Napoleon's Integration of Europe

Napoleon's Integration of Europe

Napoleon's Integration of Europe

Napoleon's Integration of Europe

Synopsis

This book is the first overall study of Europe in the Napoleonic uears. It is a study not only of an early exercise in imperialism, but of the conflict that tis aroused between teh rationalising tendencies of the modern state and teh spatial and cultural heterogeneity of individual societies. As well as a history of France, it also provides a major contribution to the history of ITaly, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Poland and Spain at a crucial moment in the history of each nation state.

Excerpt

Napoleon as man and military leader has always attracted writers and readers. Such has been the fascination of his meteoric career that historians have been hard put to defend their hegemony against the incursions of more creative novelists, artists and film-makers. The fascination is easy to understand, the closer one approaches this most private of public personages. There is an unknown Napoleon (perhaps many unknown Napoleons) of whom glimpses are caught unexpectedly in the vast literature. Who would expect the Emperor to be a discerning connoisseur of Paisiello’s music (as Berlioz recalled)? Or that this eternal military hero’s ‘keen sense of smell ill tolerated the stench that accompanied a pillage’, in the words of his aide-de-camp, Ségur? The personal sobriety of this corrupter of men is well established; but where did the reality blur into a consciously constructed myth? As Denon, his official fine arts adviser, instructed Gérard: Take care to emphasise the full splendour of the uniforms of the officers surrounding the Emperor, as this contrasts with the simplicity he displays and so immediately marks him out in their midst.’ To quote the great poet Giovanni Pascoli, writing three quarters of a century later: ‘my silent room is filled with the echo of Napoleon dictating’.

But history does not just consist of great men, nor are the years of Napoleonic domination explicable in terms of his battlefields.

My concern has been to understand what I believe to be the central problem of the Napoleonic period: the attempt by the political class that had emerged from the Revolution to extend their ideals of progress and civilisation to every region of Europe touched by French armies. The military victories were the necessary premiss and condition of the French presence; but it is simplistic to regard the wars as either the causal factor or indeed an adequate explanation of the Napoleonic years. For contemporaries, the political changes and

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