Epic in scale, War and Peace delineates in graphic detail events leading up to Napoleon's invasion of Russia, and the impact of the Napoleonic era on Tsarist society, as seen through the eyes of five Russian aristocratic families.
Portions of an earlier version having been serialized in the magazine The Russian Messenger between 1865 and 1867, the novel was first published in its entirety in 1869. Newsweek in 2009 ranked it top of its list of Top 100 Books.
Tolstoy himself, somewhat enigmatically, said of War and Peace that it was "not a novel, even less is it a poem, and still less an historical chronicle."
War and Peace is famously long for a novel (though not the longest by any means). It is subdivided into four books or volumes, each with subparts containing many chapters.
Tolstoy got the title, and some of his themes, from an 1861 work of Proudhon: La Guerre et la Paix. Tolstoy had served in the Crimean War and written a series of short stories and novellas featuring scenes of war. He began writing War and Peace in the year that he finally married and settled down at his country estate. During the writing of the second half of the book, after the first half had already been written under the name "1805", he read widely, acknowledging Schopenhauer as one of his main inspirations, although he developed his own views of history and the role of the individual within it.