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

Egypt and the first modern factories

Today I had an epiphany in Economic History thanks to Ph.D. Isa Blumi who gave a lecture on “The Ottoman Legacy: Socio-Economic Dynamics and the Origins of Modern Politics” emphasizing the economic history of Egypt and The Ottoman Empire during the 18th. and 19th Centuries.

The first great argument was rooted in how Egypt had been already transforming its economy and society long before The Napoleonic French Campaign (1798-1801).  As well, he made very clear how Napoleon’s interest in acquiring Egypt’s wheat was much more important than posing for a picture in front of the Sphinx. He explained the consequences of this invasion and the resulting liberation of Egypt by the genious of Muhammad Ali Pasha.

The epiphany to my research interest came when he localized the first modern factory 2,500 miles away from the cities of Derby, Birmingham and Manchester. Most surely, researching this argument would surely enlighten the current historiography of Economic History and establish more roots of entrepreneurial activity, innovation and mass production in the Middle East.  Doing this will also disentail the roots of the creation of Wealth from the Eurocentric historigraphy that has been in fact characterized by its antipodes: mercantilism, patrimonialism and altruism.

If you are interested in learning more of this subjects here are recommended readings that Professor Blumi shared with me: