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"The Causes of Napoleon Bonaparte’s Loss at Waterloo 1815" Topic


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Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP12 Aug 2020 3:13 p.m. PST

The study of history is not a 'court of law.'

I have sat on courts-martial and also served as a summary court officer and adjudicated non-judicial punishment as a battery commander.

Deleted by Moderator

What you are posting is rubbish.

dibble12 Aug 2020 8:22 p.m. PST

I have, therefore I am!

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP13 Aug 2020 3:09 a.m. PST

I've got the right people stifled.

Handlebarbleep13 Aug 2020 8:40 p.m. PST

@Brechtel198

Thank you for your informed and erudite input.

Sadly, any historian who does not appreciate what digitisation, AI and big data techniques will do to research will likely be overtaken by it. Of course, you could always choose to ignore the asteroid in the sky. If I recall though, it didn't work out too well for the dinosaurs…….

Forgive me, but don't historical figures (including Napoleon) worry about how history will judge them? Didn't The Book of The Dead describe the weighing of a person's heart against a feather? Couldn't the book of Revelations in the Bible be said to be rather pre-occupied with Judgement Day? Throughout history peoples seem taken up with how their actions will be evaluated in the future, weren't they?

You can dress it up as research and analysis, but isn't it what many historians are really doing is merely exercising their (frequently biased) judgement? The other dirty secret is that many actually get off on setting themselves up as judge, jury and executioner on greater men than themselves? Might that go some way to explain why we seem to get more than our fair share of the argumentative, pompous and intolerant?

I think that makes it doubly important that we deal with each other respectfully and engage with each other's proposals with rational argument, not resort to merely describing it as rubbish. We should be able to recognise that times change and that there are different paradigms that can be applied, not assume that how we were taught to think is "right" and somebody else's is "wrong", just different.

Evidence is frequently contradictory, so all evidence cannot be fact. This refutes your assertion that evidence is synonymous with fact. This is not rubbish, just simple deduction. I wasn't kidding, if anyone who had been been convicted by someone that presented that fundamental misunderstanding, they would be justified in seeking redress. I'm sure therefore that that isn't what you meant to say, and you have either mis-spoke or I have misunderstood. I'd be very happy if you clarified.

In fact I would be suspicious of anything where the evidence unanimously agreed, because this would seem to indicate collusion, plagiarism or bias on the part of the researcher, unless I could reduce it to a simple data item.

But then again I'm the suspicious type, singly unimpressed by reputation.

42flanker14 Aug 2020 1:54 a.m. PST

If I remember correctly, Akira Kurasawa dealt with this theme in his Oscar-winning film 'Rashomon' of 1950.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP14 Aug 2020 5:46 a.m. PST

Of course the thing about Buonaparte's rule was that like all tyrannies imposed or maintained by violence or its threat, it contained no prospect whatsoever of reform or liberalisation. The democracy opposing him wasn't perfect, but it was constantly evolving, it was possible to remove the ruling faction, it was legal and in fact required for there to be an opposition, and the franchise was capable of being widened incrementally, which is what has happened.

That is based on the British and allied propaganda of the period. Please show where Napoleon's rule was ‘imposed and maintained by violence or its threat'. That in grossly incorrect ‘assessment.' And it has nothing to do with historic fact. Neither does the statement that Napoleon's government ‘contained no prospect whatsoever of reform or liberalization.' Both are grossly inaccurate which a little research will clearly demonstrate.

1.Napoleon was not a tyrant as he governed by the rule of law. In point of fact, he was a constitutional monarch after becoming Emperor of the French (note not Emperor of France-there is a difference).

2.Great Britain was not a democracy, suppressed dissent, parliament was corrupt ('pocket' boroughs, etc.), and the ministers, for the most part, were in favor or war with France. During the period the British government was not ‘evolving' nor was it favorable for civil rights. During the period, the British government suspended habeas corpus, among other non-democratic actions.
During the period, necessary reform of Parliament was suspended ‘for nearly a generation.' The Tories controlled the House of Commons almost uninterrupted from 1784-1830 and they ‘defended electoral arrangements that kept them in office' as well as opposing giving the vote to both the middle and lower classes. There was an ‘active reform movement' in Britain as late as 1792 that demanded universal suffrage ‘or at least the vote for taxpaying householders.' The ruling classes in Britain, however, were scared to death of the French Revolution and even moderate reformers were ‘discredited.' In 1812 there was industrial depression and riots by workers destroyed machinery. (see the article on Great Britain by Harold Parker contained in the Historical Dictionary of Napoleonic France 1799-1815, edited by Owen Connelly, 219-220).

Further problems in Great Britain were in the decade 1789-1799 included an uprising in Ireland, two mutinies in the Royal Navy, along with food riots and industrial strikes. Bad harvests and ‘social dislocations' caused by industrialization' resulted in George III being booed in London's streets and windows in Pitt's home being smashed by a London crowd. Radical political societies had ‘proliferated' in Britain since 1789 and were ‘dedicated'…to ‘radical reform consistent with the Rights of Man.' The wealthy and landed interests in Britain were frightened of these societies and their radical agenda had ‘strengthened Pitt's hold on the government' because of the perception that treasonous practices and sedition ‘seemed rife in the land.' Repressive legislation was passed to censor the press and to prohibit seditious meetings. The definition of treason was expanded to include ‘criticism of the king, Parliament, and constitution.' There was popular agitation which ‘brought more repression.' All this was done prior to 1800 when the idea of trade unions was ‘stifled.'

Despite the advantages for the nation of the industrial revolution starvation among the population was ‘not uncommon' and most of the population, whether urban or rural, generally lived at the ‘subsistence level.' Additionally, ‘the commercial war with France brought inflation, high prices, and bankruptcies.' By 1811 the most stable currency in Europe, including Great Britain, was the French franc. Additionally, ‘The hard-money franc was the victor in the battle of exchange rates,'-Connelly, Dictionary, 220-222, 179-181, 17, articles by Carolyn White and Harold Parker.

3.Napoleon not only brought the revolution to a close, but greatly reformed the country. His political and social reforms consisted of the following which no other European head of state, including Great Britain's head of government, achieved during the period. If you can, please list anything remotely similar to these needed reforms, many of which were in effect in France long after the exile and death of Napoleon:

1.-Introduced the Civil Code, followed by other legal codes such as a new Penal Code, one which was less punitive than that of Great Britain.

2.-Restored the Church.

3.-Issued a ‘pardon' to the emigres and urged them to return to France.

4.-Ended the political and social problems in the Vendee, ending the civil war there.

5.-Completely revamped French public and private education. Napoleon spent more money on education than on any other civil function.

6.-Built roads, canals, harbors, bridges, and drained swamps.

7.-Established orphanges and hospitals, and public sanitation.

8.-Established a Paris fire department.

9.-Established the prefect system.

10.-Reformed the National, later Imperial, Gendarmerie.

11.-Guaranteed basic civil rights.

12.-Guaranteed freedom of religion.

13.-Granted Jews full citizenship.

14.-Introduced gas lighting.

15.-Introduced the smallpox vaccine to the European continent.

16.-Abolished feudalism within the Empire.

17.-Built three trade roads through the Alps.

18.-Trees were planted along France's roads.

19.-Established a government office to protect France's forests, lakes and rivers.

20.-Established better water and sewer systems for Paris.

21.-Balanced his budgets and established a sound financial system.

22.-Because of his insistence on responsible public finance, the franc became the most stable currency in Europe by 1811.

23.-Encouraged and sponsored improvements in agriculture.

24.-Insisted on honesty in his officials and established an agency to ensure that occurred.

25.-Was a patron of the arts. Supported both the Louvre and the theater, for example.

26.-Established the Legion of Honor, open to all both civil and military.

27.-Established France's first bureau of statistics.

28.-Reestablished horse-breeding in France.

29.-Improved French industry.

30.-Guaranteed civil rights.

31.-Brought full employment, stable prices, and an improved balance of trade.

32.-Law and order was reestablished in France after the chaos of the Revolution while keeping in place the social gains of the Revolution.

33.-Established the Bank of France.

34.-Pardoned the emigres and encouraged their return to France.

35.-Established a system of auditors to encourage ‘virtue' and to root out corruption, as well as to train future civil servants-The Auditors of the Council of State.

Upon becoming First Consul, there was 167,000 francs in cash in the French exchequer. The national debt was 474 million francs. Napoleon's new system of tax collection drew 660 million francs annually from the income tax and public property.

And Napoleon was very careful not to overspend. He created the Bank of France on 13 February 1800 and established both a Ministry of Finance and a Ministry of the Treasury with both keeping an eye on the other regarding the annual budget.

Napoleon created an Audit Office which checked everything that was spent by the government. His Auditors of the Council of State investigated ‘complicated frauds' and were a hank-picked group that were trained as high-level civil servants as well as ‘high-level misdoings.'

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP14 Aug 2020 5:48 a.m. PST

None of that can be said for Buonaparte's parvenu regime, which unravelled the revolution and simply replaced one monarchy with another and which once established Bonaparte (of course!) thought should itself be hereditary.

Definition of parvenu:

‘One that has recently or suddenly risen to an unaccustomed position of wealth or power and has not yet gained the prestige, dignity, or manner associated with it.'

Napoleon's government, and its string of reforms, can hardly be described as ‘parvenu.' It brought reform and stability to France, keeping the needed reforms of the Revolution and consolidated them.

The Consulate was not a monarchy, and Napoleon agreed to become Emperor because of the two British and Bourbon assassination attempts.

And Napoleon had changed the spelling of his last name by the time of his becoming a general officer. So, historically speaking, it is Bonaparte. Using the older spelling is a holdover from the British propaganda of the period.

The war was fundamentally a clash between a modern free country and a backwards-looking regressive one.

As Napoleon kept the social and political advances of the Revolution and reinforced them as noted above, his government was not ‘a backwards-looking regressive one.' As noted Great Britain's government was repressive and in places, such as parliament, corrupt-maintaining in power the privileged by whatever means deemed necessary. It was not ‘a modern free country.' And the British government of the period was not liberal, but reactionary.

How was Napoleonic France, under the Consulate and Empire ‘backwards-looking?

The following comments by an Englishwoman, Anne Plumptre, who was the daughter of the President of Queens' College, Cambridge, from here 3-year stay in France from 1802-1805:

‘I was as perfectly free as I am in England, I went whithersoever I was desirous of going, and was uniformly received with the same politeness and hospitality as while peace still subsisted between the two countries. I never witnessed harsh measures of the government but towards the turbulent and factious; I saw everywhere works of public utility going forward; industry, commerce, and the arts encouraged; and I could not consider the people as unhappy, or the government as odious…I have found speech everywhere as free in France as in England: I have heard persons deliver their sentiments on Bonaparte and his government, whether favorable or unfavorable, without the least reserve; and not in private companies only, among friends all known to each other, but in the most public manner, and in the most mixed societies, in diligences, and at tables-d'hote, where none could be previously acquainted with the character or sentiments of those with whom they were conversing, and where some one among the company might be a spy of the police for any thing that the others knew to the contrary-yet this idea was no restraint upon them.'-A Narrative of Three Years Residence in France…from the year 1802-1805; published in 1810 in three volumes.

Volume I:

link

Volume II:

link

Volume III:

link

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP14 Aug 2020 5:51 a.m. PST

According to a recent standard outlined, the personal views of the unqualified pre-psychoanalyst Baron Fain on Napoleon's character as being 'naturally good' can be utterly disregarded as evidence, likewise Lentz and Elting.

What 'standard outline'?

Who has mentioned that Baron Fain psychoanalyzed Napoleon? That is nonsense as well as disingenuous. Fain knew Napoleon and was with him on a daily basis and saw Napoleon's actions both in Paris and on campaign.
Have you read Fain's memoirs?

Fain is describe by Harold Parker as ‘ever faithful, efficient, and unobtrusive, he served through the Hundred Days. His memoirs on Napoleon's work habits are among the most valuable we possess.'

He began to work for Napoleon in 1806 to relieve some of the paperwork of Napoleon's secretary, Baron Meneval. Fain succeeded Meneval in 1813 when Meneval's health failed.

Meneval's memoirs are also valuable as are others of the period, especially those who worked closely with Napoleon on a daily basis.

As to Thierry Lentz and Col Elting, both are Napoleonic scholars who have done their homework, and it appears that you only denigrate all three of these men because you don't agree with them
.

I fail to see the relevance of labouring the point which some appear fixated on though, in that Britain sent smaller expeditionary forces to the Continent and fought with Allies whose interests were mutual. For very good reasons, this was English/British policy for centuries, both before and after the Napoleonic Wars, so why should it change for the sake of a decade?

Great Britain's investment of manpower for the army was small, especially compared to its coalition allies. And in both Spain and Belgium, British units had to be supplemented by allies in order to stay. Otherwise, they would have ended up like Moore's command in Spain-driven into the sea.

How is paying subsisidies any worse than offering crowns or captured lands to make common cause? Especially when those living in the lands might not want to change allegiance?

Paying someone else to do your fighting for you does not inspire admiration.

One might as well ask why Napoleon (whose own armies still required massive non-French manpower 'contributions') didn't just build a French fleet to face the Royal Navy on its own, rather than rely on relying on force or coercion to get others to join his cause.

Napoleon did build an excellent navy, with excellent, well-designed ships and well-trained crews. However, he never could overcome the old ideas of most of his senior officers which inhibited the fighting ability of the navy.

The Confederation of the Rhine did good service as allies to the French, as did the Poles.

I'm not sure why some seem surprised that the official Opposition in British Parliament voiced a contrary viewpoint to that of the Government. Surely their role is to:
a) hold the government to public account and
b) position themselves for power at the next election?

Their ‘role' was considered suspect which is one reason that the government widened the definition of both treason and sedition. And that is suppression.

That a) and b) are somewhat related is part and parcel of it all, even as views change to suit the occasion. Indeed, when the Government was non-Tory, did peace break out again? I suspect parking 200,000 bored Frenchmen in Boulogne will have changed some minds.

The French had an army on the Channel because of renewed war with Britain. And they were not just in Boulogne which was only one of the camps. And I doubt that they were ‘bored' as they were constantly training.

Was Napoleon a threat to British interests before Amiens? Of course, what else was the Egyptian misadventure? Britain had long fought to secure overseas interests, including India, in the process finally achieving ascendency over France. I'm sure they would not want to go backwards when Britain was enjoying the fruits of success.

Napoleon was not head of state for the Egyptian campaign. The Directory was the government of France at the time. So instead of assigning Napoleon as a threat to British interests in 1798, perhaps assigning France that distinction would be more accurate.

And which of Britains ‘overseas interests' were gained by conquest, subjugation of native peoples (India and Ireland)? Looks like a double-standard is being applied here. Why were Britains' ‘overseas interests' more important than France's or in France's operations on the continent?

Of course the thing about Buonaparte's rule was that like all tyrannies imposed or maintained by violence or its threat, it contained no prospect whatsoever of reform or liberalisation. The democracy opposing him wasn't perfect, but it was constantly evolving, it was possible to remove the ruling faction, it was legal and in fact required for there to be an opposition, and the franchise was capable of being widened incrementally, which is what has happened.

That is based on the British and allied propaganda of the period. Please show where Napoleon's rule was ‘imposed and maintained by violence or its threat'. That in grossly incorrect ‘assessment.' And it has nothing to do with historic fact. Neither does the statement that Napoleon's government ‘contained no prospect whatsoever of reform or liberalization.' Both are grossly inaccurate which a little research will clearly demonstrate.

La Belle Ruffian14 Aug 2020 6:07 a.m. PST

"For my part, I consider that it will be found much better by all Parties to leave the past to history, especially as I propose to write that history."

Interestingly I re-discovered Deeds That Won the Empire whilst re-arranging my study, a 120+ year-old book (my edition is 1914) which provided much of my introduction to Napoleonic history as a boy. It's on Gutenberg gutenberg.org/ebooks/19255. A great example of a a number of random quotes, no footnotes and yet a number of references which are comonly seen as correct and may lead some to accept its findings and judgements as a whole. I first learned of British militia present in their uniform in its pages, there's no mention of the 'Middle' Guard, the Cambronne mythology is dismissed, Ponsonby's killed by lancers after getting mired in mud.

Yet whilst it highlights the Prussian contribution (and the fact that Wellington's decision to stand was a conditional one), the Dutch-Belgians are given short shrift in the author's opinion and there are inaccuracies. The title (and age) of the book tells you of its main perspective though, so any sensible person would look for other sources to gain a better understanding of how it may have gone down that day, whlst also accepting there may be multiple 'facts' to choose from.

After all, why is there still so much debate about how many Guard battalions marched up the slopes against Wellington's forces? Or even what time the battle started amongst people who were there and before the field was a mass of smoke and noise and the consequent time distortion?

Handlebarbleep, your analogy isn't a bad one – there's a reason multiple witnesses are called by both prosecution and defence before making a judgement as to what is most likely to happened. Eyewitnesses may not mean to give a false, misleading or incomplete account and post-event rationalisation and coping mechanisms compound this.

On a tangent and the subject of different perceptions of (particularly major) historical events, I found the Romanian film '12:08 East of Bucharest' in a bargain bin years ago. Highly recommended.

p.s. I found this page recently link Some of the quotes from the man himself are tremendous, although at the time, I'm sure it was still all a bit raw.

La Belle Ruffian14 Aug 2020 7:11 a.m. PST

Brechtel198, would it be too much trouble to respond to the questions I posed?

*Why* should Britain change its centuries-old modus operandi and which worked?

*Why* didn't British policy change with a non-Tory government (which came after 1805)?

I'm certainly not asking you to admire British achievements in defeating Napoleon, just answer a simple question or two because I cannot see the logic in your statements.

If Napoleon (an absolute monarch) can be excused his failure to build a dominant French fleet by a few un-cooperative naval officers, how much harder is it to operate without that executive authority in Britain? You appear to be making excuses for Napoleon here.

On that topic and Egypt:

'Napoleon's own interest in attempting to remove Britain's powerbase on the Indian sub-continent and avenging the losses of the Seven Years War, notably Canada and the colonies in the Indies'

I don't think napoleon.org are particularly biased towards Britain? link

As for your own response:

Looks like a double-standard is being applied here. Why were Britains' ‘overseas interests' more important than France's or in France's operations on the continent?

No double standard Brechtel198. For the British government, British interests should be more important than French interests and decisions should reflect this. Just as Napoleon's main consideration should be France's (I'll leave the reader to consider how often this was the case).

If anything, ignoring any context for British decisions (particularly when they are successful) whilst making excuses for Napoleon's failures due to context seem to be a double standard in itself.

The fact that you are able to quote published media critical of the government's policies and propaganda suggests that suppression of dissent in Britain is certainly no worse than across the Channel (and I'm being generous here). I'm not sure why treason gets brought into the argument – it's always been an unhealthy activity during wars.

I did note that in your list of Napoleon's accomplishments (some of which I would agree should be viewed as his own), you refer again to the financial strength of France under his rule. Aside from the massive influx of cash required from other countries to sustain Imperial forces we have already discussed how France's poor credit rating was a major weakness compared to Britain (source and discussion in the thread): TMP link

Finally, Baron Fain and the others were only mentioned by me due to your own comments in the thread linked by 42Flanker. I do actually read what you write, so you should bear that in mind:

‘Far from being evil, Napoleon was naturally good. If he had been evil with so much power at his disposal, would he be reproached for two or three acts of violence or anger during a government that lasted fifteen years!'

You might want to read Thierry Lentz as well as John Elting on the subject of Napoleon's character, and Robert Holtman on the character of Napoleon's government and rule.

Little in there about work habits. Lots of subjective judgements on character without any formal training in psychoanalysis. You cannot dismiss other judgements on his character whilst unquestioningly accepting these and avoid accusations of double standards.

Garth in the Park14 Aug 2020 7:41 a.m. PST

Ah, The List. At some point in every thread, no matter what the original topic, we get The List of Napoleon's Awesomeness click-and-pasted again.

I recall several items on that list being challenged by facts repeatedly over the years, but like a grand old chateau, The List never changes. For example:

13.-Granted Jews full citizenship.

I've lost count of the number of times that has been corrected by people pointing out the obvious fact that the Jews were granted full citizenship by the French Republic in 1791, whereas Napoleon actually revoked many of their rights. For a recent example, in which I show the text of the law, and in which Kevin spends eight days refusing to acknowledge the existence of Napoleon's "Infamous Decrees" before being embarrassed by the fact that they're described in one of the books he name-dropped earlier:

TMP link

But what do I know? I'm just a marplop [sic], frequently dawghoused for offending people (or at least one person, anyway) who are very sensitive to factual correction.

Off to the Cooler for me, Colonel Klink!

PS –

You might want to read… Robert Holtman on the character of Napoleon's government and rule.

Holtman certainly describes N as a superior propagandist who, "exploited those propaganda techniques that were later developed into powerful instruments by twentieth-century dictators." And he refers to N's regime as "a police state." Is that what you're referring to?

138SquadronRAF Supporting Member of TMP14 Aug 2020 7:55 a.m. PST

Kevin you forgot

36. Ended Chattel Slavery throughout the French Empire.

Oh, wait, THAT was the Republic, Napoleon reintroduced it. It was the British who suppressed the Transatlantic slave trade while fighting Napoleon.

Michael Westman14 Aug 2020 9:20 a.m. PST

"The Consulate was not a monarchy, and Napoleon agreed to become Emperor because of the two British and Bourbon assassination attempts."

Kevin, this one stands out as completely over the top. Napoleon was popular with most of the existing government and people of course, but even the most fawning admirer of Napoleon knows that Napoleon's ambition knew no bounds. Once obtaining the First Consul position he moved to strengthen his position viz his rivals.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP14 Aug 2020 9:31 a.m. PST

Sorry, but ambition is one of the charges levelled against Napoleon as part of the usual anti-Napoleon propaganda of the period and is usually picked up by those who wish to prove Napoleon nefarious.

The issue was to make the Republic more secure.

'They want to kill Bonaparte; we must defend him and make him immortal.'-Councillor Regnault.

And the idea continued to flourish in France. Napoleon's generals approved of the idea of making him Emperor as did the Council of State, among them Tronchet, Portalis, and Treilhard.

The only Tribune to oppose it was Carnot. And he was to become Emperor not by divine right, as his fellow sovereigns claimed, but by the will of the people.

Josephine opposed the idea and accurately stated 'No one will understand the necessity behind it; everyone will attribute it to ambition or pride.'

And still the inaccurate charge of ambition remains a constant…

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP14 Aug 2020 9:40 a.m. PST

Ah, The List. At some point in every thread, no matter what the original topic, we get The List of Napoleon's Awesomeness click-and-pasted again.

Absolutely correct.

And it was included because of the erroneous and inaccurate statements regarding Napoleon and his government as a reminder of what reforms Napoleon successfully implemented and what no other European head of state had done.

The following are the most egregious and historically inaccurate and are undoubtedly based on British anti-Napoleon propaganda which is undoubtedly what is being referred to in these statements:

…the personal views of the unqualified pre-psychoanalyst Baron Fain on Napoleon's character as being 'naturally good' can be utterly disregarded as evidence, likewise Lentz and Elting.

Of course the thing about Buonaparte's rule was that like all tyrannies imposed or maintained by violence or its threat, it contained no prospect whatsoever of reform or liberalisation. The democracy opposing him wasn't perfect, but it was constantly evolving, it was possible to remove the ruling faction, it was legal and in fact required for there to be an opposition, and the franchise was capable of being widened incrementally, which is what has happened.

Of course the thing about Buonaparte's rule was that like all tyrannies imposed or maintained by violence or its threat, it contained no prospect whatsoever of reform or liberalisation. The democracy opposing him wasn't perfect, but it was constantly evolving, it was possible to remove the ruling faction, it was legal and in fact required for there to be an opposition, and the franchise was capable of being widened incrementally, which is what has happened.

The war was fundamentally a clash between a modern free country and a backwards-looking regressive one.

None of that can be said for Buonaparte's parvenu regime, which unravelled the revolution and simply replaced one monarchy with another and which once established Bonaparte (of course!) thought should itself be hereditary.

Handlebarbleep14 Aug 2020 10:07 a.m. PST

Brechtel198

"I'm sorry to disappoint you, but Napoleon is not my hero. I've never said that or acted as if he was."

!

La Belle Ruffian14 Aug 2020 10:11 a.m. PST

No Brechtel198, this is not about being pro-British, but calling out a double standard you employ on these forums, in which anyone who attempts to analyse Napoleon's character in a manner you disagree with is dismissed with words such as

How do you analyze someone who has been dead almost 200 years?

and

By the way, are you a psychologist or a psychiatrist?

and

Again, what are your sources?

By the way, are you either a psychologist or a psychiatrist?

Which is why I stated (in full):

According to a recent standard outlined [see above quotes and similar in this thread], the personal views of the unqualified pre-psychoanalyst Baron Fain on Napoleon's character as being 'naturally good' can be utterly disregarded as evidence, likewise Lentz and Elting. Unless Handlebarbleep has a point, that is.

The aforementioned Handlebarbleep point, which I think is rather obvious:

…something can be evidential without being 'factual'. Eyewitness evidence is notorious in that respect, even the most reliable and faithful observers may not be seeing what they think they are seeing.

It is the last two steps that are down to the interpretive historian, and no matter how respected or educated they might be, any of us should be able to challenge that interpretation. That is why credibility is built through the transparency of footnotes, linking the the data and evidence to the interpretation. None of the interpretation though is ever a 'fact' no matter how trusted the source or the historian.

Hence, I think who is making a statement and in what circumstances (whether on a battlefield or in a palace) often needs considering at least as much as what they say. This goes both for and against historical characters when we study them.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP14 Aug 2020 10:24 a.m. PST

No Brechtel198, this is not about being pro-British, but calling out a double standard you employ on these forums, in which anyone who attempts to analyse Napoleon's character in a manner you disagree with is dismissed…

What I disagree with is the inaccurate statements that permeate the board on Napoleonic history from time to time.

It is quite in line with historical inquiry to inquire about sourcing for the more outlandish postings that appear on this forum. And usually, no answer is forthcoming. That is very telling.

And I have not used a double standard in my postings. That is a misrepresentation on your part and should be withdrawn.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP14 Aug 2020 10:24 a.m. PST

"I'm sorry to disappoint you, but Napoleon is not my hero. I've never said that or acted as if he was."

He isn't.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP14 Aug 2020 10:29 a.m. PST

The aforementioned Handlebarbleep point, which I think is rather obvious:

That may be a personal standard, but it is not applicable to historical inquiry or any historical methodology that I am familiar with or have been taught. Sorry.

La Belle Ruffian14 Aug 2020 10:37 a.m. PST

What I disagree with is the inaccurate statements that permeate the board on Napoleonic history from time to time.

Indeed, I've commented on several in this thread myself.

It is quite in line with historical inquiry to inquire about sourcing for the more outlandish postings that appear on this forum.

Perhaps if your own list of Napoleon's accomplishments, including a lot of rather bland statements was supported by sources you wouldn't find inaccuracies/outlandish interpretations challenged. What was the impact of all this introducing and establishing, as there seems to be a lot of filler amongst the comments? He:

Built three trade roads through the Alps

That's nice, but how many were there before, how much did it benefit France? Was France the only country to build any at this time? Tree-planting consequences? Likewise, I found a couple of articles around the Englishman Jenner's smallpox vaccine and it's introduction into France. Would that have happened anyway? Did it happen elsewhere in Europe?

If you want to make the case for Napoleon being a 'Great Man' (your capitals), then it would help to provide some evidence. As it stands, my perception is that most of his reforms were of net benefit to the average French citizen once Napoleon was out of the picture (particularly if the Gernarmarie picked you up for dodging conscription).

To avoid double standards in your statements being pointed out, then I suggest you stop writing them for all to see. I hardly think with comments such as 'outlandish' and 'rubbish' regarding others' posts, you're in any position to take offence.

Anyway, at the risk of sounding like a broken record but struggling to understand your thinking on the strategic situation without an explanation (I value logic over admiration in these discussions):

*Why* should Britain change its centuries-old modus operandi and which worked?

*Why* didn't British policy change with a non-Tory government (which came after 1805)?

Because:

…usually, no answer is forthcoming. That is very telling.

Indeed.

ReallySameSeneffeAsBefore14 Aug 2020 11:25 a.m. PST

Napoleon did by statute re-introduce slavery after it it been abolished under the Republic. I have a number of French friends who are both pro and anti Bonaparte (about equal proportions) and this aspect of his legacy is a topic of increasing interest. In the current era of very vigorous discourse on slavery and race relations in history- they acknowledge that Napoleon's role in this is becoming a bit more controversial in France- although not (yet) at the official level.

ReallySameSeneffeAsBefore14 Aug 2020 12:45 p.m. PST

I should have clarified, Napoleon did not re-introduce slavery into France itself, only into France's colonial possessions.

ConnaughtRanger14 Aug 2020 1:10 p.m. PST

Brechtel198, I'm fascinated – how often do you need to replace your keyboard?

42flanker14 Aug 2020 1:20 p.m. PST

Napoleon agreed to become Emperor because of the two British and Bourbon assassination attempts.

Um, point of order, really, I suppose. Sorry to interrupt

Only one Royalist assassination attempt, I believe.

No British assassination attempt (Or guerrilla training camps).

Oh, and while I'm here:

Paying someone else to do your fighting for you does not inspire admiration.

I was wondering, how does that compare with forcing someone else to pay themselves to fight their battles for you?

(Of course, the British troops in Egypt and the Iberian peninsula, for instance, nor the Royal Naval crews, were doing any actual fighting. As for Waterloo, well, pfff.

"We spent our pay in some café, and fought wild women night and day- it was the cushiest job we ever had.")

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP14 Aug 2020 2:07 p.m. PST

There were two assassination attempts against Napoleon, both done by the Royalists/Bourbons.

And the British supported the Royalists with money and transport to France. That is supporting the two attempts, unless the British government knew nothing about it. I find that idea ludicrous.

'If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it's a duck.'

42flanker14 Aug 2020 4:05 p.m. PST

There were two assassination attempts against Napoleon, both done by the Royalists/Bourbons.

There was one assassination attempt carried out by a pair of Royalist officers in December 1800. The extent to which it was sanctioned from above appears to be disputed. Your speculation can of course be added to the mix

The half-baked plan to intercept Napoleon's coach, led by the Breton Royalist Cadoudal, was no more than that. Barely a conspiracy let alone an assassination attempt, given that the means and the men were never assembled, and the network of supporters so thoroughly compromised and penetrated by the police that there was no possiblity of the plan maturing.

von Winterfeldt15 Aug 2020 1:02 a.m. PST

30 Floréal, Year X of the one and indivisible Republic
In the name of the French People.
Bonaparte, First Consul of the Republic,
Proclaims; as Law of the Republic, the following Decree, issued by the Legislature on 30 Floréal, Year X, in accordance with the Government's
proposal made on the 27th of that month, and released to the Court on that day.
Decree
Article I. In the colonies returned to France, by execution of the Amiens treaty on 6 Germinal, Year X, slavery shall be maintained in
accordance with the laws and regulations in place prior to 1789.
II. The same will be true in the other French colonies, beyond the Cape of Good Hope.
III. The slave trade and the importation of blacks in the colonies will be carried out, in accordance with the laws and regulations that existed
prior to the 1789 period.
IV. Notwithstanding all previous laws, the colonies regime is subject, for a period of ten years, to the regulations that will be put in place by the
government.
This present law bearing the seal of D – Estol, inserted in the Laws Bulletin, entered in the judicial and administrative authorities' registers, and
the Minister of Justice in charge with monitoring its publication. Paris, 10 Prairial, Year X of the Republic,

he forgot to sign with

Bonaparte by the grace of God and traitor to the French Revolution

Handlebarbleep15 Aug 2020 8:32 a.m. PST

@Brechtel198

"I'm sorry to disappoint you, but Napoleon is not my hero. I've never said that or acted as if he was."

"If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it's a duck."

"And I have not used a double standard in my postings."

?

Handlebarbleep15 Aug 2020 9:35 a.m. PST

@Brechtel198

"it is not applicable to historical inquiry or any historical methodology that I am familiar with or have been taught."

Precisely. I'm talking about the analytical techniques of the future, you are referring to those of the past. The very nature of information and how it is handled is changing, and changing at a pace. Data driven decision making is on the rise, driven by Big Data and Artificial Intelligence. We can feed a neural network with disparate and unstructured data and it can classify, qualify and recognise trends and relationships. Today's AI is estimated at only 1% of it's potential which by 2035 will surpass that of humans. Once Kew, SHAT and the British Library etc are completely digitised, undreamed of depth and breadth of analysis will be possible.

Before you dismiss this as rubbish, this is my day job stock in trade. I'm seeing the results of it in the worlds of Finance, Cryptography, Health, Security and wide ranges of informatics that the modern world as we know it is coming to rely.

Alongside this evolving technology is the shift in our attitudes and consumption of information. In the post-truth, deep-fake and conspiracy ridden world we are entering, old fashioned parochial history just won't cut it. We are seeing the start of it here on this forum; in past times we were happy to swallow the purple prose of the Eltings or the Chandlers of this world, but no more. You clearly still idolise Elting, which of course you are free to. Other historians have their die-hard adherents. Many of us though are now increasingly "Doubting Thomas's", demanding that historians show their workings. We are no longer happy to accept the prejudices and cognitive biases of our "betters" but want to understand it for ourselves. We want to be treated like grown ups, not patronised or infantilised.

I know you decry the analytical approach, typified for the Waterloo campaign by Paul L Dawson, and his conclusions. However, he starts most of his books by declaring his broadly pro-Napoleon sympathy, so you can't claim it is part of a pro-British or anti-French plot. In the main, he is following the data where it leads him and makes where he is exercising his judgement or opinion as clear as possible. He even revises his opinions as new data comes to light. It's rather dry, and devoid of the pathos of yore, but some of us like it that way.

There is an Old Guard here, but it is not just at Mont St Jean. In a world where primary sources are merely a click away, and Google translate opens the world to the monoglot, the days of your style of history are numbered. A less individualistic but collegiate, respectful and above all data-driven style is, and will continue to replace it.

With every passing day, the asteroid gets closer, we all have a choice if we want to evolve.

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP15 Aug 2020 9:50 a.m. PST


Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP 13 Aug 2020 3:09 a.m. PST
I've got the right people stifled.

I come to Napoleonic Discussion to be entertained, not enlightened, sadly. It's the same old same old bickering and cut and paste as always.
It's like coming in halfway in a 4 hour Wagner bloatfest. You know what's coming up. You know the words and the tune. You take your seat and him along, quietly, to yourself. No surprises.
Oh! Here comes the tenor!

Chad4715 Aug 2020 10:58 a.m. PST

I like a good beer in the interval but too often the bar is dry

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP15 Aug 2020 11:25 a.m. PST

I'm talking about the analytical techniques of the future, you are referring to those of the past.

And that is why you fail…

La Belle Ruffian15 Aug 2020 1:18 p.m. PST

I was discussing psychology, influence operations and conflict recently with a colleague.

Exploiting the mental consequences of cognitive dissonance in behavioural change and the Dunning-Kruger effect came up.

Any recommended studies?

Handlebarbleep15 Aug 2020 3:08 p.m. PST

Well LBR, here is a bit of cognitive dissonance to start you off:

@Brectel198

"I didn't realize that this was some type of competition. The study of history isn't one and it never has been."

"And that is why you fail…"

Handlebarbleep15 Aug 2020 3:24 p.m. PST

@Brechtel198

All history that is written is, by it's nature, to be superseded and not definitive. Sources get discovered, methods progress, perspectives realign and conclusions get overturned. History gets written about the past, but in reality it is a missive to the future.

I seem to remember Canute had a take on the futility of holding back the tide. It's not about failing, it's about choosing to ride the wave or getting swamped by it.

For me, it's more about the journey than the destination. Happy trails….

La Belle Ruffian15 Aug 2020 3:38 p.m. PST

Handlebarbleep, whilst statements on the boards may on occasion fit into the first category, the original discussion was in the context of current events, critical thinking, media and politics. No names, no pack drill.

I was more thinking in terms of the Napoleonic era and its propaganda and personalities. Certainly alliances and allegiances could be far more fluid, almost with the rapidity outlined in 1984. When you consider we've been engaged in the Middle East and Afghanistan almost as long as the entire Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, yet perceptions of others seem to be set in stone at times.

In contrast, in this era we're looking at, there seems to be a good deal of drawing a line and moving on pragmatically. In the same way I suppose you can look at those who fought in the Second World War who often rapidly did that compared to later generations who seem to harp on about it more, despite not being involved.

We like to consider ourselves better educated and informed, but sometimes we don't seem to come very far at all.

Handlebarbleep15 Aug 2020 4:11 p.m. PST

@LBR

The D-K effect runs throughout history, as it is built into the human condition. It was the enlightenment, with it's focus on what we now know as the scientific method that popularised it's antithesis.

At this period there was little professional military training, beyond the technical (such as gunnery or engineering) and the more general subjects of mathematics, foreign language, drawing etc. It might be expected that school or a tutor would have taught them classics or a little rhetoric. In the revolutionary period even this this could be problematic, high-ranking generals from modest educational backgrounds being more common.

Most of the training was therefore 'on the job'. An extended time under experienced officers would at least convince the juniors of how little they knew. Once expansion was called for promotion was either bought or came quicker. This was likely to lead a number of relatively senior officers to have an inflated view of their own and their soldier's capabilities.

I think there could be an argument that this could have played a part in the choice of formation for 1er Corps or in the over-confidence in the so-called Middle Guard attack.

The D-K effect among historians is almost a given!

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP15 Aug 2020 6:05 p.m. PST

1.cognitive dissonance:

the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.

2.The Dunning-Kruger effect is a type of cognitive bias in which people believe that they are smarter and more capable than they really are. Essentially, low ability people do not possess the skills needed to recognize their own incompetence.

La Belle Ruffian15 Aug 2020 7:45 p.m. PST

The D-K effect among historians is almost a given!

You might think that, I couldn't possibly comment.

(given sample size to date, I shall have to take your word).

La Belle Ruffian15 Aug 2020 8:37 p.m. PST

I was thinking about the population in general with my initial post Handlebarbleep, but I've often wondered how much the purchase system really hindered Britain on the battlefield at this time, given that Wellington was operating with a relatively small army in the Peninsular and could keep more of an eye on things. The lack of large-scale operational experience makes it hard for both professionals or paying amateurs.

Given the lack of recent siege operations before the Peninsular I can see why engineering was playing catch up, especially with Napoleon's orders, insisting on holding out, highlighted the need for this, compounded by the logistics of moving siege trains around Spain and having to bring by sea in the first place.

On the other hand, after so many years of campaigning in harder circumstances than today for some senior French commanders, PTSD is probably a factor we don't consider as much as we should when looking at some sub-optimal decisions.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP16 Aug 2020 4:18 a.m. PST

@ HBB

At university degree level, the study of history is in fact the study of the history of history. Historians want to know how we got from thinking this about the Tudors back then to thinking this about the Tudors now, who the key proponents were of the changing view along the way, what biases are secreted into their analyses and why the prevailing view prevailed.

It is this that makes history into a useful way of understanding the present. It is the general absence of this from military history that makes it a joke subject among historians, much as historical novels are a joke subject among serious students of literature.

A proper historian, noting all the bitching about who won Waterloo, would not be especially interested in deciding what the answer was or trying to change it. S/he would ask what the various views on this are and have been, who the proponents of the various views were, what their agenda was based on relevant external events – a defeated French Emperor writing in 1820, or a German historian writing in 1939, weren't going to be pro-British – and where their view originated.

This analysis conducted today would note that there have always been broadly two views, that it was an allied effort, and that Germans won; that the latter was prevalent only among German writers if at all; that it was debunked by other German writers 100 years ago; that it was recently revived by a convicted fraudster and his views amplified by a later convicted, sectioned paedophile, both in search of book sales; that its main proponents are people who play with soldiers who would like their own soldiers' real-life counterparts to have been more heroic than they were; and that it has in effect set Napoleonic scholarship back about 100 years.

That analysis arrives at a sensible answer without needing to get involved in squabbling over the Middle Guard. In fact, a historian would ask who asserted that the Middle Guard existed and why, and who asserted that it didn't and why.

It is a forensic perspective generally entirely lacking among aficionadi of military history.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP16 Aug 2020 9:15 a.m. PST

At university degree level, the study of history is in fact the study of the history of history.

That was not the case either getting my undergraduate degree nor was it when getting my masters, which is in military history.

In the latter case, the first seminar (of the six we were required to take) was in historiography, which is the study of the history of history. The other five were not.

So, it appears that the statement is not correct. It may be for some, but not in my experience.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP16 Aug 2020 9:16 a.m. PST

As for the psychobabble being promulgated in the recent postings, it brings to mind a description that is applicable to those-type postings and that I learned at West Point:

'If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, then baffle them with BS.

So, gentlemen, please continue with your attempted 'baffling.' :-)

Handlebarbleep16 Aug 2020 9:23 a.m. PST

@4thC

Thanks for that well considered and informative post. My son is back home from having completed his post-graduate teaching certificate, and he's got two offers to study full time for his Master's Degree in history.

Perhaps he has infected me with 'proper' history then! I take your point about understanding motivations. For example:

Deleted by Moderator

In that respect I find Mandy Rice-Davies, a witness for Christine Keeler in the Profumo affair to be a better judge of people. When the cross examining barrister put to her evidence from an establishment figure with a social standing to lose that conflicted with her own, her reply was "Well, he would say that, wouldn't he?"

I also pend a fair amount of my time around the machine learning and artificial intelligence bods. Perhaps some of their data scientist stuff has rubbed off too.

Both strands emphasise there is no one version of the truth, and that correlation does not equal causation. The day when it will be possible to do what Wellington thought impossible is coming, or may already be here. Imagine putting every single known eyewitness account and datapoint for Waterloo together and programming an algorithm to learn and interpret a unified account? It would be capable of spotting plagiarism, knowing who wrote what after whom and combining it with geospatial data. It will still need human interpretation of motive, but it would remove much of the bickering over mechanics.

However, that might take the fun out of it for those who just want to be "right" and prove everyone else "wrong" of course!

DrsRob16 Aug 2020 10:14 a.m. PST

@4th Cuirassier
At university degree level, the study of history is in fact the study of the history of history.[…]
It is the general absence of this from military history that makes it a joke subject among historians.

@Brechtel198
That was not the case either getting my undergraduate degree nor was it when getting my masters, which is in military history.

I remember that in my first colleges I was told that studying history is not getting a more detailed and correct insight into the past, but weighing different interpretations of that past.
There is not one fixed answer; our view of the past is determined by the present.

Several students dropped out in the first few weeks. I always assumed that was because they were disappointed in their expectations.

arthur181517 Aug 2020 2:05 a.m. PST

Surely one 'weighs different interpretations of the past' in order to 'get a more detailed and correct insight into the past'?

Otherwise, why bother? Stick with the Ladybird Book of Napoleon…

DrsRob17 Aug 2020 2:42 a.m. PST

But what we see as a correct insight into the past is determined by (our view of) the present.

One must therefore let go of the idea that there is a definite version of history. Our opinion of motivation, idea's etc. are always colored by those of our own time and they therefore constantly evolve together.

And even the research into things like uniform is never definitive. Even the most cut-and-dry conclusion of research can be upset by the unexpected emergence of a single piece of information.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP17 Aug 2020 3:53 a.m. PST

@ HBB, DrsRob

An interesting example of the historian's approach can be seen in Holocaust history. There is a discredited school of thought that maintains it did not happen.

The proper historian doesn't get into arguing the toss with Holocaust deniers about how many Jews you could fit into a gas chamber. S/he just invites the denier to explain how, if it didn't happen, all this enormous weight of historiographical evidence that it did came into being. Why are there train timetables, why are there strata of ash where the death camps were, why are there 7 million fewer Jews in 1945 than in 1939, and why, if it's all a hoax, is there no evidence trail of the hoaxer who concocted all this fake historiography?

Tumbleweed, invariably, and it is the argument from historiography that overthrows the Holocaust denier. The latter expects to "win" based on hair-splitting and assertion, but has no answer to the big-picture challenge.

About 20 years ago there was a holocaust denier on a newsgroup I used to read. Among his potty theories was one to the effect that the gospels of the New Testament were in fact plays, not factual accounts (as well as not believing the Holocaust happened, he also didn't believe there had been any such person as Jesus of Nazareth either). I pointed out to him that plays written at that time, in fact all plays written in Europe in the 2,000 years between about 500BC and 1500AD, all observed "The Unities" – the convention that there be one action on stage, happening in one place and in real time. So why didn't the gospels do so? This clown had absolutely never heard of this, and was astounded to learn that his pet alt-historical theory could be demolished by, of all things, a literary critique.

Similarly, art historians proved the Turin Shroud was a fake long before anyone else did, on the basis that the figure is obviously, demonstrably mediaeval; and astronomers, rather than palaeontologists, explained the extinction of the dinosaurs. In no case was there any counterargument to the contextual challenge.

There are some epochs of history about which we will never know the facts free of the lens of bias – or, more accurately, the facts free from the perspective of just one single bias. Only according to the Romans was Carthage a duplicitous nation of shopkeepers; only according to the Romans was Cleopatra regularly the fellatrix of her entire palace guard; only according to the Romans were the rival civilisations they destroyed worthless barbarians.

Waterloo, though: well, now. Up until now we have relied on the percipience and diligence of individual scholars to piece stuff together. Prussian claims that they won at Plancenoit at the same time as Wellington won on the ridge have been debunked by someone noticing that artillery 'overs' from Plancenoit were still falling on the Brussels road as Wellington's men reached La Belle Alliance. Claims that 50,000 Prussians intervened crumble when we recall that 2 of 3 Prussian corps contributed minimally, having been soundly beaten at Ligny. Claims that Hougoumont was held by just the light companies of the Foot Guards crumble when someone totted up how many more of Wellington's battalions never left the area all day. In the future yes, probably someone will overlay all these conflicting accounts and produce the accurate history of a ball, and they'll need a machine to do it.

La Belle Ruffian17 Aug 2020 10:03 a.m. PST

Good points Handlebarbleep, DrsRob and 4th Cuirassier.

Who did what and why is important for describing events.

Who said what and why is important for studying history.

First-hand eyewitness accounts or re-hashed articles on a website, historiography becomes increasingly important the more people presenting their view between you and events and applies just as much to academics as popular/cultural history.

And yes, as pointed out, we all view this through our own lens, a product of our environment.

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