April 17-18, 2009
Herbst Theatre, San Francisco

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The institution-shattering forces unleashed by the French Revolution were successfully refocused upon Europe by Napoleon. The French tide swept over the continent, and even across the Mediterranean, leaving the remnants of many ancien regimes refashioned in its wake. The responses to France’s reassertion of cultural preeminence varied from uncritical enthusiasm to repugnance, and from nuanced appreciation to the love-hate affair the Russian aristocracy carried on for the next century. Napoleon invaded Egypt yet crafted enlightened policy sympathetic to Islam, resurrected Roman civil law, inspired Beethoven, challenged Goethe and Tolstoy to think again, and bankrolled a return to grandeur in the fine arts. Only the British successfully resisted both his armies and his cultural influence.

Moderator: Roger Hahn, Emeritus Professor, Graduate School, UC Berkeley

Friday, April 17, 2009

8 pm to 10:15 pm

Napoleon — the Grandeur Restored
Keynote Address by Steven Englund (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales and American University of Paris [now part of New York University])
Napoleon the man, Napoleon the general, and Napoleon the Emperor; what elements led to the election and rise to power of the 27-year-old minor Italian nobleman? Napoleon provided the promise of glory for the French following the horrors of the revolution, but many additional factors influenced his ability to mesmerize the world.

Napoleon and the Visual Arts
Michael Marrinan (Stanford University)
Napoleon spent lavishly on the arts of all media: from grand-scale projects of architecture to finely-wrought personal objects; from wall-sized paintings to books and prints; from monumental sculptures to porcelains of extreme elegance. Across this broad spectrum of patronage, no single style can be called emblematic of the Empire. How could it? Napoleon emerged from the ruins of the First Republic to erect a government of social and political elites that mirrored the hierarchies of the old monarchy without renouncing completely the achievements of the Great Revolution. Artists were asked for imagery and symbols to legitimate Napoleonic rule as both a break from the past and an extension of it. Thus, the Emperor’s coronation invoked Charlemagne as historical pedigree to bypass conveniently the line of kings ousted by the Revolution. Public works of classical allusion figured Paris as the new Rome and center of a new Empire. By contrast, history painters were encouraged to break with the Academy’s preference for antiquity by commissioning pictures of contemporary events in modern dress. Sculptors exchanged heroic nudes for military heroes in uniform. Designers of interiors, furnishings, and objects for Napoleon did not eschew the craft and elegance of pre-Revolutionary aristocratic culture, but reshaped them with a functional sobriety in tune with the Emperor’s rationalist pragmatism. A survey of the arts under Napoleon will demonstrate that aesthetic productions of the Empire mirror the myriad political contradictions of their patron.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

10:00 am-12 noon and 1:30 pm to 4:00 pm

Napoleon — Napoleonic Code, Administration Highlights
Laurent Mayali (UC Berkeley Law School)
This lecture focuses on the civil law reforms instituted by Napoleon, and the other positive cultural legacies of his short-lived empire.

Tolstoy’s Napoleon: A Dethronement
Luba Golburt (UC Berkeley)
Napoleon was an enigmatic leader, possessed of great charisma and strategic insight. This is precisely the image that the iconoclast Leo Tolstoy consistently undermines throughout his monumental War and Peace. This lecture traces some of the stages of Napoleon’s dethronement in the novel, examining Napoleon the character’s physique, mannerisms, and his mistaken notions of hero-centered adoration.

Ludwig van Beethoven on Napoleon
Pianist Teresa Yu (San Francisco Conservatory)
A performance of Beethoven’s virtuosic “Eroica Variations,” Op. 35, a set of fifteen variations for solo piano dating from 1802, and based on the same theme Beethoven used in the finale of his “Eroica” Symphony (No. 3), composed the following year and originally dedicated to Napoleon. Typical of the groundbreaking composer, he makes important departures from the standard theme-and-variations form, including a masterful fugue as the finale.

Egyptomania or Orientalism?: Painting Napoleon Bonaparte’s Egypt
Juan Cole (University of Michigan)
The painters who, in subsequent decades, took up the themes of Bonaparte’s Egyptian conquest contrasted splendor and squalor, courage and barbarism, science and fanaticism, masculine vigor and feminine languor. In their stereotypes of East and West, and in the ways that they referred back to traditions of depicting the Orient, some used the expedition as a canvass on which to imagine a Middle East that Europe could and should dominate. Others explored the barbarity of Bonaparte’s own military policies, turning the French expedition into a critique of Western militarism. These differences among the painters reflected European struggles over values of peace versus imperialism as the nineteenth century unfolded.

Panel Discussion
A discussion with questions from the Audience.


Juan Cole, History, U Michigan

Steven Englund, History, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences

Luba Golburt, Slavic Studies, UC Berkeley

Roger Hahn, History, UC Berkeley

Laurent Mayali, Law, UC Berkeley

Michael Marrinan, Art History, Stanford

Teresa Yu, Dean, Santa Clara University

Resource Materials

It has been said that more books have been written about Napoleon than about any other man, except for Jesus Christ, and our extended reading list contains a number a massive biographies and histories that could keep the average reader busy for years. If, on the other hand, you are simply looking for relatively quick and painless ways to broaden your understanding of Napoleon and his impact on Europe, you might want to start with D. G. Wright’s Napoleon and Europe(Seminar Studies in History series, Longman, 1984; 137pp), which combines 95 pages of balanced and concise narrative with a section of short document excerpts, an extensive bibliography, and a chronology. Alexander Grab’s Napoleon and the Transformation of Europe (European History in Perspective series, Palgrave, 2003; 249pp; also available in Kindle format) provides separate chapters for each major country, clearly showing how Napoleon’s impact was always a mixture of modernizing reform and Franco-centric exploitation.

For those who want to know more about the central figure of the age, Vincent Cronin’s Napoleon(Harpercollins, 1995; 400pp) offers a balanced, but basically positive account of his life, without dwelling on the minutiae of his military exploits. Paul Johnson’s short biography, Napoleon: A Life(Penguin Lives series, paperback 2006; 208pp; also available in Kindle format and as an audiobook) challenges the hero-worshiping view of Napoleon, seeing him as an essentially negative precursor to the traumatic era of European conflicts in the 20th century. PBS Home Video also has a four-hour documentary Napoleon (2000; re-released 2006 as part of the Empires series) available from Netflix or Amazon.

Two of our speakers have also made significant contributions of the history of Napoleonic Europe, with Steven Englund’s Napoleon: A Political Life (Harvard U. Press, pb 2005; 600pp) and Juan Cole’s Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East (Palgrave, pb 2008; 304pp; also available as an audiobook).

A Longer Resource List, Compiled by Stanford Intern Andrew Linford

Asprey, Robert. The Rise of Napoleon Bonaparte (2001)

Asprey, Robert. The Reign Of Napoleon Bonaparte (2002)

Bell, David A. The First Total War: Napoleon’s Europe and the Birth of Warfare as We Know It(2007)

Broers, Michael. Europe Under Napoleon: 1799-1815 (1996)

Burleigh, Nina. Mirage: Napoleon’s Scientists and the Unveiling of Egypt (2007)

Chandler, David G. The Campaigns of Napoleon (1973)

Cole, Juan. Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East (2007)

Cole, Juan. Engaging the Muslim World (March 17, 2009)

Cronin, Vincent. Napoleon (1995)

Dwyer, Philip. Napoleon and Europe (2003)

Dwyer, Philip. Napoleon: The Path to Power (2008)

Ellis, Geoffrey. The Napoleonic Empire (2003)

Englund, Steven. Napoleon. A Political Life (2004)

Esdaile, Charles. Napoleon’s Wars: An International History, 1803-1815 (2008)

Franceschi, Michel and Weider, Ben. Wars Against Napoleon: Debunking the Myth of the             Napoleonic Wars (2007)

Kagan, Frederick. The End of the Old Order: Napoleon and Europe, 1801-1805 (2006)

Johnson, Paul. Napoleon: A Life (2002)

Marrinan, Michael. Romantic Paris: Histories of a Cultural Landscape, 1800-1850 (March 30, 2009)

McLynn, Frank. Napoleon: A Biography (2003)

Moreh, Shmuel and Tignor, Robert L. Napoleon In Egypt: Al-jabarti’s Chronicle Of The French Occupation, 1798 (2005)

Schom, Alan. Napoleon Bonaparte: A Life (1998)

Tolstoy, Leo. War and Peace (1869)

Woolf, Stuart. Napoleon’s Integration of Europe (1991)

Zamoyski, Adam. Moscow 1812: Napoleon’s Fatal March (2004)

Zamoyski, Adam.  Rites of Peace: The Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna (2008)
PBS web site in support of Empires series on Napoleon, first broadcast in 2000. Contains background material, short histories of Napoleon and Josephine, the politics of the time, timelines, study guides for students.

Juan Cole’s site for Napoleon’s Egypt campaign, with many links to other Napoleon sites, including:




pbs.org | napoleon resources


DVD – Biography – Napoleon Bonaparte: The Glory of France (2004, A&E DVD Archives)

DVD – Napoleon (2000, Re-released in 2006 as part of PBS Empires Series)

Related Events

Special Pre-program Event
April 14, 2009, 7:00 pm

George Hammond holds a Fireside Chat previewing
Confronting Napoleon: European Culture at the Crossroads

Orinda Library
26 Orinda Way, Orinda, CA 94563
(925) 254-2184

Special Pre-program Event
April 15, 2009, 5:30 pm reception, 6:00 pm lecture

Roger Hahn (History, UC Berkeley)
Napoleon and the French Intellectuals

Napoleon was well-informed about science and technology and supported its contemporary practitioners. Although he also supported institutions for the promotion of the arts, philosophy and literature, he ran into problems with independent thinkers who criticized his actions. As an absolute ruler he became a master at indirect censorship, while pretending to follow a liberal persuasion.

Free to Members of Mechanics’ Institute and Friends of Humanities West
Public $12.

Mechanics’ Institute
57 Post St., SF. (Montgomery Station BART/MUNI)
Reservations: 415.393.0100