Wednesday, May 29, 2024

LSUS professor Mikaberidze wins Polish Napoleon award for global history book

by BIZ Magazine

SHREVEPORT – LSUS history professor Dr. Alexander Mikaberidze was awarded the “Złota Pszczoła” (Golden Bee) Literary Prize for the Polish translation of his book The Napoleonic Wars: A Global History.

Mikaberidze’s two-volume work expands upon the traditional French/British-centric viewpoint of the era and analyzes the global impact of Napoleon’s efforts to build a vast empire.

His original work published in 2020 from the Oxford University Press and has been translated into multiple languages since, including Polish in 2023.

The honor is governed by the Pultusk Center for the Study of the Napoleonic Époque and the Napoleon.org.pl, the leading Polish internet portal for the study of the Revolutionary Era.

“My goal was to provide a comprehensive overview of the global scope of the conflict between 1792 and 1815,” Mikaberidze said. “This period in European history was not isolated from the rest of the world.

“It’s crucial to recognize that the seismic shifts originating in France in 1789 reverberated globally.”

One of those shifts was the Louisiana Purchase, an 1803 deal that nearly doubled the size of a fledging United States that was barely a quarter-century old.

France attempted to be the preeminent power in the Americas, West and South Africa, throughout the Mediterranean, the Ottoman Empire, Iran, India, Indonesia, and the Philippines among other locales.

“I spend time in the book examining Britain’s schemes in South America, Russian expansion in the Caucasus, and Anglo-French-Russian competition in the Middle East,” Mikaberidze said. “I do discuss Napoleon’s campaign in Europe, but I also want the reader to pay attention to (English governor-general) Richard Wellesley’s ambitions in India, (English admiral William Drury’s) squadron in Macao, Sweden’s lost opportunity at Oravais, and the Egyptian Mamluks’ fateful decision to attend a reception at the Citadel of Cairo.

“To truly grasp this era’s impact, one must consider the broader global dynamics, including the aspirations of South American patriots, Sino-European relations, French-English-Spanish-American competition in North America, and the complex diplomatic interplay among Britain, Russia, and France in Iran and the Ottoman Empire.”

While Mikaberidze’s book was eligible for the award because of its Polish translation, Poland does play a global role in France’s empire.

A significant number of Polish residents relocated to France after the Third Partition of Poland in 1795, which divided the Poland-Lithuania state among Prussia, Russia and the Habsburg monarchy.

The Polish Legion of the French army was formed in 1797, which came to “symbolize the hopes of Polish patriots for the revival of Polish sovereignty.”

“The Polish legionnaires participated in almost every Napoleonic campaign, including overseas – thousands died in Haiti,” Mikaberidze said. “They earned a reputation for their dedication and combat skills.

“Following victories over Prussian and Russian forces, Napoleon established a semi-independent Polish state (The Duchy of Warsaw). This was a significant, albeit partial, step toward restoration of Polish sovereignty.”

The Golden Bee prize is Mikaberidze’s second, winning the 2019 award for the Polish translation of Berezina 1812: Napoleon’s Hollow Victory. After the French army’s invasion of Russia is halted by the Russian winter and by Russian forces, Napoleon leads a chaotic retreat back across Eastern Europe, which included crossing the Berezina River in modern day Belarus.

While Napoleon is able to escape with the core of his army and weapons after the Russians seemingly had the French trapped, the French suffered heavy casualties crossing the icy river.

Poland falls back into Russia’s hands following The Congress of Vienna in 1815, not gaining independence until the conclusion of World War I.

Mikaberidze’s English translation of The Napoleonic Wars: A Global History won the Gilder Lehrman Military History Prize and the Society of Military History’s Distinguished Book Award in 2021.

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