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Free from the Archives
On 18 Brumaire, Year VIII, or November 9, 1799—224 years ago today—Napoleon Bonaparte helped launch the coup that overthrew the Directory then governing revolutionary France. The next day he was appointed First Consul and would rule the French Republic, the subsequent French Empire, and much of Europe on and off for the next sixteen years.
In the Review’s April 4, 2019, issue, Ferdinand Mount surveyed several biographies of Napoleon, as well as an exhibition of contemporaneous imperial art, and found a man with “a taste for the sentimental as well as the brutal” who had “a lack of any real purpose beyond gaining and retaining power.”
“Presentation was crucial to Napoleon’s long-lasting success. The stream of bulletins and orders of the day that he issued formed a running narrative, unquenchably bullish and boastful, shamelessly exaggerating the enemy’s losses and minimizing his own. These bulletins are intrinsic to the Napoleonic legend and frequently republished by enthusiasts who seem blithely indifferent to their mendacity.”
Categories: Culture Wars/Current Controversies