DES IDEES NAPOLEONIENNES, a book written by Louis Napoleon Bonaparte at London in 1839, designed to gain public attention for the Napoleonic cause. In the years before power, Louis Napoleon often wielded his pen, revealing a not-inconsiderable literary ability and a penchant for effective propaganda. Among the more important of his works, in order of publication, are: Rêveries politiques (15 pages, 1832); Considérations politiques et militaires sur la Suisse (83 pages, 1833); Manuel d'artillerie ( 1834); Des idées napoléoniennes (155 pages, 1839); L'idée napoléonienne (11 pages, 1840); Fragments historiques: 1688 et 1830 (106 pages, 1841); Analyse de la question des sucres (130 pages, 1842); Extinction du paupérisme (43 pages, 1844); Quelques mots sur Joseph Napoléon Bonaparte (45 pages, 1844); Le canal de Nicaragua ou projet de jonction des Océans Atlantique et Pacifique au moyen d'un canal (69 pages, 1846); and Du passé et de l'avenir de l'artillerie (first volume, 1847; never completed). In addition he wrote a number of articles and shorter pieces for such newspapers as Commerce, Capitol, Progrès du Pas-de-Calais, Guetteur de Saint- Quentin, Journal du Loiret, Journal de Maine-et-Loire, Paix, Revue de l'Empire, and Almanach populaire de la France. Of these earlier writings, Des idées napoléoniennes was certainly the most important and the most noted.
Completed in July 1839, Des idées napoléoniennes was published shortly afterward, not long before the unsuccessful Boulogne conspiracy. The book (which Louis Napoleon summarized early in 1840 in L'idée napoléonienne) was priced at only a half-franc and enjoyed a large sale. Not only were four French editions sold out within several months, but the work was also translated into English, German, Italian, Spanish, and even Russian and Portuguese. Written primarily for the less-educated classes, Des idées napoléoniennes was part of Louis Napoleon's efforts to return France to a bonapartist politics while establishing his credentials as the leading heir to the Napoleonic legacy. Its political argument indicated Louis Napoleon's familiarity with contemporary historical theorizing about the meaning of the Great Revolution. In his opinion, 1789 was part of a progressive history leading toward liberty. However, the Revolution was also to be seen as one of several transitional points in history that necessarily brought division, confusion, and struggle. During these periods, governments--