Napoleon’s Last Stand:Popular Reactions and State Responses to the One Hundred Days
Tuesday 7 July 2015, University of Warwick, UK
Sponsored by the European History Research Centre and the AHRC-funded project ‘French Theatre of the Napoleonic Era’ at the University of Warwick.
When Napoleon escaped from Elba and landed in France in February 1815, he did so by presenting himself not as an autocrat, but as a popular hero: one who could, as Balzac later put it, ‘gain an empire simply by showing his hat! ’. In representing himself as epitomising the sovereignty of the French people, Napoleon also linked his cause to a liberal reading of the principles of the French Revolution. This representation proved unsustainable under the Allies’ rejection of his claim to power and the resumption of military conflict, but it encapsulated, in dramatic terms, the opposition between state legitimacy as a function of popular support and consent, and state legitimacy as something awarded by the autocratic decisions of the Congress of Vienna and the Courts of Europe. While by 1814, most of Europe thought the radicalism of the French Revolution had finally been contained, the 100 Days revealed the fragility of the Great Power politics that had sought to contain France as both a military and an ideological force.
This conference will explore reactions to Napoleon’s return within Europe and beyond, and examine the extent to which these reactions chimed with or departed from the behaviour of the statesmen who ordered and managed the military responses to Napoleon. What evidence is there of people across Europe identifying with Napoleon’s return? How far – and by whom – was his return perceived as a return to French revolutionary principles, as an opportunity for the adoption of such principles in other states, or as fundamentally anathema to the order, stability, and peace? While some of these questions are most applicable to Austria, Russia, Prussia, and Britain, they also have relevance for states such as the Netherlands, Ireland, Spain, Italy and Portugal: that is, those marked by revolutionary or Napoleonic experience but, by 1815, supposedly reordered by the Great Power diktat at the Congress of Vienna. And was there a wider global reaction to his return, in Egypt, the Americas, the Ottoman world, and the Balkans?
The 100 Days is usually discussed largely in military terms. The purpose of this conference is to turn attention to popular responses to this dramatic period, and to consider its implications for the self-understanding of states and peoples in the post-revolutionary European and world order. We invite proposals for 20-minute papers that engage with these issues from the perspective of cultural, social and political history, taking in sources from the spheres of literature, music, theatre and visual art as well as journalism and political commentary. Abstracts of 500 words should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org by January 31, 2015. We aim to review applications quickly and will notify applicants of our decisions by the end of February at the latest. It is envisaged that selected conference papers will be published as a collection of essays.
The conference language is English.