Thursday, July 5, 2012
I think nowadays the French have a much more sober view, but up until a few decades ago Napoleon was seen as a national hero. Though Napoleon rampaged across much of Europe, it was under the pretense of liberating various peoples and forging a "universal republic"--all of which now sounds rather George Bushian, but unlike Bush Napoleon was a brilliant general (aside from the Russian debacle) who restored national pride, and his belief in the Enlightenment was compromised but genuine (hence enduring achievements like the spread of the Napoleonic code). He was a warlord for the age of romanticism. You also have to remember that American perceptions of Napoleon are colored by the reactions of the British, for whom Napoleon was a pint-size antichrist.