Can you recommend any good books on Napoleon’s legacy?
My son is working on an A-level project on the legacy of Napoleon in France. Can you recommend any books in French on this? J.B.
The Emperor Napoleon had a remarkable impact (mainly for the good) on France, considering he spent so much time involved in wars.
Many institutions set up under him – what he called his masses de granit (granite slabs) – are still going strong, including prefects, the Trésor Public, the légion d’honneur, the Conseil d’Etat, the Cour des Comptes, the courts, the gendarmerie... and even the official status of the Comédie Française and a law protecting the savon de Marseille.
Here are three books which help to understand his achievements, recommended to us by le Souvenir Napoléonien, Europe’s largest Napoleonic organisation, which aims to make sure the importance of his period is not forgotten, especially by the young.
L’œuvre de paix de Napoléon, Alain Pigeard: explains his accomplishments in ‘civil’ life, with 200 sections in alphabetical order; it is described as clear and comprehensive, with plenty of interesting anecdotes.
Dictionnaire des institutions du Consulat et de l’Empire, Thierry Lentz : also detailed but accessible, is arranged as a dictionary, ranging across the institutions created or modernised under Napoleon.
For a lighter look at his legacy, aimed at young people, the society recommends: Napoléon expliqué à mes enfants, Jacques-Olivier Boudon. It addresses his legacy as part of a wide-ranging look at Napoleon – who he was and the mark he left on France, showing why he is still acclaimed by some people today and hated by others.