March 23, 2007 cameron

The Napoleon Bonaparte Podcast #18 – The Battle Of Trafalgar

Welcome to the tragic Episode 18 of the Napoleon Bonaparte Podcast here on The Podcast Network.

Once again, David and I would like to thank everyone for the wonderful feedback and comments we have received since the last episode. We both really appreciate it and it’s added motivation to keep producing the show although, as you know, we have so much fun being Napoleon geeks together that the entire British navy couldn’t keep us away!

Speaking of the British navy…. this episode is about the Battle Of Trafalgar.


Battle Of Trafalgar by JWM Turner

On 21 October 1805, the French navy under the command of Villeneuve met disaster against the British navy under the command of Horatio Nelson at Cape Trafalgar, off the coast of Spain, in what is known as The Battle Of Trafalgar

To get a good idea of what naval battles in the early 19th century must have been like, we both recommend watching the 2003 film by Australian director Peter Weir,
Master And Commander
.

The theme music is La Marseillaise. Yes, we know it isn’t necessarily relevant to Napoleon but it’s hard to beat when it comes to French themes!

Tagged:

Comments (72)

  1. I laughed. You comment at the start of the show that you both will find hard to talk about this topic but yet I look at the time of the episode. 1 hour 10 mins!

    Great work guys. Listening now.
    Molly

  2. Michael

    Another great show gentlemen!
    Cameron, I caught the part where you were talking about Napoleon’s religion and it brought me back to the email/forum conversation we had been having about this subject. I was doing a google search and found a link concerning Napoleon’s religious sentiments from a source as unlikely as Prince Metternich. Surprisingly, I found it to be fairly balanced in its assessment. Thought it might be of interest for everyone to check out. Thanks! I think I’ll be pulling out my DVD of Master and Commander tonight for dinner and a movie with the wife!

    http://chnm.gmu.edu/revolution/d/505/

  3. aneurin

    hi, david you dont have to suck up to the british. Master and Commander is a shit film, i fell a sleep watching it. Cant waight to hire the next podcast.

  4. Cameron

    Molly – yeah mate I know. We’re hopeless long-talkers.

    Michael – yeah i looked at that site as well mate. While this sounds like an authentic quote from Metternich, I don’t trust his evaluation of Napoleon’s religiosity. The quote reads: “A Christian and a Catholic, he recognized in religion alone the right to govern human societies. He looked on Christianity as the basis of all real civilization; and considered Catholicism as the form of worship most favorable to the maintenance of order and the true tranquility of the moral world;…”
    When you look at the way Napoleon treated the Catholics over his reign, you cant see much respect for them other than as a political tool. I also feel he was too much the pragmatist and scientist to believe in religion. Napoleon was, if anything, the most rational of men.

  5. Cameron

    aneurin – yeah I thought the film sucked too, but the special effects for the battle scenes are worth watching.

  6. Hi, guys,

    I confess, I had no idea we could go over an hour on this topic. Its only 3 pages or so in Napoleon for Dummies, and I’ve not written much about it elsewhere (unlike some of the other topics we have covered). But I thought it went well and am glad to hear I’m not alone in that thought.

    As to Master and Commander, well, I enjoyed it (but admit that much of that may be the special effects). But what the heck, I’m known to be hopeless in such matters. I loved the move Waterloo, for example!

    I’ve not been involved in the discussion on Napoleon and religion, though I’ll have to bone up on it a bit for a paper I’m giving in Israel in a couple of months or so. I generally find that Napoleon has little use for religious beliefs in his own life, but he was a supporter of religious freedom, especially for the Jews. He brought the Catholic church back to France, but stood up to the Pope in refusing to give it unique status. I’m with Cameron on the Metternich quote. It was in his interest to make Napoleon out to be a Catholic. Its much like some conservative Christians in the US trying to make out the Founding Fathers to be strong Christians (as in “We are a Christian Nation”), when, in fact, they were not that at all and were at least a bit skeptical about organized religion’s role in government.

    Cameron and I will try to pick up the pace a little. And, as always, I am so very grateful for all your very kind comments.

    Cheers,

    David

  7. Derrick Pohl

    I would find it very useful if for each episode you could include a map of the areas discussed, especially for the battles described. Being able to refer to such maps while listening would be a great boon.

  8. Mike Hodder

    Between 1915 and 1919 some 120,000 Australian and New Zealand troops passed though Weymouth, Dorset, UK. Also at that time Portland, some couple of mile away, was base for the Home Fleet. I have heard stories of the interesting ‘discussions’ the Australians and British Naval personnel had in the town of Weymouth. This leads me to wonder what might have happened if Master and Commander had been showing in a cinema full of Anzacs and British matelots at that time and you had stood up and shouted ‘yes’ as you tell. Now that would have been a battle!

    Master and Commander is based on the true story of Captain Cochrane ( Speedy ) and his capture of the Gamo in 1801.The Speedy’s gun-force was 14 long 4-pounders. Her number of men and boys at the commencement of the action was 54. During the action she had three killed and eight wounded. The Gamo mounted 22 long Spanish 12-pounders on the main deck, with eight long eights and two ” heavy carronades, ” probably 24-pounders, on the quarterdeck and forecastle. Her crew amounted to 274 officers, seamen, boys, and supernumeraries, and 45 marines, total 319 ; of which number she had her commander, Don Francisco de Torris, the boatswain, and 13 men killed, and 41 men wounded.

    Speedy boadside weight 28lbs of iron, Gamo around 160 lbs of iron. Crew of Speedy outnumbered by roughly 6 to 1.

    Villeneuve did not stand a chance with that sort of spirit in the British Navy.

    Rule Brittania!

    There, that’s balanced the bias a bit.

    With best wishes to you both and many thanks for your hard work. Much appreciated.

  9. Bu

    Dear Cameron and David,
    Once again a very interesting episode-great job! Who thought that listening about Trafalgar battle will be so enjoyable, but I think that you should take the credit about making this theme so interesting.
    Wanted to ask David about a paper that he plans to give in Israel, when will it be? And is it possible to come to listen to it?

    Can’t wait for the next episode!

  10. I agree with Mike about the value of British pluck and it is true that Villeneuve never really had a chance. In his defence I think he judged the situation better than Napoleon. The British always had and always would have the advantage of having the best fleet. But while having the best fleet is good, having the ONLY fleet is much much better.

    By keeping the French fleet in existance, even in dock, it still played a role. At the very least the British had to take its presence into account when planning naval operations, and most likely would have to devote considerable resources to keeping tabs on what the French navy was up to.

    After Trafalgar the British could come and go as they liked by sea – a much better position to be in. I don’t think it was the insignificant sideshow that some people have suggested.

    Were I in Villeneuve’s position I would have done my best to avoid battle under any but the most favourable circumstances too.

  11. Kaboth

    Man its great having broadband 🙂 Only I haven’t had the time to listen to the podcast yet. I will post comments later though.

    I didn’t really enjoy ‘Master and the Commander and The Far Side of The World’ much either even though I usually love Crowe’s films. There’s talk of a sequel in the works.

    Personally I enjoyed the Hornblower books and miniseries much more. I didn’t like the Sharpe series though.

  12. Tim Van Dyck

    Dear Cameron, David and all the listeners,

    Napoleon had send to Villeneuve an order in which there was also said that he should avoid battle when the enemy was to powerful…and the Emperor had too send a new commander, to replace Villeneuve. Trafalgar was for Villeneuve a way of proving his capabilitiy, if he defeated Nelson and the English, which was not the case…Villeneuve’s Spanish colleague was of the opinion of not attacking or at least being very carefull. Yes the English had the best Navy, but they hadn’t gone through 10 years of Revolution during which the French Navy was seriously neglected…

    Best Regards,

    Tim

  13. Cameron, I am shocked and appalled that you don’t remember the fuller story of the brandy cask. Or at least the story as told by year eight history at Kepnock High School. When I attended I was taught that the brandy that Nelson was shipped home in was distributed amongst the sailors afterwards. Thus the completer story of “Tapping the admiral”.
    That’s exactly the kind of story that should lodge in the brain of an impressionable youth, never to be forgotten, to bubble upon each and every consumption of a brandy.

  14. Cameron

    gilmae, I’ve deliberately blocked out everything that happened to me at Kepnock. Oh, except meeting my wife. Whoops. Thanks for the reminder. Who did you have for history? I can’t even remember who I had. Whoever it was, I must have skipped the class they mentioned that. I was probably in the Great Hall, jamming or something.

    So they sailors drank the brandy the body had been soaking in? Ewwww.

  15. The name that keeps bubbling to mind is incorrect since I know the name was attached to a math teacher – whatever th history teacher’s name was he was the head of department. Wrote all the little factoid sheets that accompanied class work.
    Anyway, these are the same men who could not only eat tinned meat when the Royal Navy started distributing it, but also eat it while refering to it as the ground up corpse of the missing girl, Fanny Adams. A little corpse in their brandy was hardly going to phase them :- )

    • Jayne

      Wow just read the Wikipedia page on Fanny Adams, disturbing stuff. What’s creepier though is the origin of the “f*ck all” saying comes from the butchering of a 8 year old girl

  16. Cameron

    okay I’m assuming your second paragraph refers to the British sailors and not the history teachers at Kepnock… right?

  17. Kaboth

    Great podcast as always Cameron and David thanks a bunch. Even just recently new things are being discovered about the Battle of Trafalgar; the theory that Nelson led some great, finely tuned military strategy against the combined French/Spanish fleet was recently held into question by a a rough scrawled note indicating the direct line of attack Nelson used allegedly drawn only on the night of the attack at dinner.

    Also from what I’ve read it wasn’t even close to a fair fight. The combined French/Spanish fleet might have been larger and even had better ships but they weren’t well maintained. The crew were extremely poorly trained compared to that of the British as well. I think I remember the British firing at least 4 times as many shots at Trafalgar.

  18. I’ll resist a joke about the brandy, like wine, having body.

    Another fine podcast, gentlemen! I’ve been listening to the last few as I work outside in the snow and ice, up here in the Vermont mountains. It’s cheering and inspiring to follow Napoleon’s history as I chop wood, snowshoe across our land, gather deadfall, etc.

    One question concerning British military heroes: surely Marlborough is missing from your pantheon? After all, the hero of Blenheim won a series of campaigns against that era’s military superpower, and arguable helped save Europe (including Britain) from French hegemony.

    PS: thank you for the reply to my last email. More questions coming, I promise.

  19. John Holloway

    Cameron, David, I would first like to say how much I enjoy the show. The discussion of history is truly a delight for the mind, and the banter is a treat for the heart. Informative and enlightening, you provide an edification that is as great as the man it is describing.

    It is wonderful to hear views on Napoleon from me who give him the respect he deserves. When I was in school I had to sit through anti-Napoleon drudgery with accuracy no where near this caliber – if only either of you taught in Canada.

    I do have one question for you, gentlemen: After talking about Napoleon’s death and the final topic for the show, do you plan on producing podcasts of other historical figures? I have heard David mention Julius Caesar several times, any chance of a show about him?

    I would love to keep praising you, but I must take my leave. I am off to the book store to increase my Napoleonic library, and if possible, get Napoleon for Dummies -plugging it 1769 times an episode does seem to be effective.

    -John Holloway

  20. Cameron

    Hehe, repetition, repetition, repetition. Thanks for the comment John. *IF* we ever finish this series (which I’m starting to doubt), we will definitely tackle either Caesar or Alexander. I think David prefers Caesar. I am also keen to do a show on Churchill at some stage.

    Napoleon, though, is definitely the subject we are both most passionate about. I worry that anything we do after this might be an anticlimax. Who can live up to Napoleon?! Caesar and Alexander are terrific stories, but time has distanced them from us. Napoleon is only 200 years ago. I feel I can almost touch him.

  21. Good point about the British firing rate Kaboth. The battle of Trafalgar was commemorated recently and involved a visit to Portsmouth by some French naval officers. There was a pile of cannon balls dating from the Napoleonic era. “Where they used at Trafalfar?” one of the guests asked. “No”, came the reply. “You still have those.”

  22. Kaboth

    Haha the cheeky British never resist an chance to poke fun at the French and visa versa I fancy.

    Personally I don’t think any other historical figure had so interesting a life as Napoleon. JC and Alexander are probably the closest though.

    One person I would like to read about is Blucher. He was over 70 at Waterloo, a hardened veteran though I no almost nothing about him besides is actions at Waterloo. Same with Kutosov who fought a series of battles in Turkey over many years before facing Napoleon in 1812 arguably with so much fear he grossly overestimated Napoleon’s talent at times.

  23. Cameron

    Heh, unfortunately most of them aren’t for the brandied sailor though!

  24. Cameron

    Ah but that’s hardly a fair comparison! If you do “Napoleon” and “Lord Nelson”, Napoleon wins easily, 27,500,000 to 2,360,000!

    “Napoleon Bonaparte” vs “Horatio Nelson” is still a clear win to Napoleon, albeit with less margin.

    I think we all know which man history is most interested in. After all, there is no period of history known as the “Nelsonic” era!

  25. Jonathan Decker

    First of all your podcast is just wonderful. You are turning a history fanatic with some interest in Napoleon into a Napolean fanatic. Well I just returned from paris and london and I saw Napolean, The duke of Wellington, and Nelsons resting places and it leaves little doubt about who was the greater man.

  26. Cameron

    Thanks Jonathan! Glad you are enjoying the show and we’re always happy to see another Napoleon “fanatic” join the club! However, with all humility, I must say that we cannot take credit for making you a fanatic. We’re just the messengers! Credit must go to the man himself and to the people who have kept the story alive for the last 200 years!

    Kaboth – I agree, Blucher is a fascinating subject. I must admit I haven’t read too much about him, but I know his career had its ups and downs. He died only a few years after Waterloo and, according to Wikipedia:

    In his later life, Blücher became slightly mad, and was said to be under the impression, among other things, that he had been impregnated with an elephant at the hands of a French infantryman.

  27. Austin

    Dear David and Camron

    I happened to love this podcast. Unfortunatly, unlike you, (meaning no offence), I am a great admirer of British history. I regret to inform you that I somtimes find myself crinnging whenever you make anti-anglo comments. But, im am open to different opinions and respect yours. I also sypthisis with Napoleon and find it hard to choose a side. LOL! I am aching for the
    episode(s) of the war in the Penninsula. Please do it! It happens to be my area of expertise. I was also wondering whose point of view you’ll be doing it from? Also, this is kinda of subject, but when you do waterloo, please do it from both points of view. I think both sides are interesting, since wellington had a deep respect for napoleon. Thanks for creating this podcast!

    P.S.- I ment no disrespect towards you guys with my pro-british coments.

  28. Cameron

    Thanks Austin! No offense taken. I really do think we try to be fair to both sides. After all, David is a historian and his job is to be as accurate as possible. If you think there are other sides to the story that we haven’t been fair to, please tell us what they are!

    Then we’ll tell you why you are sadly mistaken. 🙂

    The Peninsula and Waterloo will be two exciting episodes, for sure. Lots of perspectives to cover and obviously neither come out well for Napoleon or for France.

  29. Napoleon was undoubtedly the most significant figure of his day and was a genius. But he was human. He could be beaten and he was beaten. I am proud of the British role in his defeat without having to think any the less of him.

  30. Cameron

    Colin, absolutely! I think that’s what I find most intriguing about him. His humanity. The genius and the flaws. The achievements and the mistakes. It’s a Greek tragedy.

  31. Michael

    >

    Ha! I had almost forgotten about this little known fact – after watching the portrayal of Blucher in the Waterloo film, it’s even more comical to imagine the old war horse making these bizarre claims! 🙂
    Speaking of bizarre claims – I had heard somewhere that on a hunting trip Napoleon accidentally shot out Massena’s eye?!? Either that or wounded him so severely that he lost sight in one of his eyes and then blamed poor Berthier for the mishap!? In light of last years events, perhaps VP Cheney should have thought twice before going hunting with friends!!
    (unfortunately I don’t have any specific source on this, just a fellow Napoleonic enthusiast)

  32. Austin

    Hello once again.

    One thing I forgot to ask, or rather beg, is that you would disscuss what Napoleon thought of wellington. We all know what wellington thought, but what I have been wondering lately is what Napoleon felt about wellington. If you have any comments on this please share them.

  33. Austin and Michael, it is great to get into a debate, but we might be jumping the gun on Wellington and Blucher. We are still a long way from Waterloo on the podcasts. I think we should continue savouring the great victory at Trafalgar.

  34. Cameron

    Coincidentally, I was out in country Victoria today with my kids and ended up (as usual) browsing through a little bookstore and… guess what I found?! A biography on Blucher. This one in fact:
    http://tinyurl.com/2w2huy
    I believe it is a recent re-print of a bio from 1815. I was tempted to buy it but didn’t, only because I’ve got about 50 books currently sitting on my bedside shelf that I”m part way through and I knew Mrs Cameron would kill me if I added another one. 🙂

  35. Michael

    Trafalgar? savor the victory? As an ardent Bonapartist I had always believed that Trafalgar never existed!
    You are right about Waterloo Colin, it is a long way off…however we can still discuss Blucher’s retreat during the 1806 Campaign, and surrender to the French at Ratekau on Nov. 7, 1806. 🙂
    Just trying to ruffle some pro-British feathers that’s all!
    Even if Trafalgar was a disaster for Napoleon, I still find it a fascinating subject, as I do the entire era of 18th-19th century naval warfare.

  36. Austin

    I didnt mean to jump the gun, but im getting pumped up about the war in the peninsula. LOL.

  37. I agree with you there Austin. I know almost nothing about it so I am really keen to hear the next podcast.

  38. Christopher

    Kaboth Says: “the theory that Nelson led some great, finely tuned military strategy against the combined French/Spanish fleet was recently held into question by a a rough scrawled note indicating the direct line of attack Nelson used allegedly drawn only on the night of the attack at dinner.”

    Where did hear this, Kaboth?

    Actually, Nelson’s finely tuned strategy was laid down in his famous memorandum of October 9th.

    This is a link to the Trafalgar Memorandum:

    http://www.pbenyon.plus.com/Select_Docs/143_Nelson_Memo.html

  39. Hey!

    My name’s Richard Walls from guess where? Great Britain! No, don’t worry, i’m not going to leave an angry comment about your criticism of British foreign policy during the napoleonic period (You make a very good point! even Napoleon said “If it would not have been for them, I would have been a man of peace”:)

    Anyway, I’d just like to say I love the show. I’m currently revising for my A Level exams on Napoleon and your debate and discussion is a valuable asset.

    Keep up the good work! I’m going to tell the rest of my history class to download your podcast, I’ll make sure I tell you how my exam goes!

    Take care:)

  40. Cameron

    Richard – welcome! Thanks for the feedback and the promotion!

    I’d be interested in your thoughts (and the rest of the community as well of course) on WHY the British were so keen to take Napoleon down.

  41. Christopher

    I put off listening to this episode, I knew it was going to be painful, I was right. lol

    It goes bad early… first we have Cameron talking about the ‘boats’ and stumbling over which year the battle is fought 🙁 …wait, it gets worse. He then gets into his silly left wing nonsense making fun of Nelson’s orders (all the while not mentioning all the silly titles Napoleon bestowed on people, lol) They don’t mention that the campaign started in 1803, and was probably Napoleon’s most expensive campaign of all. A campaign that was about knocking Britain out of the war. At least they admitted at the start that they didn’t know what they’re talking about.

    My biggest objection is Mr. Markham saying that Trafalgar had no long term consequences, doh! Probably irrelevant… oh dear!

    Anyway, my two bobs worth as to why Trafalgar is extremely relevant:

    Most historians say that Trafalgar led directly to the Continental system – which in turn led to the Peninsula war and the disastrous Russian campaign. It also led to a century of British naval dominance and a term of history known as ‘Pax Britannica’. A century in which France went into decline and ultimately went on to be humiliated by the Prussians in the Franco-Prussian war – A beginning of the Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkey legend, if you will.

    Also, you have to remember that Trafalgar led to total naval dominance, which not only means that Britain was never under the threat of invasion after 1805. It also means that Britain can put an army on continental Europe i.e Spain. And because of naval superiority, that army tied down over 300,000 French troops and ultimately drove them out of the Peninsula. Look at the reverse, how might naval superiority have helped Napoleon in Spain? Well, once the Spanish ports are blockaded it’s only a matter of time. Same goes for the Baltic, how might naval superiority helped in Napoleon’s wars against Russia? You don’t have to be a military genius, huh?

    Then there is another side to Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar – the economic side. Naval dominance leads to secure trade routes, which in turn leads to a relatively strong economy, which ultimately means that Britain can borrow money at half the interest the French can. Money is probably the most important factor in winning wars, and almost certainly the reason why Napoleon lost.

    The actual description of the battle is very poor. I’ll say no more on that. Cameron’s commentary on Nelson’s abilities are mind numbingly stupid (in fact most of what he says is embarrassing). And don’t get me started on his childish reference to Nelson’s last words, suffice to say it is Napoleon who took his Egyptian man-servant everywhere he went. ; O

    Some good reading on the Trafalgar campaign – Trafalgar: Countdown to Battle, 1803-1805 by Alan Schom. I know he is unloved by lots of Napoleon apologists, but this is a very detailed and interesting book on the Trafalgar campaign.

    I hope my input is considered worthwhile.

    PS: *cough* Marlborough, Wolfe, Drake *cough* I could cough a heap more.

    PPS: A more interesting movie is That Hamilton Women – starring Laurence Olivier and Vivian Leigh

  42. Cameron

    Ouch! Well Christopher… I was waiting for your inevitable barrage! We don’t even get points for TRYING to cover the battle? Sheesh. I get the feeling we wouldn’t have made you happy unless we went all out and declared Nelson the second coming of Christ.

    I’m personally prepared to take most of that criticism on the chin. I was actually perusing a book on Trafalgar in a bookstore earlier today and thinking “hmmm, I should have read this before we did that show…”.

    I still think, however, that the big deal made of Trafalgar as a victory IN ITSELF by the British is over-stated. Unless I’m mistaken, the British Navy was already the largest of any country by the early 18th century, and certainly by the early 19th. If Trafalgar was anything, it was the consolidation of the benefits of that naval power.

    I agree with you, however, that the economic and military impact of the battle was significant. Thanks for making that clear. It certainly made it easier for Britain to land troops on the continent and lead to almost a century of British dominance. Something I’m sure my Irish forebears were REALLY pleased about….

    I’ve always said that I’m no expert on Napoleon or history. I have an interest in understanding the period and I’m glad I have David and an audience that are willing and able to help out! 🙂

    Podcasting is or should be about a conversation. Thanks for being part of it! Sincerely.

  43. Emmanuel

    I don’t know who said it first — “Amateurs study tactics, professionals study logistics.”

    When listening to the Trafalgar podcast, I was somewhat annoyed that years of effort that went into the preparation for such a battle were summarily dismissed. “Nelson won the battle – so what? He had the better fleet.” But Nelson and his officers, and the admiralty and its associated boards in Britain, had put enormous effort into creating that fleet. Ensuring that ships were built and maintained, that men were found, trained and fed: It required vast effort. Nelson devoted a lot of letters to the subject of fresh vegetable soup, not because he was a hopeless eccentric but because he understood the importance of feeding his men well. (I would be interested to know whether Napoleon gave similar attention to supplying his soldiers.) It has even been argued that the organization required to make the British fleets sail created the basis for the island’s market economy and early industrialization.

    To be fair, I see the same flaw in the more properly ‘Napoleontic’ parts of the show. Barely any mention is made of the efforts of Napoleon’s excellent staff officers, without whom few victories would have been possible. Of how his soldiers were recruited, fed, uniformed, shoed and armed. Of how and where his cannons were cast. How he and his generals communicated. How the vast numbers of horses required by his armies were found, fed and kept in good condition — a major issue for the armies of the period.

    I greatly enjoy the podcast, but it has an unreal quality. If you take all this seriously, Napoleon seems to have sown dragon’s teeth when he needed armies; they sprang from the ground when he needed them, and then they vanished again. And besides, sooner or later you will have to deal with the nightmare of the Spanish and Russian campaigns, when the supply and communication organizations collapsed under the excessive strain, with horrible consequences. To explain that, you surely will have to explain first how they worked.

    What I also have missed so far is a discussion of the cultural influence of Napoleon. It has been said that he was also the greatest French author of his time — but that that was not too difficult because he had banned the others. That is an exaggeration of course, but it is worth commenting on the cultural contributions, good and bad, of a man who was a master of language, but also a dictator who sent out police spies to evaluate public reaction to plays in the theaters.

  44. Colin

    You make some very good points Emmanuel, but the podcast is free and very entertaining and informative. I wouldn’t want David and Cameron to change it very much if at all. The two of them are very pro Napoleon and their enthusiasm for their subject makes for a good listen.

    But you are absolutely right that Napoleon’s overall stategy was mistaken. If he had avoided conflict on the continent of Europe, and only fought defensively maybe with the Pyrenees, Alps and Rhine as the easiest geograhical boundries then he could have concentrated on building up France’s sea power. He would have had superior resources to Great Britain in the long run and over a couple of decades could have seriously challenged for the role of major world sea power.

    This was the threat that I think was behind the UK’s animosity towards Bonaparte. Cameron, I am not sure of the precise figures but I think the population of the protestant England and Scotland at the time was in the region of 16 million and the population of catholic Ireland was near to 8 million. The prospect of France having the seapower to support a serious rebellion in Ireland while simultaneously being able to pick off English colonies was a very serious threat indeed.

    All in my humble amateur opinion.

  45. Cameron

    Emmanuel – all great points! I’d love to have the time to explore all of these aspects of the story but we’re flat out covering what we do each episode. The idea behind this show was always to be just an introduction, the audio companion to David’s book “Napoleon For Dummies”, certainly not a comprehensive study of the subject.

    Here’s an idea – if any of you folks want to make your OWN podcast that explores these subjects in more detail, let me know. I’d be happy to have you contribute to TPN. I would love to have more history shows.

    Colin – excellent points indeed. But I don’t think a defensive strategy would have worked either. He knew that the combined might of the European king/dictators would have overwhelmed France eventually. The only way for France to keep them at bay was to strike fast, hard, and divide them up through alliances.

  46. My friends,

    What an excellent collection of posts. Sorry I’ve been slow to get my two farthings worth in, but 10 days ago I had abdominal surgery and am only able to turn my attention back to what I really enjoy! All went well, by the way; the patient will live to podcast another day!

    I’ll give brief comments to a few of the posts.

    Colin, I agree on holding a defensive line at the Pyrenees, though I think that hingsight makes this seem like a better idea than it would have seemed at the time. Spain and France were somewhat natural allies, and it wasn’t that unusual for a “foreign” king to sit on a throne of Europe (just ask England!). As we will soon see, Napoleon had success there, but those he left behind bungled it badly.

    As to the Alps and Rhine, well, maybe, but having buffer states that are to one extent or another under your control isn’t a bad idea, either. And please remember, he didn’t attack Austria, et al, it was the other way around. I can just as easily argue that if Austria had kept her pledge of friendship, if the Confederation of the Rhine had been alowed to flourish, then a peaceful Continent would have had no use for British agitation.

    Emmanuel, I agree completely that Napoleon’s staff work was an important part of his success, as was the way he organized his nation and his army. We’ve tried to touch on some of that and will now try harder. But as Cameron says, Napoleon 101 is exactly that, a beginner’s look at Napoleon the man, not necessarily an in-depth look at the second and third layers that define his ultimate success or failure. As to the cultural aspects, I thought we had mentioned some of that, but we will try to do more of it. Keep reminding us! Remember too, we will have one or more shows to sum up his legacy, and those shows will likely deal with some of what you miss.

    We will also try to have some guest experts, mostly academic friends of mine, to give the show some additional depth and perspective.

    Christopher, I stand by my statement that Trafalgar had no long-term consequences beyond the obvious, that it assured once and for all that England would control the seas. But since they already did, I’d suggest not a whole lot was different as a result of the battle. I have great admiration for Nelson: read what I say on him in one of my other books, “Napoleon’s Road to Glory.” And this is not to say that Trafalgar had no consequences. In the relative short term, it was very important. But also remember, it was at least seemingly overshadowed by the great victory at Austerlitz. To the Continental Europeans, that was the more important of the battles.

    Alan Schom’s biography of Napoleon is rightly criticized by many good historians, not just Napoleonic apologists, thank you very much! But his book on the Hundred Days is decent, and his book on Trafalgar may be fine. I own it but have not read it. I own over 1000 volumes on Napoleonic topics and have, sadly, not yet read them all!

    Thanks, Richard, for your kind comments. Do let us know how the exams went!

    Austin (and everyone), please get it out of your head that I have anything but affection for the British of today. But the policies of His Majesty’s Government during the Napoleonic Epoch is quite another matter. I believe they were misguided at best and dishonest at worst, and were responsible for creating an epoch of war when there could have been an epoch of peace. British treatment of Napoleon throughout this period was inexcusable and worthy of any negative comment Cameron or I may hurl towards it. I do not blame the British people of the day, but hold their government responsible for much of the warfare and its attendent destruction. No doubt there are many in the world who would make much the same comment about another great world power in our own time.

    John, et al, Cameron and I are pretty sure to take up Caesar, though we might also do a series on the French Revolution. Sort of like Star Wars, working backwards! But don’t expect those shows to be as long or as impassioned as Napoleon, our true love in history.

    And finally, Bu, my presentation in Israel will be part of the following program:

    Symposium on the occasion of the Tenth Annicersary of the Israeli Society for Napoleonic Research and the Bicentenary of the Assembly of the Great Sanhedrin:

    Napoleon and the Jews

    31 May 2007
    09:00 – 19:00
    at the Yad Avner Building of Tel Aviv University
    Selig st. 4 (Afeka)

    We would be delighted if any of our listeners were able to attend the symposium. Feel free to email me and I will put you in contact with the organizers.

    Well, I hope I’ve done a little to take the pressure off of my friend Cameron and provide at least a somewhat reasonable response to most of the posts. As always, agree with me or not, I love hearing from you!!

    Cheers,

    David

  47. Michael

    David,
    All this talk of Julius Caesar as a podcast down the road and the recent HBO series Rome (interesting, though inaccurate) has gotten me to thinking about Caesar Augustus as well. Which figure do you think was more influential on Western history – Julius Caesar or his nephew Octavian. Which do you find more interesting as a story? For some reason even though Julius Caesar is the better known, and the military man of the two, I find Augustus’ story almost as riveting as that of Napoleon’s. He seems to me more of a model Napoleon used politically once he had established power than his great-uncle. Almost as if Napoleon’s career shadowed Julius Caesar until 1799, and then Augustus from 1799 onwards. What is your opinion? I know the Napoleon podcast is only up to about 1807, but this just sprang into my head as I read your last post! Thanks!
    -Michael

  48. Hey

    As a Brit i’m going to try to present a counter argument to the great David Markham on what was one of the key turning points of the Napoleonic period; The breaking of the treaty of Amiens:)

    Now David put the blame mainly on the British, but I would argue differently due to the following:

    1. Napoleon broke his promise to recognise the autonomy of the Cisalphine republic, firstly attempting to secure the election of his brother Joseph, then browbeating the republics deputies into electing him president of the state. He used this as a precedent for seeking to make the over Italian states overturn their rulers and set up puppet states!

    2. This was distressing enough for the British, but then Napoleon went and annexed Switzerland! The Treaty of Amiens stated Napoleon had to withdraw his garrison from switzerland. The swiss were so outraged they appealed to Britain for help!

    3. Meanwhile, French troops remained in Holland, despite Napoleon’s promise in the Traety of Amiens to withdraw. Also, The British were angered by an edict issued by the French to seize every vessel under 100 tons in weight carrying British goods that came within four leagues of the French coast, even ships seeking shelter from bad weather! In effect, the blockade was still enforce.

    4. If Napoleon was so set on Peace, why did he continue to build the French army into an over powering force and continue such a high programme of Ship construction? He also produced a report saying that the moment the British left Egypt the French would reoccupy it. THIS IS WHY THE BRITISH DIDN’T LEAVE MALTA, TO PREVENT NAPOLEON LAUNCHING ANOTHER ITALIAN CAMPAIGN. and lets face it, the reason Napoleon wanted to conquer egypt in the first place was to then go to india and hurt Britains Empire.

    5. Britain tried to secure the Peace stayed. They said they WOULD leave Malta as long as Napoleon promised not to attack the Turkish empire and paid compenation for their UNAUTHORIZED annexation of Switzerland.

    6. Finally, I would argue that it was infact Britain who had viewed the treaty of Amiens as the lasting peace. Napoleon had merely interpreted the treaty as an opportunity to build up his forces – This obviously was seen as threatening.

    Since the breaking of this treaty was the first step to the rest of the Napoleonic wars could you and david address these points in your next podcast? I mean, if the points i’ve made are taken into consideration, it really damages Napoleon.

    As always, History is an argument without end, and that’s why we’re still disacussing Napoleon today!:)

    Love the podcast! Take care:)

  49. I agree with most of what Richard says, especially the bit about loving the podcast.

    However, a period of peace in which the french could build a large navy was pretty much the UK’s nightmare so I suspect that it wouldn’t have taken too much provacation for them to get out of the peace of Amiens.

    I can’t help thinking that Napoleon was well aware of the advantages of keeping the peace but couldn’t resist the appeal of the glory of a continental military campaign.

  50. Tim Van Dyck

    Dear Everyone,

    First of all, it is not a shame to be British, Napoleon had a high respect for the country and it was just the oligarchy and some of their governments that were his enemy, man like James Fox were his friends, Fox even said that Napoleon was one of the best of all people en certainly the greatest of them all, and Fox was a man of peace!

    Those little states in Italy were reformed in one Italian Republic and Napoleon was elected President of it in the most normal way, and when Piedmont was added to France for example, it only occured after their had been a referendum and after the representatives of that state had asked for it.

    Swiss was never annexed to France, Napoleon’s mediation in creating a new ‘state-system’ for that country in 1803 was a major turning point in the history of that country, othet European countries weren’t opposed to that mediation. Swiss had of course a special ‘connection’ with France, it had to deliver troops and it was part of the ‘bufferstates’ Napoleon ‘created’ for protecting France against the coalitions.

    That there were French troops in Holland was allowed by the treaty of Lunneville, with Austria, the major alley of the United Kingdom. And Napoleon was well prepared to withdraw these troops as he said to foreing ambassadors when he tried to maintain the peace of Amiens.

    I never heard of a regulation concerning those British vessels, be aware, there are a lot of lies and most of the time they do not say what was to cause for the actions which Napoleon undertook, so it appears he started with it.

    At the end he wanted to let Malta to the British, but in turn France should get some other isles as compensation, but in 1806 when Fox was back in power, he was willing to accept it without compensation that it was a British isle. With Malta, Egypt and Gibraltar it were the British who controlled the entire mediterranean, while they hadn’t no connection with it at all, France had a large mediterranean coast! It were the British who controlled the seas and builded a world-empire and who wanted the dominate the worldeconomy, like the Russian ambassador said (who hated Napoleon and France) that the only goal of the British government was to destroy France and then rule despotically the entire universe!

    It was Britain which saw the peace only as a way to rest and take up arms again when appropriated (as soon as possible for them) as was said in parliament the days after the treaty was singed. They always agreed to peace with Napoleon, so they (England and the other monarchs, who were paid for it with Ponds Sterling) could rebuild their forces… Napoleon always wanted peace, a lasting one!

    He considered peace more thant any military glory…the British ambassador in France during the ‘peace of Amiens period’ said he found in Napoleon a great desire for negotiating and Prussia and Russia said that it would have been preferable if Britain showed the same desire for peace as France did!

    The wars were the entire responsibility of Britain and the other absolute monarchs…

    Regards to you all,

    Tim
    Belgium

  51. Hi, Michael,

    Hmmm, you pose an interesting question about the two Caesars. I find Julius Caesar to be much more interesting to study, and he started many of the reforms that Augustus later carried out. His personal life was also more interesting and, I suspect, so was his personality. He was one of the most literate rulers in history.

    I guess one could argue that Augustus ruled much longer and with greater authority and therefore had more long-term influence. But Caesar expanded Rome in critical ways and began reforms that, had he lived, would likely have saved the Republic. And, of course, without Julius, Augustus would have never made it to where he ended up.

    So–ta da!–my vote goes to Julius Caesar. SPQR!

    David

  52. Tim,

    I am not up on the details, but it was certainly not in Britain’s interests to leave Napoleon free to build up France’s sea power. I imagine that a way to wriggle out of the peace of Amiens was going to be found sooner or later.

    Colin

  53. Hey Tim

    Firstly, I dont think that you can state that Napoleon had a great respect for the British. I mean, what evidence do you have for this? If invasion plans are what you deem as “respectful” perhaps you need to re think your point. And also, if it was only the government that he had a problem with, why did he detain over 10,000 British citizens in France for 10 years aftyer the treaty of Amiens broke down!?

    Secondly, in regards to those Italian states being gained in the most normal way, how do you defend Napoleon’s military dominance over proceedings. Even Colonel Dyott, visiting Bologna and Turin, found ‘Everything Frenchified, including the guillotines and the trees of liberty in the squares, the inns packed with French officers…the palaces, gardens and convents destroyed and looted’. Does this sound like independence? The representatives of the state were pressured into succumbing to Napoleon much in the way the satelite states of the Soviet union were pressured.

    I still maintain my point that Switzerland was annexed by France, that was the reality of it anyway. If the swiss had wanted it then why did they appeal to Britain for help? Why was the swiss leader imprisoned in the Castle of Chillon? When the British tried to help Napoleon furiously threatened them, and the British, wanting to keep peace, let him have his way. Let us also remember the main swiss towns rose up in opposition against Napoleon!

    And Tim, Napoleon had AGREED TO EVACUATE HIS GARRISON FROM HOLLAND as their position there was obviously threatening to Britain. The British did not allow him to keep his troops there in the treaty. Lets face it, French troops in Holland had been one of the causes of war in 1792.

    And the complaint from the British about the seizing of ships IS TRUE. For example, one ship in the Charent estuary was seized because its cargo was british.

    In regards to Malta, Britain were quite willing to let Napoleon have it aslong as he would gurantee Malta’s independance. His refusal to do so obviously left Britain no choice but to refuse. With Napoleon’s continuing preperations for war and building of his Navy Napoleon just couldn’t be trusted. And lets face it, in 1806 Napoleon was probably so willing to let the British have it as he had lost all his fleet at traflgur and now knew that a British invasion was impossible.

    And you still haven’t answered the crucial questions Tim: If Napoleon wanted a lasting peace so much why did he continue to build his army and his navy? why was Napoleon trying to woo the Russians? why the aggressive anexxation of Switzerland?

    and perhaps the most damning question of all: why was Napoleon flooding England with French secret agents to bring back information on British harbours and defences? Perhaps the answer was best stated by Sheridan in his speech to Parliment “[Conquering England] is the first vision that breaks upon him through the gleam of the morning; this is his last prayer at night”

    By the way, David Markham, could you please offer anything to this debate?:)

    Take care:)

  54. Tim and Richard,

    I don’t see anything in history that suggests that either Great Britain or France had the slightest reluctance for a ruck at this period in time. I think that the British were devious cynics and Napoleon was a ruthless egomaniac.

    Colin

  55. Kaboth

    Christopher, “Kaboth Says: “the theory that Nelson led some great, finely tuned military strategy against the combined French/Spanish fleet was recently held into question by a a rough scrawled note indicating the direct line of attack Nelson used allegedly drawn only on the night of the attack at dinner.”

    Where did hear this, Kaboth? ”

    Sorry for the slow reply Christopher. I didn’t think to check back. I saw that information on a TV program. I think it may have been Battlefield Britain (not sure about the name) but it was produced by a man and his son and they do reenactments and study the intimate details of all the major battles Britain engaged in both internally and externally. There are quite a few episodes and each run for an hour. It was screened in Australia on SBS last year. It might also have been the Battlefield Detectives program though I’m pretty sure it was the former. I can’t speak for their sources though.

    If those are indeed Nelson’s own words before his death perhaps he wrote such details on the eve of the battle after having come up with the preliminary idea on a scrawled bit of paper at dinner?

    Wow you guys all really know your stuff concerning the breakdown of the Treaty of Amiens. As with almost everything I doubt there is a black and white answer. Both the British and the French probably hold some responsibility for the breakdown of semi-peaceful relations. A great topic for a thesis.

  56. Tim Van Dyck

    Dear everyone,

    The invasion plans were only prepared after Napoleon had tried to save the peace of Amiens, thus after Juin-July 1803, when even in those months he tried to start negotiations, although there already had been declared war. Those 10 000 Britis subject were only arrested as a response to the British seizure of 1200 French and Duth merchant ships. Napoleon tried during is whole career to arrange a exchange of prisoners with Great-Britain, but they never accepted that. Those 10 000 British prisoners often had come over their family and were employed in the service of France, they didn’t have such a bad time!

    I am sorry, but I will never say he dominated those representatives of e.g. Piedmont to ask him that they joined France…The French influence was of great importance for Italy, the Napoleonic era there was one of great benefits, if their it was becoming to much French in all things…why did they celebrated the 200the anniversary of their liberation of the Austrians with such great splendour in 1996-1997? When the new French ambassador arrived in Rome, after Waterloo, a cardinal told him that they had maintained the French laws, because they were the first who succeeded in bringing justice to Rome.

    Swiss was not annexed, we will not agree on this I suppose, and Napoleon’s mediation of 1803 was as I said before accepted by e.g. Russia. And as neighbour of France en Italy it was important that it would never came under influence of the enemies of those countries…If those cities opposed Napoleon, I can gues who agitated them…

    Holland and Belgium were before the Revolution possesion of Austria, the treaty of Lunneville recognised them as French, Holland did not became French possesion, Austria was the only one who could grant this right to France and the treaty of Lunneville was not ‘abolished’ when that of Amiens was signed! Holland was even one of the ‘co-signers’ of that treaty. Further on Napoleon was willing to evacuate Holland, and yes even the Cisalpine Republic, as he said to e.g. the Russian ambassador (who hated France) but in return he demanded that all the clauses of Amiens were carried out…The evacuation of Holland was not a clause in the treaty of Amiens!

    The consturction of an invasion fleet and the army at Boulogne only started after is was clear to Napoleon that the treaty of Amiens couldn’t be safed…!

    I never heard before of that seizure of that vessel with British cargo…as I said before I would like to know if it is true at all and if what are the precise circumstances, I know Napoleonic history too well for just accepting it as ‘Napoleonic aggresion’ because the whole period is covered with lies and slanders and too often they confuse cause and effect or don’t show the cause of an action.

    Napoleon did not want to have Malta, is should have been given to the Knights or to Russia, he said that if Russia gave it afterwards back to the UK he would not oppose that and accept it. And this he said in 1803, not in 1806.

    Frenc secret agents in Great-Britain? Isn’t that normal when you sense that the UK is preparing for war and without a doubt Britain had them too in France, but they had too agents in France who wanted to arrange for the murder of Napoleon and who participated in clubs which were threatening to the internal peace of France…

    I know a lot of citations of persons (even enemies of France) who attest to the opposit of the declaration of Sheridan, even of other British MP’s. Let it stress again it was the club around Pitt and businessmen who wanted war, not for e.g. the Whighs or the people of the UK, and why did they wanted war, because they wanted to dominate the world(-economy), they even said it in 1803, that a peace who left every nation with the liberty to arrange her own economy, was unacceptable and that only war could garant the UK EXCLUSIVE NAVIGATION and liberated them from competition!

    Best Regards,

    Tim

  57. FNH

    I’m doing a reading of “The Death of Nelson” on my podcast at History.mtPodcast.com . The book was written by the Surgeon on the Victory.

  58. mike brown

    to quote you “don’t treat napoleon as the second coming”
    i sub napoleon for NELSON, we beat napoleon and his army
    don’t forget his murder of d’enghein, villeneuve, and wright. and don’t you dare “suck up to the british” as said by aneurin who cannot even spell. i enjoy napoleonic history but am fed up with this constant anti english stance, this podcast was a good idea until the people with a gripe against england got their claws in, and i mean this forum.
    i respect david markham as an historian, and respect his views, after all he loves napoleonic history a man after my own heart, and master and commander was great, i
    DID’NT FALL ALSEEP.

  59. Cameron

    Mike, calm down. Nobody here has an ‘anti-English stance’. As we’ve said many time, we try to tell the most accurate version of the Napoleon story that we can. And it is a fact that England was responsible for most of the conflict in Europe in the early 19th century. We can debate the reasons for their actions all you wish, but the fact is that they financed the warfare and constantly strove to prevent peace.

  60. Hugh Yeman

    Hello David, Cameron, and anyone who’s still looking at this old blog. I just caught up with the series, and now I’m going back to comment.

    David, I’m very confused about the assertion that Trafalgar had little or no long-term significance. Early in the podcast you say…

    “The impact of Trafalgar, long-term, didn’t really change much… Napoleon was never really a major naval threat… in a sense it’s not something that had a huge long-term impact, but it did have short-term implications.”

    …but later in the podcast there’s a long bit that seems to me to contadict this.

    “Napoleon still has ships… there’s still a French presence in the Mediterranean and Atlantic after Trafalgar…this has a significant psychological effect on both sides… any chance of invading Great Britain is out of the question… British no longer have to be worried about this great invasion scare… they beat the biggest threat to British security…it allows England/Great Britain to be more aggressive against Napoleon, they no longer have to be worried about defending… now they can be even more aggressive offensively… and most importantly, from the military point of view, the psychological view, the British gained the most because of this idea of ‘We no longer have to worry about waking up and there’s Napoleon in the bedroom’… from a military standpoint and a psychological standpoint, obviously Napoleon has his options severly limited. Until Trafalgar there was always this possibility, at least, of invading Great Britain. After Trafalgar, there’s no chance whatsoever that that’s going to happen, and it forces Napoleon to… concentrate strictly on the continent… [and this is what forces him to turn to the Continental System]. It also makes it much more difficult for the French to maintain a foreign empire. It’s difficult for them to communicate with their islands in the Caribbean…”

    This strikes me as wanting to have your cake and eat it too in a way that seems familiar. As I’ve been reading and listening to history I’ve noticed that modern historians tend to be somewhat overly enthusiastic in their iconoclasm, and this leads them into a bit of contradiction as they end up saying “Contrary to popular misguided notions, X is not true… as a matter of fact the opposite of X is true! … Oh, and by the way, X is kind of true too.” That seemed to be the pattern you were following. If Trafalgar did have such a potent psychological effect, then wasn’t it even *more* significant in the long term? I’m particularly curious about this because much of what you said reminded me of the Spanish Armada. Modern historians downplay its significance, pointing out that it didn’t significantly curtail the Spanish empire, which continued to be a major player well into the seventeenth century. However, it was significant from a psychological standpoint because it proved that the Spanish could be beaten; after the Armada, the Spanish Navy was no longer a bogeyman rampaging through European nightmares, and this of course contributed to Spain’s long-term downfall. The Battle of Lepanto in 1571 also comes to mind. It certainly didn’t significantly hurt the Ottoman Empire in the short term, but it did dismiss the notion of Ottoman invincibility. The Empire continued on, but many historians consider Lepanto to be “the beginning of the end” – the psychological seed of its destruction.

    Obviously the parallels between these three events are limited: you say that a French invasion of England was never on Napoleon’s table, whereas if those Spanish troops in Flanders had gotten over to Kent or Essex in 1588 they would have rolled right over Elizabeth’s feeble militia. Likewise, if the Ottomans had won the Battle of Lepanto all of Italy would have been immediately at risk. With that said, though, the psychological effects of the three battles seem quite similar, and quite significant, to me: in order, the Ottomans, the Spanish, and the French were proven to be beatable, and that assurance had great long-term effects. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

    One other comment: Cameron, your “Kiss me, Hardy” bit seemed not only like a cheap shot at Nelson, but also intentionally misleading. I believe that men kissing each other on the cheek as a sign of friendship was much more common in those times. In any event, Nelson would hardly have wasted one of his last breaths suggesting a violation of the RN’s Articles of War.

    Thanks for the very enjoyable podcasts, guys! I look forward to more on Moscow.

    -Hugh

  61. Cameron

    Hugh – sorry about taking so long to respond. I’ll leave the first part of it to David, but as for Nelson… I was just quoting Wikipedia! That’s on record as his last comments! I don’t believe I made any insinuations about what that could mean… and it’s the 21st century people, wake up call, homosexuality is okay and quite common.

  62. Hugh Yeman

    Cameron: I don’t dispute the fact that he said “Kiss me, Hardy” and I don’t dispute that homosexuality is OK – not that it’s my business to approve or disapprove of a person’s sexuality in any event. My point is that you seemed to be saying that Nelson’s words may have indicated homosexual leanings. Such an assertion muddies the waters of historical accuracy. Here’s what you said.

    “So, ‘Kiss me, hardy.’ I know that men at sea do strange things and are quite close, but… [David: ‘We don’t wanna go there.’] To run the risk of offending our British listeners, their great hero, I won’t go any further with that.”

    To say that Nelson wanting to kiss a man would imply homosexuality is historically misleading. Regardless of how you and I feel about homosexuality, folks in Nelson’s Navy didn’t see it that way; that the Articles of War dictated death for sodomites shows us exactly how they saw it. Now, maybe your “wink wink, nudge nudge” was not meant to be taken seriously at all, and if so then this is a moot point.

    -Hugh

  63. Cameron

    Well Hugh you obviously know more than I about homosexuality in the British Royal Navy. I shall defer to your assertion that Nelson was neither gay nor bisexual and that his request for a kiss from Hardy was purely…. strange.

  64. For those inclined, I would recommend a book by Adam Nicolson, Seize the Fire. Its a study not just of the Trafalgar action itself, but also a study of the english and french societies, of which the various navies in the action were a reflection. Nicolson backs up the assertion of C.R. in this podcast, in which C.R. wonders what the big deal is……..the English were supposed to win. Nicolson explains why they should have and why they did………….or if you prefer the audio experience, get the audio book. Its like a 6 hour D.M. podcast. Good Stuff!

  65. Hi all

    I will preface anything I am about to say below with the statement that I am really enjoying the podcast (am up to the Trafalgar episode) and think it is a cracking idea and the execution it done very well.

    However, (there is always a “but”)

    When you started the podcast you both (Mr Markham and Cameron) firmly nailed your colours to Napoleons mast. This was fine as I don’t mind hearing another point of view.
    What I have found is that you have unfortunately adopted a position diametrically opposite to the one you were trying to address and in the process “deified” Saint Napoleon and weakened your argument in redressing the anti Napoleon argument.

    Up until the Trafalgar episode I could live with this but it seems to be the case now that, whatever your protestations to the contrary that you are presenting Napoleons faults as well as his virtues, you have mitigated in every way his mistakes or shortfalls by blaming everyone else or belittling his adversaries to the point of ridicule. This I find a little demeaning and beneath a work of this sort especially from a renowned Historian.

    Cameron, you have stated your opinions quite openly and we all know now where you stand. Please don’t let this get in the way of presenting a balanced view of what really happened (and yes I know that history is difficult to give in a balanced manner)

    I have read a lot of the blogs and there seems to be a groundswell on the same lines as this one. I am English and intelligent enough that we were and still are no angels in the wider world and that everything we have done in hindsight might not have been the best for humankind but I suggest that no country is safe from that accusation.

    England and France have a history of warfare that goes on for longer than both of your countries have been in existence combined so there will always be friction there but don’t make the mistake of assuming everyone else in the era was stupid in the effort to make Napoleon look good, it does Napoleon and yourself a disservice. The real marvel of Napoleon was that in an era of great personalities and people he still managed to shine well above his peers.

    As one of your bloggers has said it more eloquently than I can, I would also like to have a bit more information on how he arranged his army and what tactics he employed to deliver his success and let’s face it Napoleon could only survive as a leader of France whilst he kept delivering victories. I hope there is more on this to come.

    As this post is written after the horse has bolted so to speak it can be considered a moot point but hero worship of this kind does little to further the interests of historical understanding and only provides ammunition to those wanting to do the opposite to Napoleon.

    Napoleon is such a giant figure in history (warts and all) that he doesn’t need “bigging up”

    Here endeth the sermon

    I look forward to listening to the rest of the episodes and I would like to post some comments at the end if I am allowed

    Regards

    Brian

  66. Head spinning from argument/counter-argument, if only the French had been so effective at Trafalgar!

    You can replay Trafalgar for free at the BBC website, its hard to win as the French, and almost impossible to win as well as Nelson did! Seems vaguely realistic then……

    I think Nelson was a great Naval leader, but to be honest, until the 20th Century, I can only think of 4 great Naval leaders, Don Juan of Austria, Hayreddin Barbarossa (Not to be confused with Fredrick Barbarossa), Henry Morgan and Nelson) 2 of them are British though. If I had to add a 5th, I would guess it would be Bart Roberts (Black Bart) who is also English. I guess there should be a Dutchman in their somewhere too….

    Wellington was a very good general also. If you look at history, for any country historically, there are only 2-4 really famous military commanders at most. Rome had a few, France had a few, Normandy (before it was really “France”) had a lot, Germany had more than a few, Savoy had one (Eugene, I guess he would be Hapsburg Austria though)So, historically, I can’t see much difference really…….

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