Ridley Scott’s Napoleon is going to be the highlight of the year

There’s little doubt that this is going to be the best film about Napoleon made in a very long time, perhaps the best one ever. But for me it will depend a lot on how Scott depicts Napoleon. The word “tyrant” in the trailer isn’t a good sign.

And just a reminder for people like this guy who claim nonsense like “he was a shameless pathological liar who killed millions of people for his own insatiable vanity”, Napoleon didn’t start a single war. It was always the other European monarchs who attacked France, trying to restore the Bourbon monarchy. They were terrified that a successful French Revolution might start a trend in their own countries.

Napoleon wasn’t perfect, by any means. He made mistakes. Big mistakes. Huge mistakes! He was arrogant and ruled France with a strong hand. But he had his reasons for both of those things. In the context of his time and place, he was quite enlightened, worked his ass off to make France strong and to keep the Bourbons off the throne. Ultimately, of course, he failed. The united monarchs of Europe over-powered him. But this idea that he was some kind of psychotic tyrant is ridiculous and nobody who suggests that can be taken seriously.

All Napoleon Now Free!

I’ve decided to make the entire series FREE. Think of it as a Xmas present. Huzzah!

Inventing The Messiah

Just a plug for Cameron’s latest project:

A secular documentary about early Christianity called “Inventing The Messiah”. Check out the teaser video on Kickstarter and support it if you can! Whether you’re a Christian, atheist, agnostic, pastafarian, or something else, you will probably agree with us that the tale of the rise of Christianity is one of the most amazing in all of history. How did a fringe, desert, Jewish cult, whose founder ended up being executed by the authorities because he was accused of being a terrorist, manage to take over the Roman Empire?



TIL Napoleon Invented The Idéologues

Today I learned something new about Napoleon. Apparently he was the first person to use the term “idéologue” pejoratively to describe his opponents – the French politically  liberal intellectuals such as Benjamin Constant, Pierre Jean George Cabanis and Madame de Staël. The idéologues longed for an idealized France. They believed whole-heartedly in the values of the Revolution. Napoleon, on the other hand, was a pragmatist. While he also believed in the general values of liberty and equality, he also believed that people needed to be lead and that the first decade of the Revolution had been a disaster. He knew that France desired and needed some political and economic stability. This, of course, was his ideology.

According to William Safire writing in the NY Times:

“The historian Helen Williams wrote in 1815 that the Corsican left “the idéologues of his council to arrange what he calls their revolutionary rubbish, such as sovereign people, equal rights, etc.”.”

Helen Maria Williams was an English-born, French-living poet and translator who supported the French Revolution, was imprisoned during the Reign Of Terror, and who wasn’t a big fan of the Emperor Napoleon, who, it must be noted, allowed her to live and work in Paris while she freely criticised him.

According to Andreas Möllenkamp:

After his return to Paris from the disaster in Russia in 1812, Napoleon blamed the idéologues for the catastrophe into which his own despotism had plunged the country:

“It is to the doctrinaire of the idéologues – to this diffuse metaphysics, which in a contrived manner seeks to find the primary causes and  on this foundation would erect the legislation of peoples, instead of adapting the laws to a  knowledge of the human heart and of the lessons of history – to which one must attribute all the  misfortunes which have befallen our beautiful France.”

(cited in Williams, Raymond (1983): Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society. London: Fontana Press).

In his view, the only realistic way to run the country was by making an alliance with the Church.

Staum (Staum, Martin S. (1980): Cabanis: Enlightenment and medical philosophy in the French Revolution. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.) puts it thus:

“The regime found the Church a more effective control on wayward consciences than the pale natural morality associated with Ideology.”

According to J. Christopher Herold’s “The Age of Napoleon”, Napoleon considered the ideologues to be “babbling fools”. His opinion was that human nature didn’t change – “men are moved by two levers only: fear and self interest ” – and that the way to bring stability to France after the horrors of Robespierre and the constant attacks of the united Monarchs of Europe was to resume some of the old means of pacification of the masses – the Catholic Church and social order.

So the next time you hear someone on TV talk about political ideology as being a bad thing – thank Napoleon.





Napoleon the Waterloo Campaign 4th Edition

Napoleon The Waterloo Campaign 4th Edition is the latest version of the classic boardgame – was a Kickstarter campaign that was fully (in fact, over-)funded about 18 hours ago. Congrats to Tom Dalgliesh from Columbia Games.

People who pledge $295 or more will receive a four day, 200th anniversary tour of the Waterloo Campaign area in 2015 lead by Game designer and historian Tom Dalgliesh. Tour will include visits to the battlefields of Quatre Bras and Ligny (June 16), Wavre (June 17) and Waterloo (June 18). Includes hotels (4 nights), all meals, museum fees, and transportation each day of the tour. Winner have to pay their own way to Brussels though.  NOTE: Pledge is a DEPOSIT toward a $1295 final cost.

The Secret Plot to Rescue Napoleon by Submarine

One of Chrissy’s cousins just sent me this story in the Smithsonian Magazine that tells the story of how one man claimed he had plans to rescue Napoleon from St Helena… WITH A SUBMARINE.

I’ve never heard it before so I thought I’d share it.

In 1820–or so he claimed–he was offered the sum of £40,000 [equivalent to $3 million now] to rescue the emperor Napoleon from bleak exile on the island of St. Helena. This escape was to be effected in an incredible way–down a sheer cliff, using a bosun’s chair, to a pair of primitive submarines waiting off shore. Johnson had to design the submarines himself, since his plot was hatched decades before the invention of the first practical underwater craft.

Markham & Reilly – The Next Chapter?

Well I spoke to JDM for the first time in a long time yesterday and we discussed doing a new podcast – about American politics. JDM was ranting about Obama’s inauguration and ending filibuster on Facebook and I thought it might make an interesting podcast. Maybe a one-off, but perhaps a new series?

Even though I’m not an American, I have a deep interest in American politics, as much of it affects all of us in some way or another, also because successful political ideas developed in the USA usually make their way into Australian politics in some watered-down form. Also, I’m married to an American, have American in-laws that I like, and so what affects them also affects me.

Anyhoo…. what would you think about a new show from Markham-Reilly in the near future?



Coded Napoleon Kremlin Letter Sold

“I will blow up the Kremlin on the 22nd at three in the morning.”

So wrote Napoleon in this coded letter dated October 20, 1812 and sold at auction this week for 187,500 euros ($233,800). It had been expected to fetch between 10,000 and 15,000 euros but they didn’t expect the last-minute arrival of Markham with his entourage trailing behind them chariots full of Canadian gold.

The news sources are claiming that Napoleon followed through with his threat. In a coded email to me, Markham says “Leave it to the Brits to keep lying about Napoleon though, as he did not keep his promise to blow up the Kremlin and did not destroy the walls and towers as the article says.” I’ve asked him for clarification. My agents will ride like the wind on fresh horses to deliver this message to him over the next month. Stay tuned for his response, sometime early 2013.

Watch “WATERLOO” Online!

waterloo film online napoleon
Rod Steiger.

Christopher Plummer.

Orson Welles.

Sergey Bondarchuk’s 1970 film WATERLOO may have flopped at the box office. It may have killed Stanley Kubrick’s chances of making his own Napoleon film. It may be flawed in many ways. Yet it is also wonderful in many ways. Who can ever forget Steiger as Napoleon saying “I found the crown of France lying in the gutter and I picked it up…. WITH MY SWORD!”

Well now you can watch the entire film on YouTube for free!

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