Laws and sausages, we know, are better not seen in the making; and neither are ‘black ops’. Waterloo may have been won on the playing fields of Eton, and Trafalgar on the dunes near Burnham Thorpe, but Britain’s secret war against Napoleon was won in less wholesome places. ‘This is a book about propaganda, spying and covert operations… a very modern story of secret committees, slush funds, assassination,’ writes Tim Clayton, whose Waterloo: Four Days that Changed Europe’s Destiny was by far the most scholarly of the many volumes produced for the bicentenary. And what an astonishing story it all is, alternately inspiring and disturbing, a challenging addition to the Napoleonic canon.
Yet as the historian Tim Clayton shows in this well-researched and well-written book, British ministers put an extraordinary amount of time, effort and money between 1800 and 1804 into trying to assassinate Napoleon Bonaparte, even though we were at peace with France for more than 12 months of that period... Clayton’s investigation into the multifarious plots that the British government fomented to try to bring down France’s First Consul breaks new ground, going much deeper into the subject than any previous account.