"My system has changed - no more war, no more conquests," Napoleon announced after his escape from Elba in 1815. In the space of what is now known as the Hundred Days, the deposed French emperor was to demonstrate that nothing had changed. Only forty-six, he still possessed the ambition that made Europe quake at the news of his return to France, the magnetism that made men offering undying devotion swarm to his side, and the military genius that could plan, execute, and very nearly win a brilliant campaign against vastly superior odds.
The battle that ended the career of the greatest conqueror of modern times was Waterloo. National Book Award winner J. Christopher Herold, a lifelong Napoleon scholar, tells the story of Waterloo with special emphasis on the emperor's role. But it is also the story of the Duke of Wellington, who led a mixed force of British, Belgian, Dutch, and Hanoverian troops in a masterly defensive operation.
Like all military contests, Waterloo was a series of blunders and misunderstandings mixed with acts of heroism, timidity, and endurance. But because it permanently shattered Napoleon's dreams of conquest, Waterloo has a special place as one of the decisive battles in world history.