History Prize 1979

1979PrixGeorgesBlondGeorges BLOND, La Grande Armée, Paris, Éditions Robert Laffont Illustrated with 50 historical documents and 18 maps and plans. La Grande Armée, a true story that shows up close, from beginning to end, the unprecedented movement of the million men who, for ten years, swept all over Europe. Heroes and martyrs, looters (often including the leaders) in occupation and in captivity, deserters. The most motley crew – one third of foreigners, and sometimes more: including one-hundred-and-ninety foreign generals – and yet the most efficient in the world. Sometimes acclaimed, sometimes hated, tortured by guerrillas in Spain and killing in retaliation. Georges Blond shows the dreadful martyrdom of the wounded of the Grand Army, the convoys of agony, the orgy in Moscow on fire, the horror of the retreat, the long bone-jarring procession of carts, many filled with women – the wives, the mistresses, the prostitutes – which until the Campagne de France, followed the army. As he did in his bestsellers on Verdun, the Marne and the Second World War, Georges Blond takes us right into the centre of the action. We live the day-to-day life of these simple men, as much with their fatigue as with their courage endured this the most famous epic of history. We are also with their leaders, the marshals and the generals, who started from nothing and become famous and millionaires, whether traitors or loyal to Napoleon. And Napoleon in all this. A man like no other in his lifetime, still today deified or decried, the glory or the bane of France. We never lose sight of him in the exercise of his unquestionable genius as warlord, in the theatre where no man can lie, facing the death he must never fear.