Napoleon: Hero or Villain?

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Napoleon: Hero or Villain?

Unread postby Koichi » Thu Feb 04, 2010 2:02 am

I think I already know the answer: He was neither, and in fact, such simplistic labels do injustice to one of the most interesting personalities in all history.

What makes him a hero:
- he was a general when France needed protection from her many enemies and a ruler when the provisional government wasn't good at doing much besides chopping people's heads off. The Allies' original motive for invading France, namely to reverse a pro-democracy revolution and restoring the Bourbon monarchy, was not a noble one. Moreover, many of the later wars were started by the anti-French coalition, some of them quite treacherously.

- as ruler, Napoleon was quite remarkable. His many reforms, such as the establishment of a civil code (Napoleonic Code), pulled French society out of the Middle Ages and outlasted his regime.


What makes him a villain:
- Napoleon didn't need the Bourbons, he reversed the motivations of the French revolution by crowning himself and his empress. He later installed family members across all his subjugated territories and married into the Austrian family to cement his status, not as a republican, but one of their noble peers.

- Enlightened monarch he might be, he was a monarch nonetheless. He gave his allies and territories little avenue to address their grievances and, coupled his foreign origin, inflamed them into discontent and later open rebellion (ie the effect of the Continental System on Russia).

- many of his military ventures cannot be so easily justified by self-defense (ie the Spanish intervention). However, Napoleon was surrounded by real threats to his regime and was clearly not above preemptive attack.

will add more if comes to mind, would love to hear opinions...
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Re: Napoleon: Hero or Villain?

Unread postby agga » Thu Feb 04, 2010 5:54 am

i guess the comparisons to Hitler are obvious - took control of a destabilized, formerly powerful continental power; conquered much/most of europe and tried to keep it from the british; smashed his armies against russia; intended to spread particular ideologies throughout the continent, reforming political and social structures; and did all of this in supposed defense of his put-upon country. caused millions (tens of millions) of deaths.

but, what separates him from hitler is the lack of racist (at least white-on-white racism) hatred and no institutional mass murder of civilians (i know, plenty else separates them, but this is a most salient point in judging villainy). so, if hitler is a villain on account of the unbridled conquest in addition to the racism and mass murder, then napoleon is at least less of a villain.

that said, i (a total peacenik) respect a victorious conqueror in my gut. i've always thought genghis khan was one of the most incredible humans that ever lived, if you see things from the power-hungry, want-it-all side of human nature. him, alexander, qin shi huang di, napoleon, hitler - all amazing characters from a particular, narrow point of view. soldier's heroes, but none of them heroes to the common people, until after a few generations have passed - and, only if they succeeded. remember that hitler and napoleon both failed within a decade or so of their initial conquests.

and, you can say that these characters are naturally, at the least, heroes to their countrymen - but it's such a risk to take. failure (germany being the prime example) means the destruction of your country, and victory means that you get to choose the political machinations in your country rather than the british or the austrians (and really, would that be so bad?). and, napoleon's reforms were mostly just necessary, and probably would have come about through other revolutionary means (in fits and starts) in france over the next century anyways - but i can't prove that, of course.

my judgment: napoleon, heroic villain.
造反有理!
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Re: Napoleon: Hero or Villain?

Unread postby Tigger of Kai » Thu Feb 04, 2010 10:45 am

viewtopic.php?p=277485#p277485
viewtopic.php?p=152833#p152833
This topic has quite a history of its own! Lots of "at least he wasn't as bad as Hitler".

My view: the great betrayer of the Revolution. A bloody, failed reactionary.
Mithril! The dwarves tell no tales. But just as it was the foundation of their wealth, so also it was their destruction. They delved too greedily and too deep, and disturbed that from which they fled.
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Re: Napoleon: Hero or Villain?

Unread postby Koichi » Fri Feb 05, 2010 3:36 am

Tigger of Kai wrote:http://the-scholars.com/viewtopic.php?p=277485#p277485
viewtopic.php?p=152833#p152833
This topic has quite a history of its own! Lots of "at least he wasn't as bad as Hitler".

My view: the great betrayer of the Revolution. A bloody, failed reactionary.


The funniest one was the topic where I responded, shows where my memory is. :lol:

/I did try searching first, dunno why they didn't show up
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