Cultural References In The Biography Of Napoleon
There are many views on a biography. The historic view is one that dominates the biography of Napoleon, written by Andre Maurois. But there is also another view, like this one in which culture is the axle around which the story can be explained. In the story revealed by Maurois there are many cultural references, although many of them are not fully elaborated.
The story of Napoleon begins when France entered a transitional period provoked by the French Revolution, when the monarchy was abolished. This context is the first key in understanding the Rise of Napoleon. One cultural period has finished, but a new culture identity and national identity has to be "found."
Interesting in this context is the fact that Napoleon himself was not a Frenchman. He was born on Corsica and he entered the French army just a year after the annexation of the island by the French. One of his early goals was to set the island free again, but he learned soon that he needed the French to reach his ambitions.
Napoleon had no subjective stake in the cultural problem of France that was split in groups of which the Jacobins was one of them. This made it easier for him to focus on his goal to become a great general. Whether his (Corsica's) background was favorable for this remains unclear. This is more his personal strength in which his cultural luggage has helped him by reading the contemporary and ancient literature on military strategy, as well as his interest in a broad area of other literature (like Rousseau, etc)...This can be seen as another reference to the influence of culture: his personal development, conflicting in the quest for freedom versus the wish to be part of the political hierarchy of that time.
One of his first conquests was Egypt, which showed his cultural intelligence in respecting the Islamic habits but putting a French stamp on the country at the same time.
Later on, Napoleon reconciles with the representative of the catholic faith, with the Pope, who would conceal his power but napoleon deviates from the official tradition and crowns himself to emperor. Again one could ask, how does this act influence the culture of France at that time?
The story of France at the time of Napoleon is also about the Monarchy (the bourbon house) versus the republican forces and other liberal forces.
One specific reference is about the culture of the battlefield. Napoleon prefers to recruit farmers for the army rather than "those guys in the city who just wander around". The Farmers know how to fight...
Culture is part of his strategy. We see this in current takeovers and mergers, where a fit or mismatch becomes a problem. Napoleon is not experienced at sea. At that time, Britain is dominating the seas and Nelson defeats Napoleon in the battle of Trafalgar. This is again quite different from infantry battles. More or less the same happens in Russia where his troupes are not experienced with the freezing cold. And a few years later the factor of pride is miscalculated (by his brother in Spain) in the Spanish resistance...
And than the question is how could his empire be destroyed so easily? Why was Napoleon banned (twice). Didn't he manage to establish a new culture?
Probably not. But his influence was very important at that time and afterwards people begun to understand who Napoleon had influenced the current culture of France. It was only a few years later after his death that people start to realize this.