Napoleon’s Retreat from Moscow

19 Sep, 2019 940 History of Europe

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how, in September 1812, Napoleon captured Moscow and waited a month for the Russians to meet him, to surrender and why, to his dismay, no-one came. Soon his triumph was revealed as a great defeat; winter was coming, supplies were low; he ordered his Grande Armee of six hundred thousand to retreat and, by the time he crossed back over the border, desertion, disease, capture, Cossacks and cold had reduced that to twenty thousand. Napoleon had shown his weakness; his Prussian allies changed sides and, within eighteen months they, the Russians and Austrians had captured Paris and the Emperor was exiled to Elba.

Play on BBC Sounds website


  • Janet Hartley 3 episodes
    Professor Emeritus of International History, LSE
  • Michael Rowe 2 episodes
    Reader in European History, King's College London
  • Michael Rapport 2 episodes
    Reader in Modern European History, University of Glasgow

Reading list

  • Borodino: Napoleon against Russia, 1812
    Christopher Duffy (Sphere, 1972) Google Books →
  • Citizen Emperor: Napoleon in Power 1799-1815
    Philip G. Dwyer (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013) Google Books →
  • Napoleon's Wars: An International History, 1803-1815
    Charles Esdaile (Penguin, 2008) Google Books →
  • The Napoleonic Wars, 1803-1815
    David Gates (Pimlico, 2003) Google Books →
  • Alexander I
    Janet M. Hartley (Longman, 1994) Google Books →
  • Russia and the Napoleonic Wars: War, Culture and Society, 1750-1850
    Janet M. Hartley, Paul Keenan, Dominic Lieven (eds.) (Palgrave, 2015) Google Books →
  • Russia Against Napoleon: The Battle for Europe, 1807 to 1814
    Dominic Lieven (Penguin, 2016) Google Books →
  • The Napoleonic Wars: A Very Short Introduction
    Mike Rapport (Oxford University Press, 2013) Google Books →
  • War and Peace
    Leo Tolstoy (trans. Anthony Briggs) (Penguin, 2016) Google Books →
  • 1812: Napoleon's Fatal March on Moscow
    Adam Zamoyski (Harper Perennial, 2005) Google Books →

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Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello, in September 1812, Napoleon captured Moscow and waited a month for the Russians to meet him, to surrender.