Many thanks in advance to Karl Pohrt and his great independent bookstore Shaman Drum for this party.
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Title: Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East
Author: Juan Cole
Location: Shaman Drum Bookshop
Time: Mon Oct 01, 4:00 PM
In this vivid and timely history, Juan Cole tells the story of Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt. Revealing the young general’s reasons for leading the expedition against Egypt in 1798 and showcasing his fascinating views of the Orient, Cole delves into the psychology of the military titan and his entourage. He paints a multi-faceted portrait of the daily travails of the soldiers in Napoleon’s army, including how they imagined Egypt, how their expectations differed from what they found, and how they grappled with military challenges in a foreign land. Cole ultimately reveals how Napoleon’s invasion, the first modern attempt to invade the Arab world, invented and crystallized the rhetoric of liberal imperialism.
Juan Cole, internationally respected historian, celebrated blogger, and Middle East expert, teaches history at the University of Michigan and is the former president of MESA. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
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Meanwhile, at the Napoleon’s Egypt blog, two letters from Frenchmen trapped in Cairo with Bonaparte.
One, whose author is not identified, declares a failure Bonaparte’s expedition to Salahiya to rescue the wealthy pilgrim caravan coming from Mecca from his nemesis, the Mamluk leader Ibrahim Bey. Bonaparte failed to rescue most of the caravan, and failed to trap or defeat Ibrahim, who escaped with much treasure and with the Ottoman viceroy, to Syria. Bonaparte’s own accounts of Salahiya (Salhieh) hardly depict a failure.
The other writer, an officer named Benoit Pistre (18th Dragoon Regiment), tells us of the desperation of the French soldiers on finding themselves in a country of adobe huts, desert and plague:
‘ From the slight sketch which I have given you of Egypt, you may easily conceive that the army is by no means pleased with this expedition, to a country of which the usage, diet, and excessive heat, are totally repugnant to our manner of living in Europe. The major part of the army is labouring under a diarrhea and ALTHOUGH VICTORIOUS, WILL TERMINATE ITS CAREER BY PERISHING MISERABLY, IF OUR GOVERNMENT PERSISTS IN ITS AMBITIOUS PROJECTS. Many officers are throwing up their commissions; and I freely confess to you, that I would also throw up mine, if I had the least prospect of obtaining any thing in France . . . ‘