Whilst in the tome on the French Revolution (VIII, 1904) there was only one non-British author, Paul Viollet, a legal historian who had worked as an archivist under Napoleon III, the ‘Napoleon’ volume, on the other hand (IX, 1906), as advertisements proudly noted, was “a great internationally-planned undertaking”, including scholars from France, Switzerland and Germany including inter alia such famous names as Julius von Pflugk-Harttung, the authority on Papal and mediaeval history, sir Charles Oman, ground-breaking historian of the Peninsular War, the German military historian and soldier August Keim, the Russian historian Evgenii Stschepkin, the French historian Georges Pariset (though his significant bibliography in French oddly makes no mention of his collaboration with the volume), and the Swiss historian Anton Guilland.
This huge endeavour was followed by other multi-volume general histories, including the Cambridge History of Foreign Policy (1922), and the Cambridge History of the British Empire (1925-26), to name but two of Napoleonic relevance.
In 1957, Cambridge University Press finally decided to bring all such studies under the aegis of what was to be called the Cambridge History of series.
And so, almost precisely one hundred and twenty years after the very first attempt, an up-to-date Cambridge History of the Napoleonic Wars has come out in three volumes (2023) with its general editor the renowned historian, Alan Forrest, equally celebrated volume co-editors, Michael Broers, Philip Dwyer, Bruno Colsen, Alexander Mikaberidze, and myself.
This is an international history of the Napoleonic period for the coming century. While still aspiring to lord Acton’s goals of objectivity and precision, these volumes are however significantly more international than the first, though written in the world’s lingua franca, and bringing together the gaze of eighty-five historians from across the planet (France, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, Norway, Poland, UK and US, but also Russia, Australia, and Canada).
The Fondation Napoléon has been partner in the project from the start, with director, Thierry Lentz, and academic director, Pierre Branda, writing key essays, and we have also supported the project financially, notably seeing to the translation of articles not written in English. As history becomes global, so the Fondation Napoléon follows its mission to place the history of the two Napoleons at the heart of that world story.