THE pages -- not more than half a score -- devoted by Seignobos to Napoleon's rule in his Histoire sincère de la Nation française are characteristic. Seignobos wrote this pleasing little book towards the end of his life, about 1930. He was a university professor in Paris and had made a name for himself by his dry, but able and independent, history of civilization, and by his excellent volume about the period of Napoleon III in Lavisse Histoire de la France contemporaine. 'Dry' is also the epithet one might apply to his Histoire sincère; it lacks every flight of imagination and has neither colour nor warmth of style. Yet it is not the word which occurs to one in the presence of a work so unpretentious, in which a man with extensive knowledge and who has reflected much, indicates the connections and consequences which, in the course of his study, have gradually impressed themselves upon him as the essentials, a man, moreover, who, without any straining for effect, always calls things by their names.
It will appear in a moment that he starts from a definite philosophy of life, and also that, judged by this philosophy, Napoleon does not cut an advantageous figure. Even before introducing him upon the stage, Seignobos wonders whether the chaos in public life and in finances which is alleged to have existed in France under the Directory, has not, like the licentiousness, 'been exaggerated in order to enhance the importance of Bonaparte's work of reorganization'.1 As regards the administrative system which, though it was introduced under the Consulate, cannot be considered as Bonaparte's work, because in those early days he had to leave such measures to the experts, Seignobos concludes his description with these words: 'A centralized system of government agents, opposed to the regime of elective self-government created by the Revolution. The nation had no longer any share in the conduct of its affairs or in the choice of its local leaders. The____________________