If there was one man, other than Napoleon himself, who determined the course of the Napoleonic Wars, it was Jacques-Antoine-Hippolyte, comte de Guibert, the foremost military theorist in France from 1770 to his death in 1790. Taking in the full scope of the times, from the ideas of the Enlightenment to the passions of the French Revolution, Jonathan Abel’s Guibert is the first book in English to tell the remarkable story of the man who, through his pen and political activity, truly earned the title of Father of the Grande Armée.
In his Essai général de tactique, published in 1771, Guibert set forth the definitive institutional doctrine for the French army of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. But unlike many other martial theorists, Guibert, who served in the French Ministry of War from 1775 to 1777 and again from 1787 to 1789, was able to put his ideas into practice. Drawing on a wealth of primary source documents—including Guibert’s own papers and the letters and memoirs of his friends and associates—Jonathan Abel re-creates the temper of an era of great turbulence and remarkable creativity. More than a military theorist, Guibert was very much a man of his day; he attended salons, wrote poetry and plays, and was inducted into the Académie française. A fiery figure, he rose and fell from power, lived and loved fiercely, and died swearing that he would “find justice.”
In Abel’s account, Guibert does at last receive a measure of justice: a thorough, painstakingly documented picture of this complex man in the thick of extraordinary times, building the foundation for Napoleon's success between 1796 and 1807—and in significant ways, changing the course of European history.