IN 1845 two great works began to appear. They were Armand Lefebvre's Histoire des cabinets de l'Europe pendant le Consulat et l'Empire and Thiers's Histoire du Consulat et de l'Empire, a continuation of his youthful Histoire de la Révolution franϚaise, completed nearly twenty years earlier. Thiers's book became the great popular history of Napoleon. Volume succeeded volume in an inexhaustible stream, until by 1862 all twenty had appeared. In spite of the magnitude of the work its success was overwhelming. For a generation Thiers's was the last word on the subject, and his book overshadowed that of Lefebvre. Lefebvre, who was a few years younger than Thiers, being born in 1800, a diplomat, and the son of a diplomat who had served Napoleon, suffered from this.1 It is true that his book, the unattractive title of which conceals a history of Bonaparte's foreign policy, cannot stand comparison with that of Thiers for pace, fullness and colour. Nevertheless it has its own special qualities. Even though the writer sets his diplomatic history in its wider background -- the development of the Revolutionary idea and of the Consular and Imperial regime in France -- the limits imposed by the subject give his work more unity. This becomes apparent when one compares him with Bignon. The contrast makes the latter take on even more the appearance of a chronicler, while in Lefebvre one can appreciate the attempt at truly historical presentation.
Lefebvre had his own interpretation of Bonaparte and his statesmanship, which he develops with a sure touch. The actual narrative is not the most important part of his book. His documentation is not up to present-day standards. Though he did draw from archive material he failed to consult non-French sources, in itself an irreparable omission in a book dealing with a subject of this nature. For all his positive tone, he is often wide of the mark,____________________