November 13, 2009 cameron

The Napoleon Bonaparte Podcast #54 – Dr Philip Dwyer

Welcome back! It’s been a long time between shows, I’m so sorry! But you’ll LOVE this episode, trust me, it was worth waiting for!

Our guest today is Dr Philip Dwyer, Associate Professor, Faculty of Education and Arts, School of Humanities and Social Science, History Dept, University of Newscastle, Australia. Philip has a long list of credentials:

* Ph.D. University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia, 1993
* D.E.A. Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, (Diplôme d’Etudes Approfondies) Paris, 1989
* Maîtrise University of Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV), Paris, 1988
* Licence University of Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV), Paris, 1988
* B.A. Murdoch University, Perth, Australia, 1983

(see his profile page here).

Philip is also the author of “Napoleon: The Path To Power”

His book won the “National Biography Prize” in 2008.

David and I chatted with him last week about his perspectives on Napoleon. While we agreed on some things, we disagreed on other things and it lead to a passionate but always polite debate. 🙂

Please jump in the comments section of the show and let us know you’re still out there folks! We need to know if we should continue producing the show!


Comments (77)

  1. Yes, it was a really fun show to do. It has been awhile, and I second Cameron’s call for many comments. We hope you are still with us (and still buying N for Dummies!) 😉


  2. Ruud

    A new show! Great, looking forward to listening to it. I only started listening to the show half a year or so ago, I’m very close to catching up so a new show is one extra for in the queue.

    Quick question: SEGA is releasing “Napoleon Total War” game, the newest entry in their “Total War” series of strategy games, in a few months, maybe you guys should try and get ahold of some of the guys behind it to see what they have to say about it?
    It’s the first high budget Napoleon-centric game in forever, and they promise you can re-play/enact all the important battles.
    ( )

    Keep up the great work, I look forward to any further Napoleon 101’s (and the biography show!)

    • Cameron

      Ruud, great idea about the Napoleon game! I’ll try to get in touch with the developers!

  3. Rob

    Yes, I’m still here. Haven’t listened to the podcast yet, but still have the subscription in iTunes. Keep ’em coming!

  4. Kevin Tripp

    Well, I’m still here! Just discovered the podcast back in August, and recently finished listening to #53–so you’re timing is excellent (for me, anyway). And I’ve hooked one other listener–a friend in Seattle, who isn’t typically even much of a history buff–but he’s listened to over 30 installments, so far.

    Looking forward to listening to #54–e-mail I exchanged with Cameron earlier this week leads me to understand that you discussed one of the areas I asked about in my e-mail–namely, how European history might have been changed had NB not been forced to abdicate–and the progressive reforms of the First Republic and First Empire rolled back.

    Thank you for all you put into the podcast. I’ve enjoyed it immensely, and hope you’ll decide to continue producing it.

    Kevin Tripp
    Anchorage, Alaska

    PS Have added both “Napoleon for Dummies” and “The Road to St Helena: Napoleon After Waterloo” to my rapidly expanding NB library.

    • Cameron

      Kevin, great to hear that you’ve bought a couple of David’s books! One thing that we’ve always been scratching our head about is why more people who listen to this show don’t go out and buy a copy of at least one of this books! If every listener just bought one copy, David could probably spend more time making podcasts!

  5. Still out there, Cam and David! I’ll listen to the show as soon as my schedule clears! Looking forward to ever more shows as always! So long as you guys produce more episodes, you’ll have an eager audience and fan base, especially as far as I am concerned! 😀

  6. Michael S

    Awesome return, great debating from the boys. Have you ever considered trying to get Vincent Cronin on the show?

    • Cameron

      Michael, great idea about getting Vincent Cronin on the show! He’s in his mid-80s now though. But I will reach out to him this week, see what happens!

  7. Michael

    Can’t wait to listen to the newest episode. It’s been a while since these comment pages were active so here’s my contribution! I also want to check out the new Napoleon Total War game when it comes out it February. From the promo clips i’ve seen it portrays Napoleon as a bloodthirsty conqueror and maniacal dictator, but the graphic and game play itself look incredible! Good point about David’s books Cameron, I think it’s time to pick up another one and add it to my library!
    Keep up the good work gentlemen…

  8. Peter Laurent

    hey, its great to see you guys are back! ..
    But i must say you picked a difficult Dr Philip Dwyer for your first show after the long lapse, but i must say he was definitely your best guest so far, simply because he offered the Napoleon story from a very clinical perspective and very much puts the guy under the microscope, it was funny to hear some of Davids comebacks to his statements..i definitely think David may have met a new rival. 😀

    My first ever book on Napoleon was Dr Philip Dwyer’s “The path to power” it was an excellent read i must say with massive detail and David should finish reading it, you too Cameron.

    but anyhow guys keep up the good work, both of you guys held out well under the verbal artillery of Dr Philip Dwyer

    • Cameron

      Glad you enjoyed the show, Peter! I wanted someone who could give us a different perspective and Philip was perfect!

  9. Edna

    Great to hear you two again and great show, as usual! A very good debate and nice to hear an civil argument between three such scholars, though I think Cameron much be the only Australian that is a true fan of Napoleon. Nonetheless, I have already ordered my copy of Philip Dwyer’s Napoleon: The Path to Power before I even heard this episode. Sorry, David, there are only so many copies of N4D that I can buy! 😉 I find the pre-consular days to be fascinating, i.e., Toulon, the First Italian campaign, the Egyptian campaign. To try to figure out what made Napoleon the leader, general, politician, economist that he was. To try to figure out where his ambition and ability came from. I don’t know if I will ever figure it out, but that’s what’s him infinitely fascinating.

    Welcome back!

  10. Finally finished listening to the episode. Let me begin by saying to Dr. Dwyer, if he reads this, thank you for coming on the show, and I found your imput interesting. However, I must disagree with some of his points. First, I agree with Cameron when he quickly said, contrary to Dr. Philip who later denied it, that Britain had been undermining Napoleon from the get-go, and was painting him as a usurper non-stop since the start of his role as First Consul.

    Secondly, while I condemn the occassional annexation of the Empire outside of war (I agree with Dr. Philip on Holland), it does not begin to compare to the annexation of the other states. For instance, while Napoleon verbally toyed with conquests outside of Europe, Britain was actively pursuing it, in India, central and proper Asia, North America, the Pacific and Atlantic, and Africa. Russia had designs on and actively gobbled up much of the near east and central Asia, with further attempts on the whole of the Ottoman Empire. Each these two nations alone had more ambitious and “megalomaniacal” claims on the world than France did.

    Furthermore, to comment on the question of the abdication of Napoleon, while Dr. Dwyer did a good job analyzing the more obvious answers available (given the show’s limited time), that was still not a rebuttal to Mr. Markham’s point that the Allies didn’t give a damn about the French people themselves, and instead actually demonstrated the opposite: the only real considerations given were for the desires of other powers, not for the French people. And while they might have feared a Republic, they could have observed the change in French politicians, especially with the new breed of moderate quasi-Republicans, such as Lafayette (who was truly a monarchist but could accept a Republic after-the-fact).

    In fact, it was the Republic that strongly desired peace and alliance with England. France turned very early on to England, and in fact when Spain asked France to declare war on England in the early stage of the Revolution, Louis Capet pushed for war on England, and it was the Assembly that said “no,” and stopped the then-king. Peace and hopes concerning England didn’t even collapse when England joined the 1st coalition against France. It ended, as Mr. Markham might well remember I addressed in my lecture at the INS 2009, when it was definitively discovered that the English were not only printing false assignats to destroy France’s economy, but that they were supporting, funding, and arming the violent counter-revolution in the Vendee, especially the instance at Quiberon Bay. The fact hit them, which Dr. Dwyer unfortunately did not discuss but which Mr. Markham did, that Britain from the start was aiming not at the military defeat of France or the “restoration of a balance of power,” but the destruction of the French government, including countless assassination attempts. In return, to my knowledge, outside of Col. Tate’s expedition in 1797, the French did not return attack’s upon the British government itself, instead attempting to use military victory and economic pressure to bring peace. And desperation can not be an excuse for these efforts by the British, since they started this injustice very early into the war, not after multiple campaigns. I think this difference in war aims should be better covered and discussed in the future.

    Thank you, all three of you, for an enjoyable show, and I look forward to many more!

  11. Andrew Roblee

    I’m so glad you guys made another ep! I have been loyally waiting, like a good dog whose owner has left him outside of the store on a hot summer day.
    Since you guys are back together, how about getting the 2nd ep of the Julius Caesar biography? Love you guys. Cameron, you are so challenging sometimes, but I think that serves to keep people accurate and on their toes. Cheers from Mew York State.

  12. Paul Caspall

    Still here. About time guys!

    I have Philip’s book, and must read it soon. This discussion was as good an insight into the approach of the author as anything else – to me Philip seems to ‘detach emotion’ very well in his pursuit of the truth.

    The “Napoleon didn’t get within 50 metres of the bridge at Arcole” incident was a bit of a bombshell; I enjoyed the ‘symbolism/spin-doctoring’ conversation in particular. I also couldn’t split the pro vs anti views of Napoleon as ‘victim’ or ‘warmonger’. That debate had well reasoned arguments on both sides; hard to believe both couldn’t be equally correct – but how can they??

    Welcome back, it’s been far too long.

  13. Ivar

    Hello guys!

    I just discovered your podcast about a month ago and I absolutely love it! I’ve been catching up on the episodes and I’m at number 53 now, so I’m very happy about the fact that you’re still going strong. The shows are all very interesting and I also like your interacting very much, thats what really makes it come alive. The listener can tell you guys are really having fun in doing this.You both deserve credit for that!

    I’m a historian myself and always liked the Napoleonic era, but now I’m really into it…..thanks for turning me into a Geek! I got ‘into’ history by reading a fascinating biography of…Joseph Fouche (by Stefan Zweig), so I’m also a big Fouche-fan. The man you love to hate. I know that you have already discussed Fouche to some length but I would still like to suggest an episode on him, maybe together with that other loyal servant of France, Tayllerand.
    Any other subject would be great to by the way, just don’t stop the show! The last shows with special guests are really great. Keep up the good work!

    Ivar, from the Netherlands

    • Cameron

      Great idea about Fouche, Ivan! I wonder if we can find a scholar who specialises in him? David, any ideas?

  14. king Sturdevant

    At last, i just downloaded and will listen tomorrow. Keep them coming, more often than every five months please.

    This is the best podcast i’ve listened to and i don’t care that much about history.

    Thanks for the great effort.

    • Cameron

      Wow thanks for the kind words, King. We love producing the show. It’d be nice if we could earn a living out of it and do it full time!

  15. Maxamillion

    Glad the show is back, I’d almost given up hope.
    Got a question for you… I heard that Napoleon himself looted the tomb of Frederick the great after defeating Prussia in 1806… Is this true and if so what has become of the looted items?

  16. Adam from Lancashire

    Hi everyone

    I just wanted to say thanks to Cameron and David for producing this show. I started listening so I had something to make the long bus journey to work more bearable but, far from making it merely bearable, you’ve made it downright enjoyable. The last few shows have been cracking and I hope you do continue to make them.

    I’ve finished all the episodes you’ve done so far now and you’ve really got me interested in the period again and with a much changed outlook. Whilst sometimes you’ve had this Englishman clenching his fists in rage in episodes where you’ve expressed a somewhat anti-British viewpoint, overall you’ve removed the image of Napoleon as the ‘Corsican Ogre’ from my mind. I think the fact that we all can get so worked up at times when dealing with the Napoleonic period is a testament to just how engaging the events and ‘characters’ are, and your podcast and enthusiasm has been fantastic at bringing these events and characters to life.

    One thing that popped into my head when listening to the most recent show was that the issue of Napoleon’s approach to warfare (annexation/regime change in conquered countries) was ‘standard 19th century practice’. I think it’s important to remember that, while actions like this were more widely practiced later in the century, at the start of the century this approach to war was new and shocking. The important men of the other states in Europe were products of the previous century in which wars were fought until both states worked out a negotiated settlement which might include (usually relatively minor) territorial changes. The idea that one state would completely overrun the other, depose their rulling regime and install a puppet regime with completely different modes of goverment was unheard of. This was because that was simply not possible with the tiny armies that could be supported by the intensive logistics of the era. The change by Revolutionary France to huge armies, advancing rapidly and living off the land was sudden and during the Imperial period was still only a few years old. I’ve realised I’m waffling now, but the point I’m trying to make is that in understanding the view of Napoleon’s enemies that Napoleon was a warlord with a lust of conquest we need to look at what had happened leading up to this point not judge on the basis of what would come after (and, indeed, come after BECAUSE of Napoleon). In that sense their belief that there would only be peace and safety in Europe if Napoleon was removed becomes more understandable as the upheaval of the previous decade would have been seen as temporary and reversible (when as we know now the military and social changes were the beginning of a new era).

    Anyway, thanks again for producing this magnificent podcast. If I can be cheeky enoguh to make a suggestion? The shows with Alex talking about Russian generals, each in turn, were great in that they gave full focus to some of the other fascinating figures in the period. I’d love to see you two, with your knowledge focussed on the French, to do similar shows where you take a few French Marshals and Generals in turn and do short biographies of each. They’ve popped up in the narrative so far but I’d love to hear you give men like the mad Junot, the brave Ney and the flamboyant Murat the Napoleon 101 treatment, complete with amusing anecdotes and all.

    P.S. I’m making a detour on my holiday in Eastern Europe next weekend to Slavkov (Austerlitz) for the commemorations there, something I wouldn’t have done had I not been listening to your show. Thanks again and keep up the brilliant work!

    • Cameron

      Hey Adam, thanks for the great comment! I think you’ve made some excellent points about how Napoleon’s approach was different but in how many cases did he annex or indulge in regime change? Over the years he won battles with Austria, Prussia, Russia and England but I don’t recall him ever annexing those countries or even trying to force some kind of regime change. The countries where he did install a government, Warsaw, Naples, etc, were the result of a whole set of political circumstances. His position in Spain, of course, was the result of a direct request of the royal family. The only regime change of a major nation that I can think of during the Revolutionary Wars was that of France after the Congress of Vienna!

  17. Purper

    I’d love to purchase Napoleon for Dummies, the French version (Napoleon pour les Nulles?) but can’t find where. I can’t find it on Amazon or Any suggestions?

    And by the way, great podcast!

  18. Mark

    A couple of observations:

    I had to WTF! with amazement that the annexation of Holland can be dismissed as a minor incident – a family squabble no less. Indeed, should Napoleon’s brother have be there in the first place? I digress. Remember this the very same Holland that was an enlightened constitutional democracy over 100 years before the French Revolution.

    Furthermore on this point – I find it annoying that David and Cameron keep going on about – ad nauseam – how the various ‘anciens regimes’ of old Europe are hell bent on destroying the enlightened ‘new world order’ that only Napoleonic France can deliver. Anyone that has studied the history of the 17th century can only find this argument irritating in the extreme. I’ve already mentioned the example of Holland, but, ironically, their great ogre, Great Britain, is another such example of a nation with no need of French assistance in this field. Indeed much of the decent reforms that Napoleon did achieve were based along along British and Dutch lines.

    Another thing: Why is it so difficult for France to return to its own borders? What makes them so special? Why should this be considered naive? Napoleon could have achieved his dream of a dynasty if he had just taken a step back. He was offered far better on occasion. Nope, as long as there were French troops on foreign soil, there was never going to be peace in Europe. Just like the Middle East in the 21st century?

    • Cameron

      Mark, appreciate your comments. The point we made “ad nauseam” during the series was that Napoleon didn’t START the wars of the Revolution – he inherited them. And he didn’t break a single treaty during his time in power. It was the other monarchies who broke the terms of the treaties, forcing Napoleon to respond. So blaming the wars of this period on Napoleon is illegitimate.

  19. Daniel Szabo

    Episode 54 WOW! Markham was certainly in attack mode. Dr. Dwyer is certainly a scholar and didn’t deserve to be challenged after every statement!

    Was Markham drunk? Or just jealous of Dr. Dwyer’s background, e.g. Sorbonne education and etc.?

    I will buy Dr. Dwyer’s “Napoleon: The Path to Power” today and look forward to the rest of his series.

    I would NEVER buy a book which addressed it’s readership as “Dummies” and which was written by an author with a demonstrated lack of civility!



  20. Mark in Melbourne

    Keep the episodes coming. You mentioned in earlier episodes that you would cover some of the French Marshalls and other political figures after the chronology was done. What about doing a 5 episode miniseries on Wellington. He is an interesting figure especially in British politics after the war. Also could you find a retired US general as a guest to comment on Napoleon’s tactical and strategic contribution to modern warfare?

  21. Francisco Campaña, MEXICO

    Hello! I started listening to the shows 3 months ago when my father, a great amirer of Napoleon, was about to have a “Napoleonic Encounter” with another admirer of Napoleon from a Neighbor city;The show is great, Id like to know what the theme song is, I think I saw it advertised in a previous version of this page.Id also like to know if there is any “Napoleonic Society” in Mexico.Keep up the good work!

  22. Mark from Calgary

    A great series and a great show. I really enjoyed the gentlemanly disagreements betwixt Philip and David!

    You mentioned possibly an interview with Charles Esdaile which would be amazing but what I’d really love to hear is one with Correlli Barnett. Quel spectacle!

    Keep up the great work,


    By the way I did buy a t-shirt and very stylish it is too.

  23. Andrew Lawson

    Dear David and Cameron,

    I recently started listening to the Napoleon podcast and I love it!! I’m ten episodes in and it’s a joy to listen to! I’am not terribly familiar with Napoleon and was pleased to learn that David and Cameron ease you in to the context of Napoleons life and time without overwhelming a layman like myself. It’s first class pod casting! Keep up the great work!

  24. Allen from Southampton in England

    I discovered you guys after hearing your podcast recommended by Tony Cocks (Binge Thinking History) and have been absolutely fascinated by them, they make my daily cycle ride far more pleasant. I am catching up, but am with Napoleon as his troops cross into Russia in 1812 right now. Please keep these coming, they are great. I did note a few episodes back in my timeline that you were going to examine some of the peripheral activities of Napoleon, such as the Louisiana purchase, etc. Have you done this yet?, if not it may give you a new direction to explore. As a Brit, living near Portsmouth and coming from London originally I have had my perspective widened by your excellent podcasts, thanks very much.

  25. Please keep making the podcasts! It’s nice to hear people talk about Napoleon in a good way. I’m sick of people telling me he started the French Revolution, and they won’t listen why I try to tell them the truth. UGH! I wish you would be a little nicer to Josephine though.

  26. Vive l’empereur! As a Bonapartist I loved the podcasts, all except for the Waterloo one, of course! [I was considering skipping Napoleon’s downfall, but never mind] I am currently writing a book about a French hussar who is a scout during the Peninsular War. I am hoping that at least few if no books have been written about France in the Peninsular wars, but I doubt it. I was just reading a book called “The Bonaparte’s” by one Felix Markham. Is it an irony or is that a relative?

  27. Josh Bryan

    Just wanted to say how much I have enjoyed all the shows, I didn’t know a whole lot about Napoleon before I started listening to the podcast last November. I am fortunate enough to be able to listen to while I’m working at my factory job so I burned through them pretty quickly. I read Vincent Cronin’s book that you guys talked about and have ordered Napoleon for Dummies off ebay( Mr. Markham I hope you still get a royalty from that), I got a chance to enlighten some people about Napoleon in a speech I gave for my public speaking class, Thanks so much for making the show and I can’t wait for the next one, hope you guys are doing well.

  28. Stan Tomson

    Hello Cameron and David,

    I’ve been listening to the podcast for a couple months now and have finally caught up to this episode. Its been truly incredible listening to you guys. I studied history at the University of Washington, but had somehow always skipped around Napoleon before. Now I’m kind of obsessed with the subject, due completely to you guys! Thanks, now all my friends think I’m a bit off because I want to talk about Napoleon all the time… Its ok though, I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

    I’ve really enjoyed your most recent episodes with the guests, and I really hope to listen to more in the future. I was especially entertained by Dr Dwyer’s episode, hearing his differing opinions was really great. I’ve always felt that a healthy debate is one of the best ways to sort out the truth of history.

    Also you’ll be glad to hear I’ve ordered a couple of David’s books: Napoleon for Dummies and Imperial Glory, as well as Dr. Dwyer’s book Napoleon: The Path To Power. I’m sure I’ll be picking more up in the future (I really wanted to get Alex Mikaberzi’s book on the Russian generals, but it was really spendy, is it out of print?).

    Thanks again, and please keep up the good work!

    Stan Tomson
    Seattle, WA

  29. Evan

    Bonjour à tous.

    This has been a really enjoyable podcast. There are plenty of historical podcasts in iTunes U that form part of formal curriculums at universities, but this podcast has actually been fun! My thanks to Cam and David.

    I am up to Episode 36 so still have many hours left to enjoy.

    What I’d like to request is a long podcast series on the French Revolution itself. Cameron, David, do you have enough knowledge of the Revolution to do a series?

    My interest in Napoleon is mostly how he impacts the revolution. With what little knowledge I have, I do believe that he probably saved the revolution. I think if he hadn’t come to power, the foreign monarchies would have come in and put a Bourbon back on the throne.

    However, I so wish that the imperial form of Government in France had never happened. Bonaparte, as First Consul, was an imperfect system in my mind but the institutions could have been improved and strengthened over time. Toward the end of the empire, I then wish the republicans ruled the day. I am rather biased having read a bit about the American Revolution and watched it depicted in the recent series John Adams: Funny how John Adams is depicted in that series as arguing for a monarchical president (sort of). It seemed that during the American Revolution, the right people were around to nurture a republic. In France, it seemed as if the wrong people were around which almost necessitated Napoleon.

    Vive la République française.

  30. Matthew Peerce

    As a new Iphone/ITouch user, I have become a subscriber to the Napoleon series-I’ve listened to the 1st nine episodes-and I’m a fan. It’s a revelation for me to learn about the great man through your podcasts. I didn’t realize that his contribution to the development of European civilization was so vast, and so ahead of its time. Thanks very much.

  31. Liam Bussell

    I’m a little behind, yes this was a great episode. As I suggested to Cameron via email, you should try to get Charles Esdaile on, he is about as anti napoleon as you can get, I think that sort of witty repartee could make for a good show.

  32. Liam Bussell

    Oh, and I agree with Alex from show 50-53. Nappy could never gotten Moscow and St Petersburg one after the other. The Germans couldn’t do it in 42-43, and they were much more successful at taking and holding land and had 150 years of technological advancement to move supplies to the front. The Russian Emporer was correct, capital smapplitall. You can’t hold it, so you are only borrowing it.

  33. Liam Bussell

    Hmm…(A moment for thoughtful pondering.) This episode left me in two minds. After listening to the entire series, I have great affection for our two esteemed hosts, and am used to their unique peccadillos. (Very very very pro-napoleon etc) But I must say I feel a little bad for Phillip D after this.

    I think he made a tactical error (Along the lines say of Morengo) when he made the comment about University academics and it all went a little combative from there….. I agree with the idea of his point, but perhaps not the delivery. Having worked for a short time at a University, I understand what he means about the professional academics having in general, more time to investigate, argue and research topics and this leading to (in general) a higher standard of work. However, I see two problems here.

    1) David obviously worked as a teacher for a long time (I think I’m correct?) and while not held in the same level of esteem as University postings, essentially the same conditions apply to both roles (long breaks usable for sabbaticals/research, being surrounded by like minded folk, peer criticism and review etc)

    2) In the publish or die environment in many universities, academics simply must produce work in the form of articles, papers and books at a fairly constant rate. This can actually lead to a denigration in the quality of work in a few cases. Compared to a truly passionate self motivated scholar, sometimes (admittedly not often) the university academic can fall short.

    This in mind, I do agree with many of Dr. Dwyer in many of his statements. Napoleon was very militant. I think after his successes in Italy prior to 1799 he realized that his path to success lay in military action, and continued along that path. I think this served him well up until sometime around 1809-10. Beyond that, I think he had the same tired old moves against the Allied powers who had learned a lot from their earlier defeats at his hands.

    In addition, a lot of the peace treaties he forced on his opponents (Campo Formi as an example) contained what in modern times we would consider “lesser clauses” were actually big deals. An example of the was the onus on Austria to resettle and compensate many of the nobles from territories in Italy and the Rhineland lost to the French. (See Napoleon’s War, Charles Esdaile pg 70-80 for further) These clauses made it almost certain that the peaces could not hold.

    In closing, I guess after this show, my devotion to Napoleon as a “Force for Good” is somewhat diminished. My respect for him as a leader of men and military commander is not. I also think that if you do another of these “divergent opinion” episodes, you all need to have a few scotches (In Cameron’s case a Perdomo Cigar) and chill out just a bit. The tension was, at times, palpable.

    Worth the listen though.

  34. Andrew Lawson

    Please keep the podcast going, I will continue to listen without a doubt! I purchased Napoleon for Dummies a few weeks ago and I am enjoying it thoroughly! It’s a terrific read. I’ve read a couple introductory books about Napoleon but found them to be lackluster, they failed to explore Napoleon the man on a personal level. David Markham’s book gives you an understanding of the basics of the revolution followed by an intimate and lively account of Napoleons life (along with his military campaigns of course). I recommend it highly. If you love the Napoleon 101 podcast than run out and buy yourself a copy of Napoleon for Dummies! My best to Mr Markham and Mr Riley, you guys are awesome! Vive le Emperor!

  35. Julian, a Bonapartist from Vancouver

    I do not wish to be picky, but I believe it to be “Vive l’empereur!” as opposed to “Vive le Emperor”. I intend to read David Markham’s book as soon as I can get hold of it. It’s expensive to buy online

  36. Julian, a Bonapartist from Vancouver

    but if I ‘save up’ I might be able to get it…

  37. Liam Bussell

    A Coup! A real coup! I was wandering the internet (as I am wont to do on occasion) and I have found a large collection of 19th century books about Napoleon! For free.



    No copyright, so downloading allowed. THey are provided in a number of different formats for reading on Kindles and Iphones etc. Or just as a text file. I searched on Napoleon and got 87 titles, or 64 in English. Free.

    It’s pretty cool.

    Oh, they are at project Gutenberg and here is the link

    Click Advanced Search on the right and just do Napoleon, or napoleon and language. Can’t vouch for all of them, but the two or three I opened seem quite good.


  38. John Tarttelin

    I enjoyed the debate, however, Philip Dwyer never breathed a word about all the assassination attempts on Napoleon’s life, especially as First Consul. These were funded by the British Cabinet (on the quiet – Parliament never got to know). British gold paid for would-be assassins like Cadoudal to murder Napoleon. Yet Mr. Dywer said Napoleon should have trusted the British and the ‘Allies’.

    When Napoleon went to Elba he was never paid the two million francs promised as part of his abdication settlement. He literally couldn’t afford to stay on Elba! He could not pay either his staff or his soldiers. Meanwhile ‘Papa Francis’, his father-in-law refused to allow Marie-Louise and his son to visit him and he set his own daughter up with a notorious one-eyed lover, Count Neipperg. With in-laws like that, Napoleon did not need enemies.

    Walter Runciman writing in 1919,describes how Napoleon repeatedly allowed the Monarchs who had attacked him to keep their thrones, despite all their war-like plotting. As he told Caulaincourt in 1814, this was mere ‘folly’ – because they never reciprocated but were intent on destroying him.

    They succeeded.

    Also, Mr. Dwyer’s book, which I have read cover to cover, never mentions any of these things. Napoleon wrote to King George III asking for peace in early 1805 – months before Trafalgar. The court of Saint James never even deigned to reply to his letter. Just like the one in 1815 he sent to all the ‘Allies’ asking for peace before the Waterloo campaign – again, not even a reply. Yes, what a ‘warmonger’ Napoleon was (!)

    For the record, Napoleon had sacked Villeneuve, his former admiral before Trafalgar and gave orders for him NOT to attack the British fleet. Villeneuve could not take the fact he had failed and led the French fleet out to its greatest ever defeat and AGAINST a direct order from the Emperor.

    Yet Trafalgar was not as important as the gold which poured from the Bank of England to the Continent in 1805. That money paid for Russia and Austria to attack Napoleon and as a result, his Army of England had left the coast long before Nelson died. It became the Grand Army and kicked the mercenary butts of the ‘Allies’ for many years to come.

    Mr. Dwyer mentions none of these things in his book and neither did he allude to them in the Podcast.

    En Avant, ‘SOULADREAM’

  39. david kompes

    Hi Cameron and David,
    Thank you for the podcast.

    I can’t help but wonder how events may have transpired differently had Napoleon forced the abdication of one of the other continental emperors after the earlier French victories.

    I also wonder what would have transpired had Napoleon remained truer to the revolution. His endless appeasement of the
    continental emperors surely held back the nationalistic tendencies within Italy, Eastern Europe, Ukraine, Germany. These were potentially a dozen Poland’s who would have kept the emperors too busy to even contemplate Napoleon.

    Is it reasonable to expect Napoleon to understand the historical forces unleashed by the revolution and to apply those forces for his own best interests.

    With my 21st century hat, I can’t help but be disappointed with his self appointed hereditary monarchy.

    Surely, with his military abilities wedded to uncompromising zeal to export the revolution, dis-empower the nobility throughout Europe and promote the principles of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity his France would have been impenetrable; even those intractable Brits may have sued for peace.

    • Cameron

      Hey David, thanks for your comments. I’ve always regretted Napoleon’s decision to make himself Emperor as well, even though I think I understand the rationale. It’s pretty hard for us, sitting here in the 21st century, to get into the mindset of the people of France in the early 19th century.

  40. Joe Name

    Dear Sirs (the Napoleons of Podcasting):

    I begain listening to the podcast in mid-March 2010 and am sorry I didn’t find it earlier. It is the best podcast I know of, but it helps because I’ve been a Napoleoniceraphile for about ten years.

    My interest in the Napoleonic era actually begain as a kid, so it is well over ten years. There was a commercial for a razor blade. “Wilkinson” blades, I believe. As I recall, there use a hussar or chasseur a pied, sweeping towards the camera with his sabre. I believe the same was on the packaging. This was long before I shaved, but the image stuck in my mind. Years later, I enlisted in the US Army – and David, was stationed at Ft. Lewis, near your area – and was an infantryman – 2nd/75th Rangers. I was interested in how the complex coordination between the various branches of the service developed from the phalanx, maniple, to Napoleonic warfare using primarily infantry, artillary and cavalry, up to modern warfare. However, I had little time to pursue this interest. Later still, in the mid-90’s I had some surgery and was laid up for a bit. A friend said I should read the Richard Sharpe series. He stated Sharpe was the James Bond of the Napoleonic era and loving all things Bond, I begain reading Cornwell’s excellent series. After that, I was hooked. I read all of the Sharpe series, with side ventures to – sorry – wikipedia, for more info on the specific battles. I followed up Sharpe with the Jack Weller books to really get a feel for tactics. And then I found an excellent, yet used, copy of Chandler. I ate this up. It now well used, with notes and highlights. I purchased battlefield maps from a map dealer in the UK and spent hours pouring over them.

    However, I will admit that I had quite a Wellington/British bias. I majored in poli/sci, with a concentration in political theory, and had read Marx’s comments on the 18th Brumaire and the impact of the Napoleonic Code. But I still thought of Bonaparte as an oger.

    Now, thanks to your podcast, I’ve refined my perspective. I do get your point about Napoleon fighting mostly defensive battles. I also agree with your statements that Napoleon is a continuation of the revolution and sought to create equality throughout Europe. This was easy as I detest all things monarichal. However, I do not agree that Wellington was fair less a general than Napoleon. The Duke’s leadership in India, especially at Assaye, was outstanding. And he, of all Napoleon’s opponents, learned to fight the French, particularly through his experiences in the Penninsula. Using the reverse slope was the only method to defeat a superior force and was a stroke of military genius lacking in the other major European powers. This tactic was even more important at Waterloo where the Duke had inferior troops. However, I will completely agree that Napoleon was ill served by Ney and others that contributed to the loss. Nevertheless, Wellington won that close run battle. We can debate this over and over, and love every minute of it.

    Thanks again, Cameron and David, for a great podcast. I only hope you keep finding new ways to keep the conversation going.

    Sacramento, CA

  41. Ken Cushman

    Cameron & David,

    Thanks for the great podcast. I discovered it a few months ago and am now caught up and anxiously awaiting new episodes.

    A couple ideas for future podcasts:
    1. More Alex Mikaberidze. His fresh research into the Russian (and other) archives is fascinating and he’s a gifted/interesting speaker.
    2. Cameron, you mentioned in a comment that you understand Napoleon’s decision to make himself Emperor. I listened carefully to the episode where it was discussed and read a little bit more on it and it’s still a bit of a fog for me. It seems like a huge jump – from defender of the revolution to Emperor of a new royal ruling clan. It seems this could easily be an entire podcast — talking about why it was done and what the ramifications (positive & negative) were.

    BTW, I knew next to nothing about Napoleon when I started listening, but am now fascinated by the man and the history. I live in northern Italy near many of the battle sites and intend to visit them in the coming months. Thanks again for all your work on this and when you make it back to Italy, I’d be delighted to buy you both some of your medication.

  42. Martin Nicolai

    Dear David and Cameron:

    I am a long time Napoleon fan living in Keswick, Ontario, just north of Toronto, and have been loving your podcasts. My fourth great grandfather Luigi Matteucci was Elisa Bonaparte’s Minister of Justice for the Principality of Lucca and later Etruria and helped to introduce the Napoleonic Code to Italy. Napoleon gave him the Légion d’Honneur. My cousin Roberto de’ Capponi of Florence was Colonel of the 113e Régiment d’Infanterie de Ligne in northern Spain from 1808 to 1812, and Napoleon supposedly promoted him to general, although I have not found any records referring to the promotion. Another cousin, a Niccolini of Florence, was a dragoon with Eugène de Beauharnais in Russia and I believe he was in the Battle of Borodino. I do not have any record of him returning from Russia, though! However, the vast bulk of my relatives fought against Napoleon, including my Georgian cousin General Bagration, Major Frederick Howard of the 11th Hussars, who was clubbed to death by one of Cambronne’s Chasseurs de la Garde at Waterloo when he fell off his horse by the square, a Dutch relative who was wounded in the shoulder at the site of the present-day Butte du Lion at Waterloo, a Braunschweig relative killed at Quatre-Bras, a German mercenary in Dutch service who was at Papelotte by Waterloo, a Prussian cavalry officer who charged just north of Plancenoit at Waterloo, Sir David Baird, who was in the Battle of Coruna, and some Austrian officers as well.

    As a child when I lived in Saint-Cloud near Paris (my father worked for the Royal Bank of Canada) I made my parents visit Waterloo, Marengo, Arcola, cross the St. Bernard Pass (they were worried when I disappeared in the clouds by the monastery at the summit), follow the Napoleonic trail north from Fréjus, and visit the school at Autun. My uncle in Montreal always sent me news clippings about Ben Wieder’s ideas about Napoleon’s death, and I read Wieder’s book on the subject. On my own I made “pilgrimages” to see the Napoleonic paintings at the Louvre, the Muséé de l’Armée, and Napoleon’s tomb, and made my parents take me to Malmaison and every other Napoleonic site. I am distantly related to Napoleon II due to my father’s connection with the Habsburgs. I have at least forty books on Napoleonic subjects, one a prize given to me in grade 7 (the teachers knew what I liked) and another a library book on Napoleon I checked out so many times that the librarian gave it to me when I left the school to move to Germany. I have a Ph.D. in French and French colonial history of the eighteenth century (my dissertation focused on 1755-1783), but after working two-thirds of full time as an Ajunct History Professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, my wife persuaded me to seek full-time employment and I am now a French immersion history teacher at Aurora High School on Wellington St. in Aurora. I am teaching Grade 12 students the French Revolution this week, with Napoleon next week. I can’t wait!

    My son Julian received a mini bust of Napoleon when he was about three (I kept the larger one) and was reenacting the Battle of Waterloo with the toy soldiers I hand painted as a teenager when he was not much older. My three-year-old daughter Meredith can identify Napoleon by name, although she sometimes gets confused when she sees pictures of George Washington.

    In your podcasts I have not heard any episodes that deal with the restoration of slavery in Saint-Domingue, censorship of the press, detention of potential political enemies, and Napoleon’s intrigues in Switzerland and Italy that helped end the Peace of Amiens. Perhaps I missed the approporiate episodes. I would enjoy hearing your views on these subjects.

    Keep the podcasts going!

    Your Canadian fan,

    Martin Nicolai

  43. Peter Horne

    Wanted to let Martin Nicholai know that you guys have at least ONE more Canadian fan (in Nova Scotia). I have posted a couple of times mostly telling you what a GREAT thing you are doing with this podcast. I have listened to ALL of the casts – matter of fact I have just dusted them off and am listening to all of them for the 4th (I think) time – still highly entertaining. Martin – I know these guys are highly (OK fanatically) pro Napoleon, but they have mentioned press censorship and detention (and execution) of polital enemies – but I haven’t heard about the slavery or undermining of the Peace of Amiens (Markham said it was all Britain’s fault – well he always says that). I’ll Google those topics to learn some more. No matter about your biases – you guys are showing THE BEST way to way to foster an interest in history. These podcasts – a couple of guys who love a subject allowed to talk about it as long as they want – beat one hour TV documentaries hands down. Keep ’em coming.

  44. Pro Napoleon

    I admire Napoleon but for the one issue that I hope you can clear up-that of what happened with him and Toussaint l’Ouverture.

    Could you enlighten me please?

    • Cameron

      Hi Julian – I confess, I know very little about the events in Haiti and Santo Domingo, and I haven’t yet read any great books on the subject. On the surface, it seems that Napoleon was concerned about Toussaint’s role in the islands and re-instituted slavery. However, that would seem to go against everything Napoleon stood for and, as such, sounds out of character to me. I’d love to find a good, balanced book on the subject, because it’s one of the events in Napoleon’s career that continue to bother me.

  45. Julian [Your Canadian fan-from Vancouver]

    I believe that it was French authourities on Haiti that imprisoned Toussaint, but the story that he died in a French prison as ordered by Napoleon and that when Napoleon was asked about it later he answered “How was a man as great as me to be concerned with some negro upstart” would seem to be nonsense-but it greatly bothers me as well.

    • Cameron

      Julian, all of the evidence I’ve seen suggests that Napoleon was not a racist and, on the contrary, worked hard throughout his career to bring equal rights to people of all races and religions. So I agree, this “quote” seems to be out of character and is difficult to believe without some additional evidence.

  46. @Julian I would also doubt the quote, especially since he has a much better documented response, more consistent with the rest of his writings, on the subject of Toussaint. Toussaint made appeals to Napoleon, but I found no evidence that he ever received these. The fact is that Napoleon never ordered his arrest. In fact, his orders were for Leclerc to return Toussaint to France so Napoleon could make him a general of division in the native French army, rather than further inspire independence movements in St. Domingue. Leclerc was responsible for the arrest, and falsely claimed to have evidence of further treasonous information on him.

    Napoleon’s response in his own papers as to the arrest, “What possible interest could I have in putting a negro to death after he had arrived in France? Had he died in St. Domingo, then indeed something might have been suspected, but after he had safely arrived in France, what object could have been in view?”

    In response to O’Meara’s question on the same question, he said, “It would have been much more proper for Toussaint to have returned to France as a general of division, than as a criminal answerable to the mother country.”

  47. Julian

    Thanks so much for the podcasts! I say this on the behalf of all other Bonapartists as well as myself, the [hopefully not only] Vancouverite Bonapartist.

  48. Julian

    I would like to mention that I found that quote in a book… I didn’t just make it up.

  49. Julian, a Bonapartist and Canadian patriot

    But why do all documented facts point to the conclusion that he was imprisoned? Many sources have claimed that Napoleon was a deep rooted racist, and although your three podcasts answered many questions, there are still many more to be answered.

    I am, of course, Bonapartist, but I think that this could be a rather large failing point in his regime.

    Could you do another podcast on the Louisiana purchase and Napoleon’s attitude towards the Canadiens? I would be quite intrigued to hear about both.

  50. Matthew Friefeld

    This may be a little off topic, but I was pleasantly, though thoroughly taken aback to see the comments above from Martin Nicolai. I was a seventh grade classmate of Martin’s nearly forty years ago in Paris, France. I remember him very well as thoughtful and intellectual, although entirely focused on only one subject of interest: Napoleon Bonaparte.
    He probably doesn’t remember me, but I can honestly say that he was already something of an authority on the man even as a middle-schooler.
    It was heart warming to see his name here and to read that he is doing well teaching and raising a family.
    Napoleon continues to fascinate because he is the most recent of history’s very greatest and towering military and political giants. Alexander the Great, Julius Ceasar, Ghenkis Khan….is there anybody else within the last thousand years worthy of being named in such company?
    Napoleon wasn’t just a military genius and empire builder, he was one of the worlds first modern rulers. His promotion of the sciences and engineering in government gave us the metric system, the use of statistics in policy decisions in the form of a census survey, and a modern, standardised system of laws: a civic code. He lived recently enough that his life and legacy are extensively documented and can be rigorously studied. Although fact can be separated from legend, he cut a swath through history of legendary proportion. He is also likely to be the last such figure to rise to such heights in the human enterprise. Since his defeat only Hitler, Stalin and Mao have risen to similar prominence, but they were despots and genocidal sociopaths.

  51. Tom Vance

    Great interview; was happy to find the podcast. I’ve read Path to Power and look forward to the release of the second volume!

  52. Bob

    I think Dr. Dwyer brought some well needed objectivity to the show, the fawning over Napoleon by the hosts really becomes a bit too much sometimes,

  53. Rob

    In some ways this Dwyer podcast was the best ever. Almost everything I know about Napoleon I owe to The Napoleon Podcast and, with such limited background, it’s probably too, too easy to get caught up in Markham & Reilly’s pro-Napoleon enthusiasm.

    First the very excellent Alex Mikaberidze and now the superb Dwyer (both with wonderful listening voices and the sound of authentic authority) and I’m settling into I think a probably more accurate and realistic middle-ground.

    But, no doubt, The Napoleon Podcast has been terrific. After 5 years of hit and miss and repeat listening and Markham’s Dummies book, I’m finally nearing the end. I’ll probably turn around and listen straight thru again but this time with more reading, probably starting with Cronin.

    Thanks Reilly, thanks Markham. It seems – sadly – that this podcast is past it’s prime but a wonderful job you guys!

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