January 27, 2008 cameron

The Napoleon Bonaparte Podcast #35 – After Waterloo

First of all, let me wish you all a happy 2008 from David and myself.

Second, please allow me to apologize – both for the delay in this episode of our little show as well as the audio problems with it. As I explain in the introduction to the show, there was a major technical snafu with the recording (apparently a result of a Skype upgrade not playing nice with my recording software) which left David’s voice sounding like Darth Vader after a couple of Ambien. I’ve spent the last couple of weeks trying to clean it up as best as I can. It’s still not perfect but hopefully won’t hurt your ears too much. I think for future shows I’ll record on the Macbook – we might even do a VIDEO episode (if, of course, any of you would be interested in watching our handsome mugs while we talk).

Now… on with the show notes.

After the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon had to make a series of strategic decisions. Can he save Paris? Can he still raise an army? Is all, finally, lost? In this episode, David takes us through some of Napoleon’s thinking and actions in the days immediately following his last appearance on the battlefields of Europe.

This show is based on David’s book “Napoleon For Dummies”.


Comments (42)

  1. Debby Nance

    Just wanted to say that I have enjoyed all of your podcasts so far & am just catching up in the series since I started late. You mentioned in one episode that podcasts were supposed to be approximately 20 minutes–no more–in length. However, I find those podcasts do not explore the subject adequately. As a person who has a Masters degree in History, I am searching for substance! I find it with your podcasts & have learned so much.
    Might I remind you that you promised in an earlier podcast to review more of Napoleon’s sale of the Louisiana territory. Since I’m from Baton Rouge, La. & have seen many Napoleonic exhibits relative to my native state history, I would be interested in your take on this.

  2. Nicholas Stark

    I also agree that an episode on the Louisianna Purchase (or as Ben Weider refers to it , the Louisianna Gift) or maybe even just an episode on Napoleon’s relations with the flegling United States would be interesting. You could also mention how Joseph Bonaparte around this time moved to my hometown of Philadelphia, although the original building where he lived has been demolished for some time (there’s still a plaque to him there)

  3. K.C.

    Just FYI guys, but it looks like Dominique de Villepin is having a Napoleonic garage sale.


  4. Wes

    Hi All
    I was wondering if you guys had given up on us. I was very excited when I found a new podcast in my que. The audio was all right. David, I think you should stick with the scotch. I have developed a bit of a taste for scotch, but don’t drink it to often. I still like it though. I hope we won’t have to wait so long for the next episode. Things are getting extra exciting right now.

    Hope you book is going well David

    Hear You All Soon

  5. The next podcast will be recorded in a few minutes and, Wes, I’m happy to say that it is late enough in the day that I will revert to my normal medication. And Wes, we will never give up on you folks!! 🙂


  6. David

    Its great to see you guys posted a new episode. What a disappointment all those days opening up iTunes and seeing no new Napoleon podcast.

    By the way feel free to make the podcasts as long as possible.

    Also I agree with Nicholas, an episode on the Louisianna purchase would be very interesting…..anything to keep this excellent podcast from ending.

  7. Mike Levesque

    I have been interested in Napoleon, among other notable historical personalities, for many years and just started listening to your Napoleon podcast.

    You have remarked that some of your listeners have the impression that both of you are anti-English. I’m a British ex-patriot living in the U.S. and I find show extremely interesting, informative and sometimes downright amusing (especially when Cameron gets going).

    Facts and opinions are two sides of the same historical coin. Your views and opinions on Napoleon help place context on Napoleon’s place in history.

    Keep up the good work both of you.

    “A historian has many duties, the first is not to slander; the second is not to bore.” (Voltaire)

  8. Frelt

    The Lousinia purchase certainly deserves some coverage, but maybe not a whole show. A show on Napoleon and the New world might be worthwhile, if his relationship with it has yet to be much covered. I am still on podcast #15 and am curious to hear whether Napoleon’s attempt at supressing the slave revolt in Haiti will be defended by a “he was ahead of his time in many but not all respects” or whether it will be condemned by a “he was a great guy overall, but he immorally screwed this one up”.

    What i’ve heard so far is great stuff, and am glad that i’ve got about 6-8 hours of podcasts ahead of me before I am even half way through the chronological series. =)

    As a small side note, at least technically speaking, aren’t supreme self confidence in ones ability to greatly surpass others, and arrogance, the same thing?

    I think Napoleon was arrogant. Perhaps that was one of the many tools he wielded to further human prosperity on Earth, but no one ever said arrogance is always bad (except for that Vatican guy).

    As for an actual moral flaw other than the Haiti one (you might beat that out of me through context), should Napoleon really have appointed all those jobs to his siblings if they weren’t especially competent? Considering how many people relied on those jobs being done well?

    Yes, Napoleon is Corsican. Nevertheless a ruler ought to put his people before his personal life, which includes the well being of his family.

  9. Cameron

    Frelt, I guess you’re right. Napoleon WAS arrogant. He definitely believed he was homo superior. And with good reason. And I agree with you about his siblings. While I can understand why he did it, it was, I believe, a huge mistake. He should have chosen the people with the most ability, not the people he thought would be loyal to him.

  10. Greg McP

    It’s always interesting to hear you folks speculating on ways that Napoleon, or his son, could have remained in power, as if this was the Ideal result.

    But obviously for many people both outside and inside France this was not the case. If I was someone with power in France in 1814-1815, I probably would have been thinking that enough is enough and sticking with Napoleon is just going to bring more warfare and ruin to the country. The rest of Europe just isn’t going to leave us in peace with this man in charge.

    I would perhaps at this point be on of the Traitors.

  11. Nicholas Stark

    Just as a note to Mr. Markham, I just recieved my copy of “History Revisited” in the mail today (I preordered it), and I’m anxious to read it, especially the section on Napoleon. And I agree, the Louisianna Purchase might not be enough for a whole episode, but an episode on Napoleon’s views on the United States would be of great interest. As I understand, Napoleon was a great admirer of the United States, although certain people such as Thomas Jefferson despised him. I’d like to hear your take on it.

  12. Cameron

    Greg – I think you’re right that sticking with Napoleon would have caused more warfare for the country. It was obvious by 1815 that the other European powers would not tolerate him – UNLESS he won a military victory. If he had managed to win at Waterloo, or even after that had the Assembly backed him, which is far from inconceivable, he could well have negotiated an armistice.

    But here’s another question – should France knife Napoleon in the back after all he had done for them over the preceding 20 years, just because a handful of European monarchs wanted revenge for their own military defeats at his hands? What, exactly, was his crime for which he should be sacrificed? Being too good on the battlefield? Exacting a demanding price from France’s enemies for declaring war on France time and time again?
    I understand that France was tired of war however there is a question in my mind as to why they would buckle beneath the demands of their enemies instead of supporting 100% the man who had made them masters of Europe.

  13. Cameron, I think given his ability Napoleon could have done a great deal for France.

    What he actually did was involve them in expensive wars from one end of the continent to the other. get their potentially world beating navy sunk and flog off the juiciest bit of their empire to the US for next to nothing.

    The surprise isn’t that by the end he didn’t have much support in France, but that anybody supported him.

  14. Cameron

    Colin, how exactly did Napoleon “involve” France in expensive wars? By defending them against attacks by foreign armies? What should he have done differently in your opinion? As we’ve said on the show many, many times – Napoleon rarely was the protagonist. Spain, Portugal – okay. The blame for the rest of the wars rests firmly on the shoulders of the other monarchs.

  15. Cameron – Spain and Portugal are hardly insignificant countries. He also engineered a regime change in Holland. Holland didn’t have a monarch: it was a republic. Napoleon gave them one of his brothers as a King.

    And marching into Russia and occupying Moscow with the largest army the world had seen up to that point in time was pretty agressive.

    Napoleon is a fascinating character but hardly one you would describe as peace loving.

  16. Michael

    Colin, Napoleon marched into Russia and occupied Moscow defending French and Polish interests in Eastern Europe. The Czar had not stuck to any of the agreements reached at Tilsit and Erfurt in 1807 & 1808, and was massing upwards of 300,000 Russian troops on the Russian-Polish border. Napoleon tried to force a peace through overwhelming force…it was the Russians who protracted the war through their own aggressive actions, scorched earth policy, and finally, burning Moscow themselves.

  17. If the 1812 campaign wasn’t an act of aggression then justice thou art fled to brutish beasts and men have lost their reason.

    Napoleon was in no serious danger either from Russia or from Great Britain at this stage.

    If he had stuck to defending what he had nobody would have been able to touch him.

  18. Cameron

    Napoleon was in no serious danger from Russia or Great Britian? How do you figure that?

    Let’s also remember that where Spain is concerned, Napoleon was INVITED by the King to intervene in their affairs.

    I think the evidence shows that Napoleon signed peace treaties and was never the one to break them. He was forced into battle by his enemies. If you have evidence that refutes that, share it with us. Otherwise, I think we have to agree that Napoleon was the aggrieved party.

  19. Napoleon wasn’t invited into Portugal. He wasn’t asked by the Dutch to impose his brother on them as king – remember that Holland was a republic before the French revolution.

    Do you think that either Great Britain or Russia, or even both of them working together, could have invaded Napoleon’s territory successfully? Let’s face it, Napoleon was hardly a pushover even after 1812 when he had lost his army.

    Of all the adjectives available to describe Napoleon aggrieved is hardly on the table.

  20. Cameron

    By ‘aggrieved’, I’m referring to the many times the European monarchs had broken peace treaties with France between 1796 and 1812. Sure, Napoleon can be criticized for Portugal. Holland is a bit more complicated. The French had invaded Holland in 1795 which led to the Batavian Republic which was, in turn, unstable.

    From Wikipedia:
    While political instability was marked by three coups d’états, these were not accompanied by the kind of bloodshed evident in the French political upsets. The first coup was in 1798, when the unitarian democrats were annoyed by the slow pace of democratic reforms. A few months later, a second coup put an end to the dictatorship of the unitarians. The National Assembly, which had been convened in 1796, was divided by a struggle among the factions. The third coup occurred in 1801, when a French commander, backed by Napoleon, staged a conservative coup reversing the changes made after the 1798 coup.
    In 1805 Napoleon installed the shrewd politician Schimmelpenninck as raadspensionaris (“Grand Pensionary”, i.e. president of the republic) to strengthen the executive branch. In 1806 Napoleon forced Schimmelpenninck to resign and declared his brother Louis Bonaparte king of the new Kingdom of Holland.

    So, as you can see, it’s not like everything was peaceful and happy and Napoleon just rode in and declared Louis King.

  21. But it wasn’t a case of a monarchical government with an irrational personal hatred of Bonaparte either. And there is no doubt that the Dutch were not happy with input into their destiny from the French.

    Luckily for the Dutch the British looked after their overseas empire while they were occupied by France. (In fact I don’t think we ever got round to giving Ceylon back – you can overlook things sometimes can’t you.)

  22. Cameron

    Oh yes, how nice indeed of the British to “look after” Dutch lands! Of course by “look after” you mean “invade and conquer”. But I get your drift. 🙂

    And let’s not forget that The Fourth Anglo-Dutch War of 1780 – 1784 which was kicked off by the Dutch support of the American rebellion against the British.

    So anyway, getting back to Napoleon being “peace loving”, I think the evidence strongly shows that he sought peace continually during his reign while Britain, Austria, Prussia and Russia continually started wars against France from the moment of the French Revolution until they finally depleted France’s ability to fight back with Napoleon’s last defeat in 1815.

  23. Frelt

    So if Napoleon inadvertently set off the chain events that led to both world wars and the cold war, why do we say that he has had a positive impact on the world?

  24. Cameron

    Frelt, how do you conclude that Nap set off the chain of events that led to both world wars and the cold war?

  25. The twentieth century was so bad it is hard to imagine any alternative history worse than the actual one. So on that basis I suppose you could say that if Napoleon had not been defeated there is a good chance things might have turned out better.

    But I think that Napoleon is a bit of a red herring here.

    The momentous event was the French revolution. That was what changed everything. Napoleon with his ideas of creating an empire and marrying into the existing dynasties was if anything a throwback to an age that was passing. The real story picked up again in 1830 and 1848 when the absolute monarchies begain crumbling.

  26. Cameron

    The Revolution was, of course, an event of major significance but if Napoleon hadn’t taken power when he did, it’s easy to imagine that the Revolution would have crumbled under corruption and mismanagement not long afterwards. And then what would have happened? The Bourbon’s would not only have come back, but the whole experiment would have been considered a disaster. Say what you like about Napoleon but the words “corrupt” and “mismanagement” don’t represent his era at all. Quite the opposite. He rescued the Revolution.

  27. Cameron

    Ah, but I would argue it did! Napoleon, first as Consul and then as Emperor, managed to keep the best parts of the Revolution. Out with feudal rights and the control of the Pope and his minions, and in with agrarian reform, finance reform, legal reform. He ended lawlessness and disorder in France. As Napoleon once said: “My true glory is not to have won 40 battles… Waterloo will erase the memory of so many victories. … But what nothing will destroy, what will live forever, is my Civil Code.”

  28. I agree with you on that last point Cameron, and indeed with Napoleon. I find that the greatest tragedy. If he had stayed as First Consul and only fought defensive battles what a great legacy he would have left France. Mind you, your podcasts would be much duller.

  29. Frelt

    “Frelt, how do you conclude that Nap set off the chain of events that led to both world wars and the cold war?”

    By Emancipating the states of the Rhine from Austria.

  30. Here’s an argument. Napoleon III only came to power in France because of the first Napoleon’s charisma. He didn’t inherit the military genius. France should have won the 1870 Franco-Prussian war. Nap III’s incompetence meant that France not onlylost but lost in a big humiliating way leading to the stage being set for WWI. And the rest is history….

  31. Cameron

    Nap III was a disaster but we can’t really blame his actions on Napoleon! It’s not like Napoleon I had anything directly to do with Nap III coming to power.

    However I can see what Frelt means, Napoleon did have a powerful influence on the rise of nationalism in Germany and Italy which lead to Fascist governments, but, again, we can’t really blame Napoleon for the actions of madmen 120 years later.

  32. Well one of the problems with dynasties is that they sometimes throw up complete half-wits. That might be a bit uncharitable for Nap III, but he clearly wasn’t in the same league as the original.

    Napoleon was trying to create a Bonaparte dynasty so it seems fair enough to blame him for the actions of his descendant.

  33. Frelt

    “However I can see what Frelt means, Napoleon did have a powerful influence on the rise of nationalism in Germany and Italy which lead to Fascist governments, but, again, we can’t really blame Napoleon for the actions of madmen 120 years later.”

    True. However, the point was not that Napoleon was immoral. It was only that he didn’t have an overall positive impact on the world, which I suppose I can’t know for certain.

    Maybe if he hadn’t been born we would have had different world wars. Maybe civilization would have been blown up by nukes by now. Maybe, without the Iron curtain studing the growth of industry in many parts of the world, the world would now be warmer and energy prospects would look dimmer-or maybe brighter cause we’d have our act together. History is often explainable, but some aspects of the future are always unpredictable, and we essentially do the same as try to predict the future when we ask “what if” while looking at the past.

    In regards to Napoleon the third, Napoleon’s decision to create a hereditary dynasty is one of the biggest things I hold against him. At the same time it was produced by a predeliction for family with too great a proportional strength.

    To what extent can you blame a man for acting like a man is biologically predisposed to? What of his culture? What degree of self determination exists for each individual?

    From a humanist’s standpoint (and I am more or less a humanist) Napoleon was not a morally perfect man. None of us are. Yet decisions which impact many, are held to the highest amount of scrutiny, and that is just.

    To surmise, I state another of my opinions:

    Being a good leader is tough.

  34. Greg McP

    Well, of course the actions of Napoleon was the cause of events to come after him. Of course he was the seed for the Franco-Prussian War, which was the seed for WW1, and onwards to WW2, to the Cold War, to the current War of Terror or whatever it is.

    Cause and effect.
    If there was no Napoleon, then history would be different. There’d be wars and events. Just different ones.

    Napoleon did put the seed of democracy into Europe.
    I would contend that a mix of his modernising experiment, and the British and American political systems were seeds that finally took root in the rest of Europe after WWI when the old Monarchies finally collapsed.

  35. I agree with Greg that Napoleon put the seed of democracy into Europe. It wasn’t what he was trying to do though. He was trying to create an empire ruled absolutely by a Bonaparte dynasty. Lucky he failed.

  36. Frelt

    He put the seed of democracy into Europe?

    I disagree. Napoleon watered the seed, but the seed was planted by certain technologies.

  37. K.C.

    Yes, here’s the link about the Fire Sale.

    “Dominique de Villepin va vendre sa collection de livres et de manuscrits sur Napoléon. Elle sera dispersée le 19 mars prochain à l’hôtel Drouot par la société d’enchères de Pierre Bergé, “Pierre Bergé & Associés”.”

    (What, he’s too cool for Ebay? 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

We Love To Hear From Our Listeners.

Get in touch with us!