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Old December 6th, 2017, 06:05 PM   #1

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Jean Tulard, Napoleon: The myth of the Saviour


Original title: Napoleon ou le mythe du sauveur. I'm reading the german translation "Der Mythos des Retters".

As it's been suggested in another thread that I should brush up the little knowledge I have of the Napoleonic era by reading more, and as I saw several people had recommended this book, I thought I should give it a try. Now I hope for those same people to give their opinion and hopefully explain things to me whenever I get stuck.

So far I've read through chapter 3. I can already tell that Tulard has a very different approach to the story of Napoleon's life than for example Andrew Roberts. The picture he paints of Napoleon's youth and of the beginning of his career is a lot darker, and he does not spare the reader several lengthy excerpts taken from Napoleon's attempts at gloomy prosa fiction. (Well, at least it's not poems.)

Edit: One minor question I do have already. In part I, chapter 1, Napoleon is back in Corsica from Sept. 15 1786 to Sept. 12 1787 and has to occupy himself with financial matters. There is one sentence I don't quite get: "The disappearance of archdeacon Lucien, Napoleon's uncle, who had prudently managed the Bonapartes' financial matters, was noticeable" or something to that effect. What dies "disappearance" mean here? Where had the archdeacon gone to?

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Old December 7th, 2017, 06:59 AM   #2

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Update: I have now read up to the Egyptian campaign (which is not described in-depth and, in my opinion, a little too positively - was the French occupation really a "heyday" for Egypt, i.e., for the Egyptians?).

A general problem I have with the book is that, at least in my german edition, I have on several occasions read apparent direct quotes that I cannot find a source for. And occasionally I find it hard to distinguish between historical fact and personal opinion of the author, particularly when the motives of Napoleon's Egyption campaign are questioned.
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Old December 7th, 2017, 07:27 AM   #3

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This review of the English edition is not very enthusiastic:
Napoleon: The Myth of the Saviour / An Encyclopedia of Napoleon's Europe | History Today

A comment on Amazon fr:

"Napoléon Bonaparte est observé ici avec un regard sans pitié ni concession. Le personnage devenu un mythe est en fait un homme comme les autres avec ses défauts et ses qualités.
On s'aperçoit en tout cas que ce que disait Henri Guillemin à son sujet était vrai. Il ne faut pas trop fantasmer sur ce personnage dont l'unique objectif était de satisfaire son ambition sans limite. Le pouvoir et l'argent sont ses raisons de vivre."
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Old December 7th, 2017, 07:31 AM   #4

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Linschoten View Post
This review of the English edition is not very enthusiastic:
Napoleon: The Myth of the Saviour / An Encyclopedia of Napoleon's Europe | History Today

A comment on Amazon fr:

"Napoléon Bonaparte est observé ici avec un regard sans pitié ni concession. Le personnage devenu un mythe est en fait un homme comme les autres avec ses défauts et ses qualités.
On s'aperçoit en tout cas que ce que disait Henri Guillemin à son sujet était vrai. Il ne faut pas trop fantasmer sur ce personnage dont l'unique objectif était de satisfaire son ambition sans limite. Le pouvoir et l'argent sont ses raisons de vivre."
En anglais, s'il vous plait? (In Engleesh please? )
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Old December 7th, 2017, 10:13 AM   #5

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Sorry, "Napoleon is viewed here without pity or concession. This figure who has become a myth is in truth a man like any other who has his own faults and qualities. One realizes in any case that what Henri Guillemin had to say about him was true. We should not nurse too many illusions about this figure whose sole objective was to satisfy his ambition in a boundless fashion. Power and ambition are his reasons for living."

With regard to Guillemin, I think this is a reference to this book, which apparently takes a rather cold view of Napoleon (I haven't read it):
https://www.amazon.fr/Napol%C3%A9on-.../dp/286819737X
His series of broadcasts on Napoleon (in French of course) can be found on youtube, this gives an impression of his attitude:



(Actually looks well worth watching)
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Old December 8th, 2017, 01:29 AM   #6

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Thank you, Linschoten, for the link. I'll give it a try.

So far it's an interesting read, even if I don't find anything particularly new in it. The main focus is on the people who supported Napoleon's rise financially, the most interesting aspect so far for me has been how many institutions the Consulate kept or reinstated not only from the Directory's but also from Ancien Regime.
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Old December 8th, 2017, 01:48 AM   #7

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Napoleon was very pragmatic I think, and so happy to adopt things from the past if it would make things work well.
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Old December 8th, 2017, 03:14 AM   #8

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Old December 8th, 2017, 06:04 AM   #9

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@ Isleifson: So, whose view of Napoleon does this image represent in your opinion? That of Jean Tulard or that of Henri Guillemin?

I've read up to 1802 now; Napoleon is about to receive the office of First Consul for life. The book keeps annoying me with quotes for which there is no source given. In so far I have to agree with the review Linschoten linked to in his reply: that's sloppy craftmanship.
The content however is interesting as it details much of the political shifts and intrigues within the governments.

It still has not helped me much in becoming more interested in the person of Napoleon however. I still find him rather boring; so far the book seems to confirm that more than to contradict it.
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Old December 8th, 2017, 11:50 AM   #10

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Paul Valéry on Napoleon: “What a pity to see a mind as great as Napoleon's devoted to trivial things such as empires, historic events, the thundering of cannons and of men; he believed in glory, in posterity, in Caesar; nations in turmoil and other trifles absorbed all his attention ... How could he fail to see that what really mattered was something else entirely?"
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