03 AM | Comments

July 10, 2018

Around the World in 250 Pages

Derek Cooper's An Introduction to World Christian History overviews two thousand years not only at 30,000 feet but at 500 miles an hour. You better not blink or you will miss a century or two.

Continue reading "Around the World in 250 Pages"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:02 AM | Comments

June 19, 2018

Where Have All the Fundamentalists Gone?

We used to have fundamentalist Christians, but where are they now? I rarely hear anyone refer to themselves by that label. Do you?

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:09 AM | Comments (2)

May 23, 2018

Career Perspective (2): Finding Satisfaction

Tony loves teaching college students. Every time he is in front of a class and sees that wonderful moment of insight in the eyes of people in the room, he feels, This is what I was made for.

The problem is, he can't make a living doing this. More colleges are doing on-line courses. They are hiring fewer full-time professors and more part-time adjunct faculty. And even those positions are hard to come by. So he pieces together other jobs to pay the bills.

Continue reading "Career Perspective (2): Finding Satisfaction"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:08 AM | Comments

May 16, 2018

Career Perspective (1)

A friend said, "I have a number of coworkers who feel disappointed in the course their careers have taken. They've not succeeded or advanced as they had hoped. They feel that what they have to offer hasn't been fully utilized. What would you say to them?"

Continue reading "Career Perspective (1)"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:09 AM | Comments (1)

May 10, 2018

We Were Eight Years in Power

The dramatic pendulum swing from a President Obama to a President Trump has left analysts, both right and left, scrambling to understand what happened. In We Were Eight Years in Power, Ta-Nehisi Coates, who has become the premier commentator from Black America, responds by collecting eight articles he published in The Atlantic, one per year, during the Obama administration. To each he adds an extended preface which reflects on the strengths and weaknesses of each piece, and which looks forward to implications the ideas in each essay might have.

Continue reading "We Were Eight Years in Power"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:04 AM | Comments

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book cover"Some publishers tell you what to believe. Other publishers tell you what you already believe. But InterVarsity Press helps you believe," says J. I. Packer. Andy Le Peau and Linda Doll describe how this came to be a hallmark of InterVarsity Press in Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength, an anecdotal history spanning the sixty years from the founding of IVP in 1947 to the present day.