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Adieu Bonaparte

Robert Solé's new account of Napoleon's Egyptian expedition seems set to become the standard history of Egypt's short-lived French occupation, writes David Tresilian

The involvement of Napoleon Bonaparte, at the time only an army general, in the French conquest of Egypt between 1798 and 1801 was in some respects unique. It was unique, first, because Napoleon's ambitions were otherwise restricted to Europe, and the Egyptian expedition was the only occasion on which France attempted to extend its long struggle for mastery of Europe beyond European shores. And it was unique, too, because Napoleon, known for his empire-building within Europe but not beyond, laid the foundations while in Egypt for the subsequent transformation of the country under Mohamed Ali, largely putting paid through his campaigns in Egypt, Syria and Palestine to Mameluke power and weakening that of the Ottomans.

How all this came about and its effects on both France and Egypt is the subject of Bonaparte à la conquête de l'Egypte (Bonaparte and the Conquest of Egypt) by the Egyptian-born French journalist Robert Solé. Written with the general reader in mind like Solé's many other works on Egyptian themes, the book provides a perfect introduction to its subject and draws on the most recent research.

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