November 20, 2007 cameron

#32 – The Hundred Days Part Two

Re-established on the throne of Paris in April 1815, Napoleon introduces a new Constitution and begs the Monarchs of Europe and Great Britian for peace. His envoys are rebuffed and his letters returned unopened. The Allies, still ensconced at the Congress of Vienna where they have been since November 1814, declare Napoleon an international outlaw and prepare to attack with one million troops. Napoleon has inherited only 200,000 troops from Louis XVIII. He puts together his new team and prepares for the inevitable battle.

Napoleon snuffbox 1815

This show is based on David’s book “Napoleon For Dummies”. Click on the image below to purchase a copy!





Comments (66)

  1. Thanks again for an interesting podcast. You have set the scene for the one I think most of us have been eagerly waiting.

  2. Cameron Reilly

    “Eagerly”?? But it’s going to be the worst episode of the series!! I think David will need a whole bottle of his medicine to get through it! And I might need to have some as well!

  3. Whatever your perspective on Napoleon you have to admit that there aren’t many more dramatic episodes in history than Waterloo. Are you planning on doing it over two podcasts or should we all be putting aside bandwidth for one huge podcast?

  4. Ryan DeSha

    Hello, I just got done listening to the podcast while I was at work. I remember hearing in the podcast that King of Naples, Murat had moved his troops against the Austrians. I dont have my Dummies book with me when I ask this. I know that Napoleon sent letters to the Allied powers of Europe like Alexander, but did he send letters to the other territories like for example what was left of the kingdoms of Italy and the Confederation of the Rhein (typo?). Did he send a letter to Murat telling him not to make a move and he did anyway? Besides that great podcast.

    P.S. I remember in your previous podcast when you talk about Colincore. Ive never taken French so I dont know how to pronunciate French. i was wanting to check out a copy of his memoirs but dont know how to spell it.

  5. Cameron Reilly

    It certainly is dramatic. I think we’ll probably do the battle in one long episode. I’m guessing it’ll be another 90 – 120 minutes.

  6. Joshua Parker

    Strange. This episode doesn’t seem to show up in my itunes list Cameron. NM I’ll just DL it from here 🙂

  7. Cameron

    @Joshua – my bad. Forgot to twist the noggle around to the whoosit. All good now.

    @Ryan – That would be Caulaincourt. You can find a link to his memoirs “With Napoleon In Russia” at our shop:
    I’m not sure about the answer to your other question, but we do know he rejected Murat’s offer of assistance, so there much have been some communication between them.

  8. Austin

    Hey everyone, just wanna say that this episode was great, as allways, and im really looking forward to the next one, (Even though it doesn’t turn out well for the Napoleon).

    I always look at Waterloo as a sort of Final Showdown between (in my mind) the two greatest generals of the Napoleonic age, Wellington, and of course, Napoleon. Many people argue that Wellington was a good general because he never lost a battle. In Iberia he won every major battle. Others say he was overrated because at waterloo he almost lost. If ist wasn’t for the Prussians, he would have been defeated, even though the French lost quite a bit of men also. I think that he was the best allied general to counter Napoleon, but he certaintly did not have the military genius that Napoleon possesed.

    Napoleon himself said to his Soult, who had faced Wellington before and lost, “Because you’ve been defeated by Wellington, you think consider him a great general. But I tell you
    that he is a bad general, and it will be as easy as having breakfast”. Well it certainly was not as easy as having breakfast and I think that Napoleon really underestimated Wellington.

    But still, Wellington lost alot of men, and I think that was because only about a fourth to a third of his army were his vetrans from the penisular. Plus there was the young and inexperienced William, Prince of Orange.I read the book, Sharpe’s Waterloo by Bernard Cornwell, (a series David mentioned in one of the peninsular war episodes), and the book blames William for alot of the british losses. Three times in the book he forms the battalions in line instead of square when cavalry charge and the men get massacred. Although I doubt that it happened three times, I do think he was to blame for some of the losses.

    I know i said alot but I just wanted to get a conversasion going. I might be incorrect about a couple things due to the fact that I haven’t read as much on waterloo as i have on the Peninsular, but im sure i got most things right.

    Can’t wait till the next Episode!

    Austin Callaway,
    Mineral Point, Wisconsin

  9. Both Napoleon and Wellington were politicians as well as generals. I think it is undoubtedly true that of the two Napoleon was the better politician.

    The better general? Well Wellington has the better track record. When you read about the career of Napoleon your jaw often drops as you turn the pages when you read of his exploits. You don’t get that with Wellington, but you don’t have the risk taking either. If I had an army and I needed a general I would pick Wellington. You would have no idea what Napoleon would come up with.

  10. Wes

    Excellent Show!!! Can’t wait for the next one and can’t wait for the next series that you are going to start. Did you decide on Ceaser and when are you going to begin?

  11. Carl

    You guys need to work a bit on your French pronounciation! Just kidding 😉 Great podcast as usual. Keep it up.

  12. Oh, my, Colin. You would pick over Napoleon? Listen, for my money, Welling is a very decent general. I come not to bury Wellington but to put to rest the idea that he was as good a general as Napoleon. His great success was in Iberia, fighting an army on the run in a country that had turned against it. He showed no flashes of brilliance, but he did move forward and did win. If Napoleon had been able to stay in Spain and take him on directly, history would be far different, of that you can be sure.

    As to Waterloo, again Wellington did OK with what he had and the situation in which he found himself, but he was anything but brilliant and in the final analysis it was the Prussians on his side and foolishness on the French side (that would be Ney and Grouchy for starters! And Napoleon doesn’t escape blame, either.) that ultimately gave him the victory.

    For those of you who are interested, here are the two books by Caulaincourt that I have in my library. Note that many listings split the Russian set into two separate books.

    Caulaincourt, General Armand Augustin Louis, marquis de, duc de Vicence, Napoleon and His Times. 2 v. Philadelphia: E. L. Carey & A. Hart, 1838. Rare 1st ed, many references indicate first ed in 1933. New binding. Author was “Master of the Horse” in charge of message services and escort.

    __________, Memoirs, From the Original Edition by Jean Hanoteau. Abridged, Edited, and with an Introduction by George Libaire. Includes With Napoleon in Russia, New York: William Morrow and Company, 1935. 8vo, 422pp, 5 illus, 1 fold-out map, and No Peace With Napoleon! New York: William Morrow and Company, 1936. 6 illus.

    Cameron, 90 – 120 minutes on that little skirmish? I figure 10-15 minutes tops! 😉

    As always, my very best to all!


  13. Yes I would pick Wellington. He would never pull off an Austerlitz, but he wouldn’t lose the bulk of his army in the middle of Russia either.

    The level at which Napoleon and Wellington were playing was above the straight forward military engagements. It was Napoleon himself’s choice to fight a war on two fronts, so his absence from Spain was his own responsibility. I don’t doubt that had he deployed the Grand Armee in the peninsula Wellington would have been forced to withdraw. Wellington’s cautious approach was a recognition of the overall strategic position.

    I also think you have to bear in mind that the two men were playing different games. Napoleon was bent on overall domination of the continent. This could only be achieved by big and decisive victories. Wellington and the British were simply trying to thwart Napoleon’s plans. They did not need to win – they only needed to ensure that Napoleon did not continue to win.

  14. (oh and I really am looking forward to the next episode – I might disagree with your analysis but I really really love the show)

  15. Wes

    Who said that Napoleon was bend on overall domination of the Continent??? It seems that all the wars that he faught were for defensive purposes. All the other contries in Europe didn’t want the Revolution to succeed. That is why they all attacked Napoleon and never sued for peace. If Napoleon had taken power before the Revolution of if the Revolution never took place and he just overthrew Louis the old fashioned way, I believe that given his huge success in defeating all his enemies, that they would have come around to him and eventually made peace. It isn’t that they hated Napoleon in the beginning, but its what he was fighting to protect that they did not want to succeed. Those are the ideas of the French Revolution and how people are able to govern themselves without a monarch. They were all afraid that if the Revolution succeeded that thier own people would get the same idea and overthrow them.

  16. Napoleon’s armies fought from Lisbon to Moscow. That is one hell of a defensive strategy!

    And I can’t see how you can square getting yourself crowned Emporer by the Pope with supporting the ideals of the french revolution.

  17. Cameron

    Colin, we’ve said it many times – Napoleon inherited the wars and no matter how many times he beat France’s enemies and signed peace treaties with them, they defaulted on those treaties and forced him back to battle. So in order to claim “Napoleon was bent on overall domination of the continent” you should really provide some evidence to support your theory. Otherwise you are just perpetuating 200 year old British propaganda!

  18. Colin, I’m afraid that I disagree with your analysis. I won’t claim that Napoleon did not have an aggressive bone in his body, but the fact remains that the so-called ‘Napoleonic Wars’ were really wars instituted by various coalitions against him–coalitions that were extensions of the anti-French Revolution wars of an earlier period. That said, I’d have rather seen Napoleon not go into Spain to enforce the Continental System, and there could well have been a different political approach taken as well. It was not his best decision. Russia, on the other hand, is far easier to understand and he really had very little choice in the matter. How he handled it, however, is another story.

    It must be pointed out, however, that it was not Napoleon’s decision to fight a two-front war when he went into Spain. At that stage, the only real front was there. Going into Russia did involve opening a second front, notwithstanding the fact that he anticipated a rapid and decisive victory. But what you have had him do? Give up completely on the Continental System? Abandon the Poles? Wait for Russia to attack? (they were preparing to do just that, of course).

    No, as long as at least some powers, encouraged by England, were determined to toss Napoleon off his throne, he could hardly just sit back and wait for things to happen. And in 1812, remember, most of the major countries in Europe were his allies, not his enemies. Had not Emperor Alexander caved into pressure from his family and nobles, blinded by British gold, there could have been a long period of peace. Allied to Austria, Prussia, the Confederation of the Rhine, Spain and Russia, France would have been quite secure and Continental Europe could have entered a new golden age. An age, I want to point out, where Napoleonic France and progressive ideas would have held sway over some parts of Europe, but where the primary nations would have been allies, not subjects, to the Emperor.

    Anyway, ‘what if’ questions are always the most fun.

    Oh, one last thing, Colin. I always find it nothing short of AMAZING when I hear those who take the British perspective on this period complain about Napoleon’s alleged desire to dominate the world, or even just Europe. This from an empire on which ‘the sun never sets!!’ And just where did Wellington get his early experience. Why in India, of course. Lets see now, Britain gains control of India, a country that posed no threat to her security, to guarantee her trade routes (as also with the Middle East, etc). Napoleon defeats invasions against France led by, from time to time, England, Prussia, Austria and Russia and, in so doing, establishes an empire and system of alliances that were designed to protect against further attacks. And it is Napoleon who wanted to dominate the Continent/World??? Oh, my!

    All my best to one and all,


  19. Cameron

    Here here! Well said Mr Markham! The list of countries that England invaded in their attempt at global hegemony makes my toes curl up. After 1815, with Napoleon out of the picture, roughly 400 million people were added to the British Empire!

    And, since we’ve been talking about Spain and Portugal here lately, let’s also not forget their respective efforts, especially in South America.

  20. Austin

    wow, alots gone on since i’ve last been here. I didn’t mean to get such an agressive argument going.

    I agree with both Mr. Markham and Colin. Colin pointed out that Wellington would have never puled of a “Russia”. But how do we know that? I like to look at Napoleons career in two sections, his early and later years. Correct me if im wrong, but I belive that power corrupts and that in his later years, Napoleon convinced himself he was invincible. I think that he thought he could fight a two-frontal war with both the War in Spain and the Invasion in Russia. There was also some political stuff with Alexader and his family but I think that Naspoleon thought he was good enough to risk it.

    Wellington, was no Napoleon. True he did win every battle, but all but one were in Iberia. The last one he almost lost. But, as I said before, If I had to fight Napoleon I would ask for Wellington. But history is written by the victor and I do belive that Wellington was a little overrated.

    As for Napoleon trying to take over Europe (or the World), I would agree with Cameron and David. The British tried to make Napoleon look like a monster, (which they succeded in), but in truth, Napoleon was actually fighting mainly defencive Wars. And the best defencive stratigy is offencive (if you have a decent amount of troops). Napoleon one most of the wars and in turn gained control of thier countries. correct me if im wrong, but he rarely ever forced countries into his control, instead he usually forced them into alliances with France. So Napoleon never really tried to take over Europe. But he certiantly was not totaly inoccent. Like Spain and Portugal, I dont think It was the smartest decision ever and I think that was really his downfall.

    Good day my friends.

  21. Yes Britain had a good sized empire in its time. But if you are justifying Napoleon’s conquests by his alleged liberal values you have to accept that the British Empire had some progressive aspects. Most former British colonies were left with democratic governments. In contrast the French had a tendency to incorporate their overseas territories into metropolitan France – indeed there are some bits of the world that still are.

    Attack isn’t the best form of defence. Look at the Russian campaign! Napoleon had what was probably the biggest army assembled up to that point in history. He got most of them killed. That is quite some failure to be put on the balance sheet against his undoubted successes.

  22. Cameron

    Colin, try telling the hundreds of thousands of victims of British genocide (the indigenous Australians, Africans, Indians) that they had “progressive aspects”. Most countries occupied by Britain were only left with democratic governments as a result of bloody wars… I’m thinking the US, India, Rhodesia, etc. Let’s not try to portray Britain as the saviours of mankind.

    And yes, Napoleon’s Russian campaign was a disaster but not because of his offensive tactics. He didn’t lose his army in battles, as you know. His mistake was staying too long, not in initial strategy of taking the offensive against Tsar Alexander’s obvious preparations.

  23. Well yes some pretty bad things happened during the history of the British Empire – though I still think it compares fairly well by the standards of large empires. The Romans were much worse.

  24. Colin,

    Well, don’t get me started on Rome, at least not on Caesar. That will come. Regarding the British, I do agree that they were fairly progressive for the day, at least toward their own people. Somewhat less so toward the colonies, and especially the indigenous peoples. But the British government was based on some very good ideals and I won’t take that away from them.

    That, of course, was all the more reason for them NOT to keep opposing the other progressive force in Europe, namely Napoleon. As I say in the introduction to ‘Napoleon’s Road to Glory:’

    This leads us to the final and most important reason for Napoleon’s fall. From the very beginning, Great Britain was Napoleon’s most persistent foe. Repeatedly she financed coalitions against Napoleon, and sent her soldiers and sailors into battle against him. It was Great Britain who led the way in the demonization of Napoleon, who harbored so many of the royalist émigrés, who conspired against his life, and who ended the one peace that he brought to Europe. Great Britain was acting in what she considered to be her own best interests, but that is beside the point if we are seeking causes for Napoleon’s decline.

    There is a great deal of sadness in this struggle to the death between Great Britain and France, or rather between Great Britain and Napoleon. Napoleon’s France, especially during the Consulate, was the most enlightened nation in Europe. Napoleon’s detractors do not like this fact but there can be little doubt of its truth.

    The second most enlightened nation of Europe, before Napoleon brought his reforms to other nations, was undoubtedly that of the British. It was English law, the Magna Carta, the Glorious Revolution, the idea of habeas corpus that served as the philosophical foundation for the upheavals in America and France.
    The story of this conflict is without doubt the story of how perceived economic and military self-interest gained the ascendancy over ideology and the benefits of peace. That the story of the wars of this period is largely the story of conflict between the two most enlightened nations of Europe is an irony of the highest magnitude.



  25. Mike

    Looks like I’ll have to disagree with both Cameron and Colin:

    Agreed Britain killed people in wars of conquest. No different to other conqueroring nations, from Spain to China via Rome & Mongolia. Naval/industrial power gave
    Britain more scope, but other nations with the same opportunity would have done similar.
    If we take a look at whos had a crack at conquering the (known) world : Rome, Alexander, the Islamic Arabs, Ghengiz Khan/Mongols, Russia, Britain , Nazi Germany,
    [may have missed a couple] –
    to me definitely the best choice would be Britain.
    Along with the bad , the world also got a whole lotta good thrown in too, which needs weighing in the balance
    of a critique of any empire.

    Of course defeats do need to be reckoned with, particularly 1812, but just because N lost some battles, doesn’t invalidate a claim that he was one of the greatest military minds in history. In the same way as for example, Muhammad Ali losing some fights doesnt invalidate a view that he was one of the greatest boxers of all time.

    Just my 10 centimes.


  26. Cameron

    Mike, what good did the indigenous peoples of the world get in the 18th and 19th centuries from the British invasions? Oppression? Genocide? Ask the Australian aboriginals what good they think they got from their British invasion. You might want to stand a safe distance away from them before you ask….

  27. Ben

    I agree Cameron. I’d hazard a guess that you weren’t a supporter of little Johnny. Here’s hoping that Rudd sticks to his promises. The British Empire has immense amounts of blood on it’s hands, and not only due to the genocide of the indigenous peoples. Lots of the wars during which the Brits built up their Empire were either started or incited by the British. (See the War of Austrian Succession (aka War of Jenkins Ear) and the Seven Years War in America for starters) The Brits seemed to make a habit of forcing other nations, particularly the French, into open conflict then nicking their territories. They even dropped out of the Seven Years War in Europe, leaving their ally Frederick the Great alone against the majority of Europe. Real honourable. These very mercenary tactics did seem to work though. The Brits ended up with a number of colonies and a thriving economy, the French lost their major colonial posessions ended up completely broke. In a way, the British were responsible for the French revolution….

    As far as military commanders, in my opinion, to put Wellington in the same class as Napoleon is ridiculous. Wellington was a great general, but he was fighting a largely defensive war with an excellently supplied army.
    Napoleon had a very poor logistical train – from what i’ve read he never seemed to be able to get this to work. The armée relied largely on local forage. Fine for the early campaigns, but the mammoth Grande Armee of 1812 required far more supplies than could have been collected even if the Russians hadn’t used scorched earth tactics and burnt all their crops.

    In the Peninsula, Wellington’s army was generally well supplied, and held the support of the locals, making foraging a far less risky duty. Add to that the fact that British cavalry were mounted on far superior horses, and you’ve got less than an even playing field. I think that if Wellington, like Napoleon, had been forced into fighting offensive engagements, Napoleon would have had him for breakfast. Unfortunately (at least for the Bonapartists amongus) time was always on the allies side, and so Napoleon was forced to fight aggressively.

    I think where the Napoleonic command system falls apart is when the Armée gets too big. Napoleon, while a brilliant military mind, had no general staff. All orders had to come direct from him, transcribed by Berthier and then sent to whatever Divisional or Brigade commander. This worked brilliantly … until the battles or the armies became too large to manage alone, even for Napoleon. His concentration couldn’t be everywhere at once, and so resposibility passed to the marshals and generals.
    The Marshals weren’t trained in independent command, they were supposed to operate as an extension of Napoleon. Time and again, the Marshals let Napoleon down by making stupid ‘rookie’ mistakes. I think Davout alone is above blame in this respect.
    I think that Napoleon’s greatest mistake was not to train his subordinates in the art of higher command. The addition of a staff network would also have allowed him to manage his commanders more easily, and also to keep them apprised of the larger plan. Perhaps with high level training and more comprehensive staff system, when the Marshals used their initiative, it wouldn’t be in a brave but foolish cavalry charge or a slow and plodding pursuit. Imagine if Grouchy (who was an exceptional cavaly commander – Napoleon did award him with a Marshalate, and not for a political reason like that @#!@ Bernadotte) had been more aggressive in his pursuit of the Prussians, or if Ney had…. actually Ney probably shouldn’t have been left in charge at all =) Murat too for that matter.

    Anyway, enough ranting for one day…

  28. Ben

    Oops – helps to proofread. The British dropped out of the Seven Years War once their aims were acheived (i.e. getting control of New France). That’s despite guaranteeing Frederick that they wouldn’t make a seperate peace.

  29. Mike


    Ok, with an open mind and at a hopefully safe distance I’ve asked. Wait to see what they say.

  30. But you can’t judge someone like Napoleon who operated on the top level of the international stage simply on his tactical battlefield skills, not matter how good. He was the head of state. The buck stopped with him. It might have been tempting to him to pursue an aggressive military policy because that was what he was good at. It was however manifestly flawed.

    As an Englishman I am particulary interested in the naval conflict. Anyone could see that if ever a defensive strategy was needed here it was. With more ports and and more ships and with no vital overseas supply requirements, all Napoleon needed to do was spread his capital ships widely. Even the English couldn’t blockade an entire continent. And hit and run raids on English shipping could have been devastating to an island dependent on overseas trade. What did Napoleon do? Try and get all his ships together for a decisive knock out blow. What happened? He handed control of the seas to the English.

    It is clear he often pursued glory at the expense of caution. That is why I would prefer to give command of any army I had available to Wellington.

  31. Tom

    I’ve been listening the past few months (finally caught up!) and thoroughly enjoy the show – you guys present an interesting topic in an entertaining and informative way.

    Here’s the “but” – one thing I can’t stand is the occasional inane analogy between Napoleonic events and current political controversies – this weeks was calling the United States a “Theocracy”. OK, I get it, you don’t like George Bush – alot of people don’t. The fact that he’s a religious man (most of our presidents have been just that) doesn’t make us a Theocracy. There are many religious people in our democracy and they have a right to their point of view the same as anyone else.

    Please stick to the history and save the current day political commentary for another show.

  32. Antonio

    Dear friends,

    It is indeed a pleasure to see such great interest and educated discussion about Napoleon and its age. Please reserve an episode for the Congress of Vienna and the long term consequences of Napoleon and the French Revolution ideals.

    I wish this podcast could go on and on…

    My special thanks to David and Cameron. I will never forget your podcast.


  33. Cameron

    Tom, thanks for listening to the show. I think the theocracy comment was said in jest, but I do think when any head of Government, such as the current US President, claims that he/she is in direct communication with a God and that this God is telling him/her what decisions to make about running the country on a daily basis, you pretty much have grounds to suggest the country is a theocracy – “a form of government in which God or a deity is recognized as the supreme civil ruler.”

    In terms of religious people in the country having a right to their point of view – of course. But my understanding of US history is that the “founding fathers” had very clear ideas about the separation of church and state.

    “History I believe furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose.”
    [Thomas Jefferson to Baron von Humboldt, 1813.]

    Finally, regarding political commentary, thanks for the suggestion but we reserve the right to compare current events with historical ones in the show where we think it’s relevant.

  34. Tom

    I understand it was in jest, but fits what I find as an annoying trend in the political commentary – very one sided. Anyway, your show, your perogative.

    Not sure about the Bush religion references, they seem to me to be a bit of an urban legend. No doubt he is religious but I think it’s been pretty routine throughout our history for Presidents to acknowledge praying to their God for guidance in making the monumental decisions with which they are faced. Even Bill Clinton was pretty quick to embrace religion when it suited his purposes. In fact I think there’s a book out now on Rev. Billy Graham and his relationship with basically all of the presidents of the past 50 years.

    As for the Jefferson reference, I don’t think we qualify as a “priest ridden people”. As a Catholic, I can say one of the Church’s biggest problems is a lack of priests.

    Jefferson was not the most religious of the founders, but he did (largely) write the Declaration of Independence which includes the phrases “… which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them… We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, …”

    cheers, keep up the good work.

  35. Cameron

    Tom, there’s no doubting where David and I stand regarding our opinions about the current US administration. Sorry if it annoys you but hey you can always watch FOX for some relief. 🙂

    From my reading, the majority of the founding fathers of the USA were deists, a philosophy and movement that derives the existence and nature of God from reason and personal experience. It certainly seems to be a deist god (“Nature’s God”) referred to in the Declaration. Lincoln, too, is said to have been either a deist or an atheist.

    Certainly the rise of the religious right now in Australian politics is something that I, and many of my friends, are extremely concerned about. Our new Prime Minister is particularly religious. Personally I would prefer to see my elected leaders making decisions based on reason and logic. Perhaps the world wouldn’t be in the mess it is right now if our politicians made more rational decisions.

  36. Mike


    I dashed off a quick reply to your post to me before rushing out the door, apologies. If you meant that views on things like Britian’s long term impact are subjective, then yes I agree. My own view is in net terms positive, as it is with say the Roman civilization, but again these things can’t be quantified (remotely, one could try count lives gained/lost as an estimate but that would ignore other things).

    Having got that off my chest, while I’m here I’m ok about the odd bit of commentary on current events.

    Sorry… I have to go do other stuff
    David referred to some allied concerns about the Russian army.
    I wanted to research then ask what these concerns were & did the Russian army behave reasonably civilized in Western Europe (did they reach France?)? If I may I’ll skip the research & just ask.

    Thanks again for the show.

  37. Tom

    Cameron: funny, I thought the right winger (Howard) was defeated – that’s how it was portrayed here (in New York) – another of Bush’s friends down to defeat. You’re saying the new guy is a member of the religious right? Not how he was portrayed in our press reports, but then again our (non-Fox – thanks to Aussies for Rupert!!) left wing press will pick up an anti-Bush angle and run with it.

    Maybe you’ve covered this before but what’s next for you and David after the Napoleon series runs its course (if it ever does!)

  38. Cameron Reilly

    Tom – Howard was defeated, he was the leader of our “right wing” party and he was religious, although I never saw much indication of that apart from a couple of talks he gave to evangelical groups here to try to win their vote. His policies were anti-gay, anti-euthanasia, but apart from that, I didn’t see much religious fervour from him.

    Kevin Rudd, the new PM, might be on the left, but he met his wife while they were both part of the Australian Student Christian Movement. He is the mainstay of the parliamentary prayer group in Parliament House, Canberra. and has been vocal about his Christianity and given a number of prominent interviews to the Australian religious press on the topic. He has argued for church representatives having a bigger role in policy debates. Did you see in the news during the last week that Tony Blair admitted to asking God what he should do about Iraq?

    As for what’s next, we’re currently preparing for a series on Caesar. I’m really excited about it!

  39. I think the identity between religious belief and right wing politics is not only a uniquely american thing, but a fairly recent thing even there. Here in the UK I don’t believe that there is any correlation between politics and religion. Historically the Church of England tended to be the Tory party’s favourite church, but that link has weakened considerably. That the leader of the Australian Labour party is a Christian doesn’t particularly surprise me. I take no interest in politicians’ religious beliefs when voting.

  40. Cameron

    Colin – what if the leader of the party you normally vote for converted to Islam and said he would from now on ask Allah to help him make decisions on policy? That the country would now be guided by the prophet Mohammed’s teachings? Would you still be as blasé?

  41. Tom

    Caesar is certainly another interesting figure to sink your teeth into for a multi-year project! What did yuo think of the HBO series Rome (aasuming you saw it). Once you get past the soap opera aspects I liked it, but I’m a sucker for anything historical.

  42. Cameron, I generally vote Labour and had to stomach Tony Blair’s apparent religious beliefs. I don’t think they made any difference to his actions though. I am blase about people’s religious beliefs because I don’t think that they really believe them. I have yet to meet someone who believes in Heaven in the same way as they believe in Australia. I think Napoleon is a good example of how religion normally works in politics. It was convenient for Napoleon to use the Pope to give his reign a bit of extra legitimecy. Why not? It didn’t cost much and it didn’t constrain his actions in any way. Napoleon was a remarkable man in many ways but his cynical approach to religion is pretty much standard for politicians.

    As someone else has brought it up, I like the contemporary political references in the podcast. It is one of the ways you can get into another era. Technololgy and culture were very different in Napoleon’s era but they were still human beings like us and it is interesting to see where there are parallels.

    Keep up the good work.

  43. Ben

    Cameron, I heartily agree that a seperation of church and state is fundamental to maintaining a democracy. While it’s not a worry that Rudd is Christian, everyone is entitled to their beliefs, it will be very troubling if he starts spouting the religious mumbo jumbo that seems to be in vogue in the US administration at the minute, and especially if that starts impacting his decision making.
    God on our side indeed…

    Also, Howard did meet with the exclusive Bretheren – you’d go a long way to find a more scary bunch of extreme right religious nutbags.

  44. Ben

    Colin – you should watch the doco Jesus Camp, or some of Richard Dawkins docos. Very scary to see people who don’t seem to have progressed in their way of thinking from the 14th Century.
    I’d not be too suprised if some of the folks in those programs believed in the existance of heaven more than they beleived in the existance of Australia.

    I also do like the contemporary political references – especially agree with Cam and David’s comparing the Peninsula war with Iraq. I think that is very apt

  45. Michael

    After reading the last few posts – Is this the new atheist left wing /democratic socialist podcast or still the Napoleon podcast?? Just checking… 🙂

  46. Well Michael I am an atheist democratic socialist personally, but there is nothing very remarkable about that. I also technically live in a theocracy. The head of state of the UK is the Queen, who is also the head of the state religion. I think that I am right in saying that the Church of England is the only major religion set up by act of parliament. It doesn’t seem to do much harm as an arrangement. I am not sure what the constitutional arrangements are in Australia – it wouldn’t surprise me if it were also the case in Cameron’s country?

    Ben, I am a scientist by profession and I am a great admirer of Richard Dawkins works on evolution. I haven’t bothered reading The God Delusion as I don’t share that delusion personally so I don’t think I am who it is aimed at. I have heard about the Jesus Camp documentary, but it seems to me that if the ultra religious have to organise special events to meet like minded people there can’t be too many of them.

  47. Ben

    Cameron, have you heard if David is ok what with the huge storms in his neck of the woods?

  48. You’re teasing us Cameron. I am now pacing anxiously up and down and obsessively checking my inbox every half hour.

  49. Michael

    That’s fine Colin – I was just being half tongue in cheek with that comment. There are those of us who believe in some sort of creator/deity/higher power. Something bigger than ourselves (I know gasp – shock and horror! 🙂 )
    I myself was raised Catholic, although I see religion’s role here in more of a social sense – a framework for society, a point of reference for the masses. I believe government and religion should be separate, but all laws come from some set of moral values.
    I consider myself a moderate American “conservative” (more of a classical liberal, libertarian, or conservative republican – small r republican here in the US). I don’t see the “religious right” as as much of a threat as you gentlemen do. I believe radical Islam or what I consider to be radical socialism now sweeping many parts of the globe to be much more of a threat to western civilization, but that is a topic for another board.
    I just believe in upholding some sort of order in society through tradition rather than radical change in the secular progressive sense. That’s why studying Napoleon is so appealing to me. He upheld many of the benefits of the French Revolution, while at the same time ending its excesses. He was the perfect glue to bind France’s many political factions together, a liberal and enlightened monarchist.

  50. Michael

    That’s funny Colin, I have today off from work (a rarity in retail management at this time of year), have all of my tasks done for the day, and was just thinking the same thing – pacing…waiting…checking inbox.

  51. There is a lot in what you say Michael. I think the tragedy for France is that Bonaparte was just as you described and just what they needed, except for his obsession with fighting wars. If he had followed a defensive strategy on land with the natural boundries of the Rhine, the Alps and the Pyrenees France would have been unbeatable. If he had coupled that with a steady build up of naval power to allow an aggressive colonial policy France would probably have emerged within a few decades as the world superpower. I certainly don’t think that the United States would have been able to defend itself against an attack from Louisiana. The US today could easily be a french speaking country with a separatist english speaking region around New York and Boston.

  52. Michael

    I think rather the Allies were the ones obsessed with fighting wars. I believe Napoleon should have remained First Consul and France a Repubilc rather than an Empire within the natural boundaries. Aside from the Peninsular War, I believe Napoleon was forced into fighting the Coalitions in order to A) keep France free from foreign domination and B) keep his own throne. I myself think the Bourbons of France were politically inept rather than evil or bad in any way and were treated with incredible harshness and brutality by the revolutionaries. However once the people of France had decided on a Republic, it was none of Austria, Prussia, Russia, or Britain’s business to force a Buorbon back on the throne. I believe that if France had peacefully transitioned into either a Constitutional Monarchy OR remained a repubic under First Consul Bonaparte, the wars of 1805-15 could have been avoided.
    As far as 1815 goes, Napoleon tried to govern as a more liberal constitutional monarch, but I believe the Allies had seen enough and didn’t want to “take a chance” on letting him regain strength. The other powers of Europe were now more reactionary than ever.

  53. It may be true that Napoleon was forced to fight the coalitions against him. He didn’t have to fight them in the aggressive way he did. France is a rich country with ample resources. It could resist any attack, and with Napoleon’s military genius, probably very successfully. Attack is not the best means of defence. Ask the Carthaginians. Ask Hitler. And look at the career of Napoleon himself.

  54. Hi, gang,

    I’ll probably stay out of the religious wars, though I do want to say that Napoleon was not cynical about using religion to further his goals. Having the pope at his coronation was meant to help bring unity to France. And throughout his career, Napoleon promoted religious freedom for everyone, especially Jews. This was often over the strong objections of family and colleagues.

    Michael, your comments are thoughtful, and many take the position that Napoleon should not have become Emperor. But ‘it seemed like a good idea at the time,’ was popular with the people, and designed to assure long-term stability. In any event, who were the other powers to try to dethrone him? As to the Bourbons, Louis XVI was well-meaning, I’ll give you that, but those that followed cannot make that claim.

    Ben, thanks for asking about my safety during our time of floods. The nearby river flooded its entire valley, but we are high and dry. However, we do have a water catchment area in our ravine that during the winter has a small amount of water, which, of course, I have insisted on naming. I can tell you that Lake Bonaparte has risen to new heights. Indeed, not since scaling the Alps on the way to Italy has Bonaparte risen so high! 🙂 You’ll be happy to know, however, that it is still many feet below the Imperial Library!

    Best to one and all,


  55. Michael

    Speaking of religious freedom – Happy Hannukah to any Jewish friends out there…

    This past weekend my wife and I watched the A&E Napoleon series on DVD in honor of the Coronation and the Battle of Austerlitz. In the scene showing the Christmas Eve 1800 assasination attempt on Napoleon, it struck me how hypocritical some of the more reactionary royalists were – willing to kill many innocent people to get to the First Consul. I’m sure they were quite bitter over their treatment during the Terror, but the royalists weren’t going to win any friends among the French people through terrorism.
    If anyone gets a chance to see it, it is definitely worth your while. Especially the scene in the moments before the attempt on his life where Napoleon talks of his dreams for the future of France to the little peasant girl who is later killed. Not an entirely accurate portrayal of Napoleon’s life, but better than many productions out there. I believe Cameron had been discussing the Max Gallo books the series was based on a couple of podcasts ago.

    David, very glad to hear all is well with your family during those terrible storms.

  56. Luis

    I am going to see a TV Show named “The French have arrived!”, on the Public TV in Portugal, and in the noble hour (21h, after the 8 o’clock News).

    We are marking the 200 years of the 1st French Invasion!

    Know what? My granny (almost 80) can tell me stories her granny told her about the French in their village…

    God! That’s an oral report of the facts… My granny doesn’t know Napoleon or much European History… I can hear about the French from oral tradition… Wow!

    That remminds me of what Mark Twain said about his father: when he was 15 he seemed to know so little… but when MArk was 25, he got amazed with how much his father had learnt in mere 10 years…

    Keep the good work. I love it. Sheers

  57. Cameron has let us know that the next podcast is in the can waiting to be released – and this is going to be the big one. Waterloo – the culmination of the story.

    Obviously we all know the result, but I guess some of us will still be rooting for one side or the other. I guess that the British contingent and the guys from Spain and Portugal have already made clear that we would prefer hearing about Napoleon’s defeats than his victories. But I thought I would make a few points for the undecided.

    Waterloo is in modern day Belgium, but Belgium had only been conceived a matter of months before the battle. It was part of a new kingdom of the Netherlands, very roughly modern day Belgium. Holland and Luxembourg. Prior to the French revolution Belgium had been part of the Holy Roman Empire and Holland was an independent republic. The revolutionary troops had swept away all this and replaced with a theoretically democratic republic of Batavia, but had severely limited the new republic’s self determination by demanding troops, money and loans and stopping trade links with England. Even the limited control over their own country was removed by Bonaparte who set his brother up as absolute monarch. Well that was the theory. The Netherlanders didn’t even have an independent despot since Napoleon gave his brother the orders – and even put him under effective house arrest in Paris for three months when he didn’t do just what Napoleon expected of him. As Napoleon retreated from Moscow even this figleaf of a constitutional arrangement was abandoned and Belgium and Holland were annexed to France proper.

    Not surprisingly, as the allies advanced towards France, the Dutch took the opportunity to rise up and expel the French from their country. Also not surprisingly, Belgian and Dutch troops were to serve at Waterloo in defence of their country against the man they can only have regarded as a foreign tyrant.

    I for one can’t wait to hear the account of his downfall.

  58. Antonio


    It was indeed an interesting show, with a few stories I’ve never heard before. One thing is for sure – If I was French, I wouldn’t like to be left behind, isolated, lost or alone on the countryside!


  59. Luis,

    That is amazing oral history – an account from 200 years ago. In my family we have a story from the 1830s which is not quite as old as yours. We also have actual Napoleonic defences on the sea front of the town where I was born.


  60. Ben

    I have recently stumbled across the following site. It has MP3s of a whole bunch of Napoleonic music – Veillons au Salut de l’Empire, La Victoire est a Nous!, and a bunch more. Great to hear them music mentioned so often in some of the memoirs, especially ‘La Charge’ and ‘La Pas Accéléré’. And this is all public domain stuff, so no copyright issues.
    Hope it provides some enjoyment.

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