Napoleon: For and Against

By Pieter Geyl; Olive Renier | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
ALBERT SOREL

HIS GENERAL ATTITUDE

ALBERT SOREL was a great figure as an historian, and the influence he exercised is considerable. His chief work, l'Europe et la Révolution française, began to appear in 1885 with an introductory volume reviewing the tendency, spirit and methods of French and European foreign policy under the ancien régime, and this reveals the author's reading and his impressive powers of constructive imagination. By 1892 three further volumes had appeared. These gave a detailed diplomatic history of the Constituante, the Législative and the Convention, covering the years from 1789 to 1795. A close organic link was maintained with the general development of the Revolution, and in particular with its ideas and its spirit. After ten years' silence four volumes appeared at brief intervals in 1903 and 1904. Under the same title, l'Europe et la Révolution française, these dealt for the most part with the foreign policy of Napoleon.

Sorel had joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs just before 1870. A young and promising lawyer, his experiences there had an abiding influence on him and his work, although after a few years, and in spite of tempting offers from Gambetta, he chose a professorial career.1 He developed consciously and with conviction, into the exponent, not of this or that party, but of tradition and of the raison d' État. A highly cultured man, subtly sensitive to ideas and to form, a brilliant stylist, who, like his venerated senior and friend, Taine, combined a passion for system and synthesis with great powers of plastic expression and creation, he saw forces at work in history other than those of the mind, impersonal forces which cared not for the mind, which indeed used it for their ends. The spectacle did not rouse his soul to opposition. For him true statesmanship consisted in the recognition of these forces and alliance with them.

This attitude had made it possible for him (how unlike Taine!)

____________________
1
But it should be noticed that he was Professor at the Éole libre des Sciences politiques, that is to say, not under the auspices of the University.

-254-

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Napoleon: For and Against
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Preface - To the First Dutch Edition 7
  • Part One - The Antithesis at the Beginning 13
  • Chapter I - Chateaubriand 17
  • Chapter II - Madame de StaËl 19
  • Chapter III - The Napoleonic Legend 23
  • Part Two - The First Chroniclers 33
  • Chapter I - M. Mignet 35
  • Chapter II - Baron Bignon 37
  • Chapter III - Armand Lefebvre 45
  • Chapter IV - Adolphe Thiers 53
  • Part Three - Reaction against the Legend 69
  • Chapter I - Jules Barni 73
  • Chapter II - Edgar Quinet 77
  • Chapter III - Pierre Lanfrey 86
  • Chapter IV - Comte D'Haussonville 106
  • Chapter V - Hippolyte Taine 133
  • Part Four - Admirers 149
  • Chapter I - Prince Napoleon 156
  • Chapter II - Henry Houssaye 160
  • Chapter III - Arthur - LÉVy Polemic against Taine 169
  • Chapter IV - FrÉDÉric Masson 177
  • Chapter V - Count Albert Vandal 230
  • Part Five - The Problem of Foreign Policy 233
  • Chapter I - Old Acquaintances 235
  • Chapter II - Emile Bourgeois 241
  • Chapter III - Two More Old Acquaintances 250
  • Chapter IV - Albert Sorel 254
  • Chapter V - Edouard Driault 308
  • Part Six - The Antithesis at the End 349
  • Chapter 1 356
  • Chapter II - A. L. GuÉrard 362
  • Chapter Ill - G. Pariset 364
  • Chapter IV - Jules Isaac 371
  • Chapter V - Charles Seignobos 373
  • Chapter VI - Jacques Bainville 376
  • Chapter VII - Louis Madelin 390
  • Chapter VIII - Gabriel Hanotaux 403
  • Chapter IX - Georges Lefebvre 446
  • Chronological Table 451
  • Index 465
  • Index of Authors 475
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