Remembering the wise Talleyrand

Political Cartoon of Napoleon I and TalleyrandNapoleon I, originally Napolean Bonaparte, was the emperor of France. He seized power in 1799 in a coup d'etat, crowned himself emperor in 1804, and attempted to conquer Europe. He abdicated in 1815 after several military defeats.
Political Cartoon of Napoleon I and Talleyrand
Napoleon I, originally Napolean Bonaparte, was the emperor of France. He seized power in 1799 in a coup d’etat, crowned himself emperor in 1804, and attempted to conquer Europe. He abdicated in 1815 after several military defeats.

Je connais quelqu’un qui a plus d’esprit que Napoléon, que Voltaire, que tous les ministres présents et futurs: c’est l’opinion.

I know where there is more wisdom than is found in Napoleon, Voltaire, or all the ministers present and to come — in public opinion.

Charles Maurice de Talleyrand was born a day like today on February 13, 1754.  He is one of the smartest and more prolific politicians and diplomats of  modern times (and one of my favourites).  Born and well educated in the arts, letters and ideas into an aristocratic family in Paris he quickly became a wise men by a young age.  He worked, survived and taught successfully for and against the regimes of Louis XVI, participated actively through the French Revolution and then under Napoleon ILouis XVIIICharles X, and Louis-Philippe.

The Dutch historian, Pieter Geyl, said once that, “in the purely political arena” the only figure to have held on to his rank in history during the Napoleonic era, apart from Napoleon himself of course, was Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord and he intended to include a chapter on the prince in his famous work Napoleon For and Against (Harmondsworth, 1949).(1)

Talleyrand was, without a doubt, one of the most remarkable figures in the history of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, and certainly one of the most controversial. He was one of a rare breed capable of occupying a wide range of positions in politics and society, both in his public and private life. To a certain extent, he was representative of his era, whether taking on the mantel of the Ancien Régime, as an aristocrat working for the Revolution, or as lord of the Château de Valençay during the Restoration. However, it is the most important of these roles, Minister of Foreign Affairs during the Directoire, the Consulate, the Empire and the Restoration, for which he is of course remembered.

To learn more about his life, works and ideas I invite you to read the following biography (one of my favourite books too) which I am sure you will all enjoy: Talleyrand by Duff Cooper

Remembering J’accuse

“It is a crime to poison the small and the humble,

to exasperate passions of reaction and intolerance,

while taking shelter behind the odious antisemitism…”

J'accuse

A day like today in February 07 1898 the Émile Zola was brought to trial for libel for publishing J’Accuse in the L’Aurore a literary, liberal, and socialist newspaper published in Paris, France   J’accuse is in my opinion one of the most important historical essays ever written because it brought to public opinion an honest and objective critic against the ruling elite’s injustices.

In his letter, Zola addressed President of France Félix Faure, and accused the government of antisemitism and the unlawful jailing of Alfred Dreyfus, a French Army General Staff officer sentenced to penal servitude for life for espionage.  Further, “Zola pointed out judicial errors and lack of serious evidence. The letter was printed on the front page of the newspaper, and caused a stir in France and abroad. Zola was prosecuted and found guilty of libel on 23 February 1898. To avoid imprisonment, he fled to England, returning home in June 1899.”

Zola’s intention was that he be prosecuted for libel so that the new evidence in support of Dreyfus would be made public (“Correspondence Between Emile Zola and Imprisoned Alfred Dreyfus”. Shapell Manuscript Foundation.) The case divided France deeply between the reactionary army and church and the more liberal commercial society and its ramifications continued for many years. On the 100th anniversary of Zola’s article, France’s Roman Catholic daily paper, La Croix, apologized for its antisemitic editorials during the Dreyfus Affair. As Zola was a leading French thinker, his letter formed a major turning-point in the affair.

Zola’s powerful letter included a direct conversation to the President of France to whom he address as a honorable and rightful man,

And it is to you, Mr. President, that I will proclaim it, this truth, with all the force of the revulsion of an honest man. For your honor, I am convinced that you are unaware of it. And with whom will I thus denounce the criminal foundation of these guilty truths, if not with you, the first magistrate of the country?

And by doing this, he requested the President to be truthful to Justice.

Lets have this letter as a memory of which is our truthful right and obligation as citizens of our States.  Let us remember that We MUST always Accuse the wrongdoers and Demand justice to prevail.

Audio (French) – J’Accuse – Lettre ouverte d’Emile Zola

Access to the French Original version available here via Archive.org

Here you can find the English translation of the letter: “I Accuse…!” By Émile Zola

Academic Article. French Intellectuals and Globalisation: A War of Worlds.

Alien tripod illustration by Alvim Corréa, fro...
Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday I posted the famous audio/story of Orson WellesOctober 30, 1938 broadcast titled “Space invaders” that scared thousands of people who believed that Martians were invading Earth.

Today’s Academic Article recommendation will continue in that tone. This time, it is the turn for French intellectuals to play the role of Martians. 😉 They have leaded the opposition to what they call neo-liberal globalization (a.k.a. Westernization by means of corporate capitalism). Hope you enjoy it and don’t get too scared!

“French intellectuals have been at the forefront of a national and international movement of opposition to neo-liberal globalisation. Drawing on Samuel Huntington’s controversial work, The Clash of Civilisations, I will argue that French intellectuals shared a civilisational perspective of globalisation, seeing it not as a piecemeal market process or economic reform, but as an all-encompassing external threat. This civilisational perspective had contradictory effects on the nature of their opposition. On the one hand, intellectuals were able to produce a radical critique that challenged neo-liberalism and reinscribed the market within a specific political and ideological context. On the other hand, they tended to perpetuate an essentialist view of globalisation that saw this not as an economic process but as an expression of a pre-determined Anglo-Saxontype.”

Waters, Sarah. 2011. “French Intellectuals and Globalisation: A War of Worlds.” French Cultural Studies 22, no. 4: 303-320.  Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed October 31, 2011).

Reenacting The Battle of the Nations 16-19 October, 1813

Today I had the pleasure of attending (living) the reenactment of The Battle of the Nations (also known as The Battle of Leipzig) that took place half mile south of Leipzig on 16-19 October, 1813.  The battle was fought by the coalition armies of Russia, Prussia, Austria and Sweden against the French army of Napoleon. Napoleon’s army also contained Polish and Italian troops as well as Germans from the Confederation of the Rhine. The battle involved over 600,000 soldiers, making it the largest battle in Europe prior to World War I.1

This allied victory over Napoleon at Leipzig marked the first significant cooperation among European nations against a common foe. “Napoleon limped back toward Paris. Behind him he left 60,000 dead, wounded, or captured French soldiers. The Allies had lost a similar number, but they could find replacements far more quickly and easily than Napoleon. Other countries, including the Netherlands and Bavaria–which Napoleon had added to his confederation by conquest–now abandoned him and joined the Allies. On December 21, the Allies invaded France and, following their victory at Paris on March 30, 1814, forced Napoleon into exile on Elba.”2

Indeed, it was the cooperation of all the region’s powers that Leipzig led to the fall of Paris and the abdication of Napoleon. The decisiveness of this battle had a global impact that redefined the course of history.

I invite you to see all the pictures I took of this fantastic battle:

Check dozens of more pictures in my Flickr album

1 Battle of Leipzig. Wikipedia.

2 Vía http://www.historyplace.com