Episode 495 – Ruth Scurr

With her wonderful new biography, Napoleon: A Life Told In Gardens And Shadows (Liveright Books), Ruth Scurr offers up a new approach to Napoleon and our shifting understanding of the natural world. We get into the image of Napoleon as gardener and how she marked his history through gardens, how her conception of him changed over the course of writing the book, the need to avoid “taking sides” with her book, her focus on how Napoleon affected the people around him, why we need to let go of the Great Man approach to history, and why the notion of a ‘Definitive Biography’ is a lie. We also talk about how she became a biographer without developing a ‘Scurr-doctrine,’ how she fell into her amazing auto/biography of John Aubrey, the similarities between how Aubrey & I collect lives, the constraints of contemporary/authorized biographies, what it meant to finish her Napoleon biography in the early pandemic days (which meant missing trips to Elba & Waterloo), whether she’ll ever visit St. Helena, what sort of garden she prefers, and more. Follow Ruth on Twitter • More info at our site • Support The Virtual Memories Show via Patreon or Paypal

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