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The Astonishing Adventure of General Boulanger, published in 1971, was Harding's only biography of a French general.
Reviews of The Astonishing Adventure of General Boulanger
"Brisk, knowing and often very funny." Time Magazine







The book
Although the Boulanger (1837 - 1891) affair had almost as seismic an effect on France as the Dreyfus case, it has received little of the attention it deserves from English historians.  Harding's skilful analysis reveals a character of absorbing personality.  Boulanger's dash and leadership endeared him to the men he led.  He was equally adored by women, who were an easy prey to the magnetic charm and handsome looks of a relentless Casanova.  With sympathetic irony and no little wit, Harding traces the ill-starred journey that started in Brittany and took Boulanger to Paris, London and the Channel Islands, before ending so miserably in a cemetery at Ixelles.  As we follow Boulanger's exploits through the fading splendour of the Second Empire and into the riotous early days of the Third Republic, we witness the unfolding of more than twenty vivid years of French public life at its most turbulent.  Utilising material never before published, Harding's cool, elegant style succeeds in clarifying the tortuous pattern of nineteenth-century French politics, which are apt to baffle even the most dedicated Francophile.   

The man
General Georges Boulanger, the flamboyant son of a Welsh mother and a Breton father, had a meteoric army career.  He fought superbly in Algeria, Italy, Cochin China and the Siege of Paris, was was a general soon after he was forty.  Entering politics at the invitation of Clemenceau, he quickly became the most idolised man in the country.  Soon his immense popularity threatened the very existence of the government and of the Third Republic itself.  He could have made himself ruler of France with far greater powers than General de Gaulle ever dreamed of.  In 1889, the French government issued a warrant for Boulanger's arrest for conspiracy and treasonable activity, after Boulanger was successfully elected as a deputy for Paris, and he fled the country.  Two years later Boulanger committed suicide.