December 17, 2008 cameron

The Napoleon Bonaparte Podcast #48 – Rafe Blaufarb

Continuing our series of chats with eminent Napoleonic scholars, today our guest is Rafe Blaufarb, Ben Weider Eminent Scholar and Director of the Institute on Napoleon and the French Revolution at Florida State University.

Dr. Blaufarb is a specialist in Revolutionary and Napoleonic France. He is the author of several books on the social and political history of the French military during this period: The French Army, 1750-1820: Careers, Talent, Merit (Manchester, 2002) and Bonapartists in the Borderlands: French Exiles and Refugees on the Gulf Coast, 1815-1835 (Tuscaloosa, 2006). He has published articles in the American Historical Review, Annales, H.S.S., Comparative Studies in Society and History, French Historical Studies, and Annales Historiques de la Révolution Française on the French army, the French nobility, noble fiscal privilege, and the geopolitics of Latin American independence. His current research focuses on the politics of property during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic era.

Rafe joins us to talk about the history and focus of the Institute on Napoleon and the French Revolution at FSU, how he got interested in Napoleonic studies, Napoleon’s views on economics and how he might have dealt with America’s current financial crisis, and Napoleon’s legacy in the Western Hemisphere.


Comments (8)

  1. Mark

    Hmm. Francophiles/Napoleon apologists overstating their case again. Could you imagine a whole room full of these people? 😉

    Hadn’t most of the reforms to come out of the revolution and the military dictatorship already existed in Holland and England for over a century. The French were catching up, not leading the way.

    Latin American independence was due to Napoleon? Argghh! Fancy claiming Napoleon’s invasion of Spain was an inspiration for this. Sounds cheeky to me. Surely the British were duplicitous in their dealings with Spain and the Latin American revolutionaries. Niall Ferguson certainly argues so.

    As an aside, I find it apt that Cameron uses the La Marseillaise sung at the 2007 rugby WC semi-final, a match between England and France, a match England deservedly won.

  2. Mark, No need to be a Napoleon apologist, as he was in the right. And no, most of the reforms of the Revolution didn’t exist in Holland and England for over a century. And please listen to the argument about Napoleon’s activities giving encouragement to the countries of Latin America; it makes perfect sense, unless you are so anti-Napoleon that you don’t want to consider alternative ideas.

    But as a great fan of modern day England and France, I will not take sides on the rugby match. I do recall that when I was an undergraduate at the University of Iowa oh so many years ago, the Rugby team sold pins that said ‘It takes leather balls to play Rugby.’ Enough said!

    Happy New Year to one and all!!


  3. Some of the reforms existed ideologically in England, but certainly were not in force. Most notably, there was, and still is, no constitution for England or even the United Kingdom. The only part of the “British” isles that has progressed that far is the Republic of Ireland. And the idea of Revolutionary/Napoleonic France inspiring the revolutions establishing an independent Latin America is not a purely “francophile” or “bonapartist” idea. The Portugese, for instance, generally directly link Brazilian independence to Napoleon, and those people claiming so rarely are fans of the Emperor! It may not always be the case that it was a direct result, but it certainly did influence the turn of events. Finally, I would hardly use Ferguson as a balanced historian when it comes to England. He’s one of the more radical English supporters, and one of the few in modern times to argue that England’s imperialism was a positive force! However, his work and details are interesting and useful, I’ll give him that, but his conclusions are questionable at best.

  4. Mark

    I disagree!

    In 1700 Britain was a almost a proper two party state. General elections were common place. You’d had the 1689 Bill of Rights that guaranteed – amongst other things – Freedom to elect members of parliament without interference from the sovereign.
    Freedom of speech in parliament. This means that the proceedings of parliament can not be questioned in a court of law or any other body outside of parliament itself; this forms the basis of modern parliamentary privilege.
    Freedom from cruel and unusual punishment, as well as excessive bail. Freedom from royal interference with the law. Though the sovereign remains the fount of justice, he or she cannot unilaterally establish new courts or act as a judge. Britain gave us the Bank of England 100 years before Napoleon copied it for France.

    Voltaire called the English people ‘the freest people that had ever walked the earth’.

    Even before all that, Britain had given us Habeas Corpus, The Magna Carta, Common Law, the free market, a freedom of the press that was never seen in Napoleonic France.

    Sure, Britain didn’t separatde church and state – that was left to one of its children – but it most surely gave us far more than Revolutionary or Napoleonic France ever did. Indeed, many very successful modern nations have overwhelming British influence an nothing of that of Napoleonic France!. For example, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India. All these great nations have a founding in English common law, in Magna Carta, in representative democracy that owe absolutely nothing to Napoleon. Let’s name some great world cities: New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Toronto, Vancouver, Hong Kong, Sydney, Melbourne, Shanghai, Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Singapore, Cape Town, Auckland, etc, etc,.

    I think you have to study the whole 17th and 18th centuries to come up with a true picture of the Napoleonic Wars. For me that is lacking in this series.

  5. Iowa Grognard

    Great episode and informative posts. I had to post seeing a U of I reference by Mr Markham. I personally am an ISU Cyclone apologist.

  6. Very much enjoyed the talk.

    And I enjoy the pro Napoleon bious… As a Britian I find it refreshing. However I did find the heriditary aspect of Napoleons Regime at odds with the meritocratic description given in the talk. If Napoleon’s Empire had continued would any ‘qualifying criteria’ really have protected the higher offices of state from heriditory corruption? But I guess at least they were trying.

    Futurely, I would love more discussion on Napoleon’s and Napoleonic economies… who was paying for what and what with. War being the ‘business’ of last resort (?).

    Thanks again for an excellent listening resource, when I paint my hunger is deep.

  7. Nate

    What other colleges/universities does the military send its officers to, other than FSU?

  8. Serge

    I used to like this show until Napoleon was downgraded by being compared with obama.

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