Napoleon Bonaparte's rise to power was neither inevitable nor smooth; it was full of mistakes, wrong turns and pitfalls. During his formative years his identity was constantly shifting, his character ambiguous and his intentions often ill-defined. As a young and inexperienced general he covered up his defeats and exaggerated his victories, never hesitating to blame others for his failures and failings. He was, however, highly ambitious, and it was this ruthless drive that advanced his career and his social status. This book examines the extraordinary evolution of Napoleon's character and the means by which at the age of thirty he became head of the most powerful country in Europe: from his Corsican origins to his French education, from his melancholy youth to his involvement in Corsican political faction-fighting during the Revolution, and from his flirtation with the radicals of the French Revolution to his first military campaigns in Italy and Egypt - and the political-military coup that brought him to power in 1799. Philip Dwyer's study sheds new light on the darker aspects of Napoleon's character - his brooding obsessions and potential for violence - and also his passionate nature: his loves, his ability to inspire others and the capacity to realise his visionary ideas. One of the first truly modern politicians, Napoleon skilfully fashioned the image of himself that laid the foundation of the legend that endures to this day.