Cover: Empire of Chance: The Napoleonic Wars and the Disorder of Things, from Harvard University PressCover: Empire of Chance in HARDCOVER

Empire of Chance

The Napoleonic Wars and the Disorder of Things

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Product Details


$51.00 • £40.95 • €46.00

ISBN 9780674967649

Publication Date: 03/10/2015


336 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

30 halftones


Excellent… Engberg-Pedersen ranges over military theory, literature, philosophy, and cartography, as he traces the conceptual impact of Napoleon’s victories. In each of his discussions, the focus is on how the lived experience of war, and especially defeat, informed received ideas about how to fight… Engberg-Pedersen is a charming analyst of a complex subject.—Andre van Loon, The Weekly Standard

One of the best books I’ve read in an age… It’s a stunning achievement: beautifully written, meticulously argued, bristling with ideas and substantive insights.—Derek Gregory, geographical imaginations (

Empire of Chance: The Napoleonic Wars and the Disorder of Things is impressive both in its style and scope and in its penetration of difficult subject matters. The author argues cogently that the Napoleonic Wars motivated a shift in epistemological paradigms. He pays particular attention to the representation of space and parses the theoretical and aesthetic consequences of the transition from siege warfare to mobile armies, from geometry to topography. This is truly a wonderful book.—Elisabeth Krimmer, University of California, Davis

Engberg-Pedersen’s book can be characterized as an epistemological seismograph, registering, recording, and evaluating the tremors that the Napoleonic warfare sent through many fields of knowledge: military science, literature, philosophy, pedagogy, historiography, and cartography. It detects a radical transformation of the order of things in the period around 1800. But moving beyond Foucault, Engberg-Pedersen argues that this transformation installs not simply history, but chance as the organizing principle of modernity. He substantiates this argument with hitherto little known historical material (e.g. game design and military cartography), as well as with perceptive readings of canonical literary texts ranging from Tristram Shandy to vintage nineteenth-century European novels. All this is done in a style both lucid and elegant.—Chenxi Tang, University of California, Berkeley

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