With the possible exception of the American Civil War, it was the largest and most destructive clash of organized armies during the entire 19th century: France’s invasion of Russia in 1812. Much has been written about this famous event, including Tolstoy’s War and Peace–often hailed as the greatest novel ever written–and now I’ve decided to try to throw a rope around it on my Second Decade history podcast. Episode 10, “Napoleon in Russia, Part I,” is the first installment of a projected three-part series deconstructing this amazing conflict and trying to analyze its motives, its twists and turns, and its effect on world history. Episode 10 went up late Sunday night.
Second Decade is on iTunes, here; it’s on TuneIn, here; you can access it directly on the Libsyn page for it, here; or, perhaps the easiest way, click this link for an embedded player that will open in your browser.
Episode 10: Napoleon in Russia, Part I, begins with a fateful meeting that occurred in 1807, five years before the big war: Napoleon, Emperor of France, recently victorious at the Battle of Friedland, held a summit meeting with the Russian Tsar Alexander I on a raft on the Niemen River. At that meeting Alexander, formerly France’s enemy, pledged to join Napoleon as his ally. Five years later, in the summer of 1812, French troops crossed that same Niemen River to begin the brutal and destructive invasion of Russia–an event that Tolstoy called “opposed to human reason and human nature.” How did these former friends fall out, and what made the coming conflict ultimately inevitable? These are the questions on the table in Episode 10.
I’m very happy to be doing this series, which was one of the first subjects I ever wrote down when I began planning the podcast last fall. The story of the conflict between France and Russia is far more than just a military story or pins on a map. I think it’s a very human story, and one that’s quite tragic because it could so easily have been avoided. It’s one of the great examples in history of what historian Barbara Tuchman called “the march of folly.” Having read War and Peace years ago, I’ve always been fascinated by the subject, and getting to do it in podcast form has been very interesting. Parts I & III are in the works!
Episode 9 of the podcast had the biggest response to Second Decade up to that point in time, and Episode 10 has already surpassed it. The listenership for the show continues to grow. If you like the show, please rate and review it on iTunes–it’ll help more people find it. As always, thanks so much for listening.