Bonaparte in Egypt

Bonaparte in Egypt

Bonaparte in Egypt

Bonaparte in Egypt

Excerpt

My intention, when I set out to write this book, was simply to tellone of the most exciting adventures of modern times as truthfully as possible. As the work advanced, the excitement did not abate, but the difficulty of establishing the truth became increasingly evident. It would be convenient if the historian, by various 'scientific' methods of analysing the sum of documentary evidence, could reach factual certainty about what really happened. Documentary evidence, however falsified, must not be ignored, of course, but whenever it is in conflict with elementary common sense it should be regarded with extreme diffidence. In the last resort the historian, like any humble member of a trial jury, is compelled to let his instinct and his experience of human affairs supplement the contradictory assertions put before him, or else he is a fool.

I have attempted, as scrupulously as I could, to present the probable truth. This truth does not reflect very favourably on either Napoleon Bonaparte or the French soldiers and civilians who took part in his Egyptian expedition. This should not mislead the reader into thinking that Napoleon and his men were appreciably more wicked or selfish or brutal than other men. The history of every colonial campaign, from the conquest of Mexico on, would, if properly investigated, bring no more credit upon the more civilized party in the conflict than the history of the Egyptian campaign brings on the French. Moreover, the reader must keep in mind that the French soldiers and civilians who took part in the Egyptian campaign had just emerged from the most savage revolution in history. Nothing they did in Egypt and in Syria, even in the heat of battle, equals in horror the gesture of a gentleman at Arras during the Reign of Terror, who was escorting two ladies to the theatre: the guillotine had been set up facing the theatre, and in the gutter which they had to cross there flowed a small river of blood; the gentleman bent down, dipped his fingers in the gutter, and, as he held up his hand and let the blood trickle down, remarked, 'How beautiful this is!' . . .

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