This book is about a major historical figure, Napoleon III, and a political regime. It examines how Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte (nephew of the first Napoleon) was able to secure election as President of the Republic and subsequently to launch a coup d'etat to establish a Second Empire. It then considers the ways in which power was exercised by the new imperial regime. Later, apparent stability led Napoleon III to engage in a difficult process of transition towards a more liberal regime; but at the point of success the decision was taken to go to war against Prussia which resulted in a catastrophic defeat and the destruction of his regime. This is a most thoroughly researched book on the Second Empire, which makes a contribution to our knowledge of a vitally important period of French history following the 1848 revolution and the intense mid-century crisis.