August 4, 2006 cameron

#9 – Domestic Affairs

In 1799, when Napoleon became First Consul of France, he started a series of important domestic reforms which were revolutionary in Europe, many of which survive to this day. In this episode, we depart from Napoleon’s military triumphs and demonstrate a less-appreciated aspect of his career – his genius for domestic affairs.

We talk about:

  • The Code Napoleon
  • The Legion of Honour
  • The Bank of France and the economy
  • Public education
  • The Amnesty for the Emigres
  • and the Concordat with the Catholic Church

As always, David and I had a lot of fun producing this show and we hope you enjoy it. We would really love it if you’d let us know if you’re enjoying the show by leaving a comment.


Comments (28)

  1. Jerry Acord

    Gentlemen, I’m really enjoying your series. I discovered your podcast just recently (I really can’t recall where I saw it mentioned, sorry) and I’ve been listening to an episode a day — I’m up to #5 now. I’m going to be a little frustrated when I get to #9 then have to actually *wait* for the next one to come out!

    Cheers & keep up the good work.

  2. Thanks Jerry! Appreciate the feedback! You know what they say – “An episode of Napoleon a day keeps the flies away!”. πŸ™‚

  3. Peter Thomas

    Guys, I’m loving it. I never knew anything of Napoleon beyond “short, military, general then emporor, wound up at Elba, and called the Antchrist in the opening line of War and Peace”.

    And I’ve got what I thought was a pretty well-rounded education. So the comment in this week’s episode – that podcasting will open up a whole new public education mechanism – is already proving true. Thank you guys, you’ve broadened my world.

    Also, as I ponder the question of management and whether I really want to manage people or avoid it, you’ve given me a pretty extraordinary example of what can be done when someone leads.

    Only problem is – I joined at episode 5, and now that I’ve finally come to the website itself there doesn’t seem to be anything older still available. I’d love to go back to the beginning if possible. Is there an archive that I’ve missed?

  4. J. David Markham


    An episode a day…? Oh, my. I just knew I should have put something in the contract about leaving the humor to me. Oh, well.

    But thanks for the nice comment, Jerry. We get a little frustrated as well when we have to wait until doing the next episode. But the old vocal cords just won’t take doing this every night. Just think of it as though it were sex, and enjoy the anticipation!


  5. Gentlemen….
    Fantastic listening to you both discuss with such knowledge and ‘fun’ on our subject!!
    What’s the next step, an ‘Australian Napoleonic Conference’, sometime in 2008???
    I’m sure we could get Mr Markham to come down and give a key address!!
    What do you both think??
    Ken R.

  6. Peter, glad you’re enjoying the show! You can find direct links to the earlier shows at this link:

    You’ll need to open each podcast individually though to get to the files. Alternatively, if you’re using itunes, you should be able to find all of the old shows there and you can subscribe to the podcast in itunes by clicking this link:

  7. Jean


    Absolutely thrilling. Even though I know (in general) how it turns out, I’m listening to each podcast like a good whodoneit. Why do keep saying “we’re almost out of time”??

    As a rule I download then delete podcasts but these are keepers.

    Thanks, Keep it up, Keep ’em long!


  8. Thanks Jean! I have to say “we’re out of time” because, if I didn’t, David and I would STILL be talking. πŸ™‚

  9. J. David Markham

    Hi, all, I love the comments and really appreciate the kind words. But I am shocked–shocked!!–at the suggestion by Cameron that without restraints we would still be talking! Hmmm.Well, he may have a point, though the careful listener can tell when my voice is giving out. But Jean, I am very glad that you are keeping these.

    Peter, unfortunately a lot of people with perfectly good educations have an incorrect image of Napoleon. Neither Cameron nor I would suggest that the man was perfect, but he was far better than most historians have led people to believe. And the recent episode was just a glimpse into some of the really good things that he did. We’ll see more as we move along.

    Ken has the best comment of all. I think it would be an excellent idea to have a Napoleonic Congress in Australia! There must be a fairly decent number of people who would attend such an event — and that certainly includes me. If anyone out there would like to help organize such an event, lets say for summer of 2008, that would be super! We’d need some organization (university, city, etc) to help sponsor it and provide a location. I might be able to get the International Napoleonic Society to participate, and I’d certainly help to round up some speakers.

    But this will only work if there is a lot of local interest. So, how about it? Anyone out there want to do this??



  10. John G

    David, Cameron

    I am very interested in a conference in Australia. It’s a wonderful idea. I’m sure we could get one of the university’s interested.

    By the way, I have started re-listenting to the podcasts. I think they are great and I now realise that coming from a Commonwealth country, we are at a disadvantage in terms of this type of history. We certainly did not cover Napoleon in school. So this is great. You are setting Napoleon free.

    John G

  11. Thanks John! Yes, I know what you mean about growing up in a Commonwealth country. That was my very first reaction too when I started learning about Napoleon. When I studied history at school, he was depicted as a tyrant warmongerer. And this was 200 years later!!

  12. J. David Markham

    Dear John G,

    Great to hear of your support for the Congress. If you can help, please let Cameron know. Lets put together a group of people interested in doing this. I’ve done them in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, and there is no reason at all that we can’t do one in Australia.

    You are right about the image of Napoleon. Perhaps Cameron and I can free up is image a bit, let some truth push away all of the negative stuff most of us were taught at an early age.


  13. Tim Van Dyck

    Dear Cameron and David,

    I am sorry for the late response…but I have some 3 months vacation (you know parties and such a things)and I am also working for the Emperor, I translate the book of Ben Weider, Napoleon The Man Who Shaped Europe from the english into the dutch…Just to say that I hadn’t the time yet to listen this show (I will listen the next one in the following days)…

    This show was really great, you show Napoleon the Statesman, like he himself liked it the most, being statesman. I liked it very much and your economic part at the end was ‘revealing’, very good!

    Keep up the good work,

    Success with your congressplans,

    Vive l’Empereur!


  14. Chris Froissard

    Dear Cameron and David,
    thank you both for the best series of podcasts I have heard. I’m an avid listener of podcasts and have heard quite a few.

    Your podcasts are truely inspiring both from an historical perspective (have learnt so much about Napoleon) and technological perspective (podcasts can be a wonderful learing medium in themselves).

    I eargerly await your next instalment. I’ve just finished episode #9 and that (like all the others ) was fascinating. I am saving episode #10 until you’ve done episode #11 as I will want to continue with this fantastic series.

    Excellent stuff, thank you so much for your time and efforts. I too am becoming passionate about Napoleon after listening to such passionate historians as yourselves.

    As the podders say, vive l’empreur!

  15. tech

    Chris, wow, that’s high praise. David will need to build an even larger house to get his ego through the door! He’s the true historian behind the show, I am merely the guy who presses the record button. But I am genuinely a Napoleon geek/fan/enthusiast. I’m known by friends as someone who gets bored quite quickly with interests but Napoleon has endured for 15 years. It is one subject for me that never gets boring.

  16. David Markham

    Hi, Chris,

    Thanks for the comment. I’m already building a new wing to house my ego. Or my collection. I will give Napoleon most of the credit. We can talk about him and I can guide our listeners into various directions of study and consideration, but it is Napoleon’s life that is so fascinating, not those of us who talk about him. Still, I’m very glad that you like the way we’ve gone about it, and I’m looking forward to doing the next episode soon!


  17. Peter Atkins


    I wanted to let you know I am a regular follower of your podcast. I play it on my ipod at work and do the mundane things such as email whilst I listen in. Keep doing a great job.

    Peter Atkins
    Brisbane Australia

  18. britt

    This podcast is really helpful-im doing my A-levels and 1 topic is Napoleon. These podcasts are really useful to be able to listen to whilst typing an essay-thanks guys

    p.s. hi everyone

  19. Jeff

    I really enjoyed listening to your pod-casts. I am a current student at Florida State University and your domestic affairs show gave me great direction in where i want to take my research paper. great job

  20. Cameron

    Britt and Jeff – that’s great! I’m glad we can help out. Jeff, I don’t suppose you’re also studying chemistry at FSU under the great Sir Harold Kroto? I’m a big fan.

  21. Guys a Australian napoleonic congress is already being held Biannually since 2001, the first was held in Goulburn NSW and had two uni professors (and three other guest speakers) conducting lectures, a lot of wargamers and re enactors were also present for the two day event.

    the next event is later this year, I will get the dates for you all.


  22. Cameron

    Hey Matt! That’s great news! I’d love to go this year. Please let us know the dates and if you’d like David to attend. He’s DYING for an excuse to come out here.

  23. FrankJ

    I have to chime in with the “daily” listening: I burn the shows to audio CDs and play them on my daily commute. Good thing my car CD player handles rewritable disks. (And when I split the Egyptian episode to make it fit, the first segment ended during the Pauline story, and I had to wait before I got the rest of the story.)

    BTW, J. David, I caught you on a History Channel (US) program on the Italian campaign. I came to appreciate the thematic difference between presenting Napoleon’s remarkable story (you) and a cynical analysis of motives and behavior (the British guys). While both “sides” are worth having, you came across very positively.

    I see that Napoleon was a very bright, engaged and active individual. (I’m not sure that labeling him as a genius helps, because that describes only the first of the three traits.) And I now learn that he pursued “republican” principles. I’ll be fascinated to understand how he acquired not only the ideas (via his education? readings? cohorts?) but also the impetus to implement — what is now known as nation-building.

    Specifically to the domestic reforms period, it is literally unbelievable that France “turned around” in the span of a year. Surely the “genius” of the turnaround, of the improvements, was in the manner by which the ideas and plans were coalesced and promulgated. Napoleon must have had insights into the inadequacies of the previous communication network AND into how human beings choose to cooperate. After all, whether the time horizon is a year or the four years before Code Civile ratification, the French had to wait, change, wait, change… Astounding!

    Now if only Napoleon-201 or Napoleon-304 were available in audio format. πŸ™‚ I suppose I’ll need to learn enough to produce them.

  24. Jayne

    Just a quick question mainly because I find your podcast’s so interesting, you said before Napoleon France’s laws were not uniformed. I wondering how so. For example how were laws in northern France different from the laws in the south? I know you probably won’t see this but thanks for sparking my interest in Napoleonic history!

  25. Travis

    Fellas, I’m really enjoying this podcast. Growing up we learned next to nothing about Napoleon and most people I mention this to liken him to Hitler. Right now working on a nearly completed job site and these lesson help me through the monotony of punch work.

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