As is well known, Napoleon is a worldwide icon – in the English language, he’s the second historical figure internet search after Jesus Christ. The stories of France, Napoleon I and Napoleon III continue to fascinate and stimulate the world over. And English has long been the medium of information.
Right from Napoleon’s early years, the British public was eager to learn about first the General, then the Consul and finally the Emperor. The first EVER published biography in any language of General Buonaparte was written in English, and writing about him, whether reigning or in exile, remained a constant. Napoleon III’s relations with Britain and the English language were forefront (he spoke English, lived in Britain in exile either side of the Second Empire), and likewise some of the first biographies of the Second Emperor were published in English. And as English gradually became the lingua franca (😊) of the planet so the study of the two Napoleons became a world affair.
Which brings me to Napoleonica ® the journal. Given the preponderance of the English language, it seemed important to us here at the Fondation fully to have our say in the historical debates of our times. It should therefore come as no surprise that for the inaugural issue the first article is one translated from French written by Pierre Branda and Thierry Lentz, a weighty, archive-based study of the thorny issue of slavery during the Consulate and Empire and the First Consul’s own role in its reintroduction in the Caribbean.
Nor is this a one-off. It will be the policy of the journal regularly to include translations of important new French writing on the two Empires so as to ensure that historians of the Hexagon get their full due in the ‘Empire of Letters’.