Napoleon: First Consul and Emperor of the French

Classic Pamphlet

By Irene Collins, published 18th July 2009

The Man and the Myth

Four years after the battle of Waterloo, Richard Whately publicised a philosophical essay in which he argued that there was no real proof of Napoleon's existence. The deeds attributed to him were either so wondrously good or so amazingly bad that they far outran the evidence available to support them: Napoleon was a legendary figure with no more substance than Achilles.

Since Whately expressed these historic Doubts concerning Napoleon Buonaparte (1819), a great deal of evidence has been made available to historians. Vast numbers of reminiscences have been published, hundredweights of Napoleon's letter printed and official records of numerous governments opened up. Yet there is still a regrettable lack of information on some aspects of Napoleon's régime. Meanwhile more than 200,000 books and articles have been written on the subject, and historians continue to differ widely in their views. The objet of this pamphlet is to point out the uncertainties of knowledge and the scope for diffe5rence of opinion on some important aspects of Napoleon's rule over the French people...