Cover image for Napoleon and his collaborators : the making of a dictatorship
Napoleon and his collaborators : the making of a dictatorship
Woloch, Isser, 1937-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : W.W. Norton, [2001]

Physical Description:
xv, 281 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


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DC203.9 .W785 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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The Eighteenth Brumaire, November 9, 1799: with France in political and economic turmoil, a group of disaffected politicians enlisted the talented general Napoleon Bonaparte to lead a coup d'etat and establish "confidence from below, authority from above." This is the story of how Napoleon managed his ascent from general of the Republic and first consul to dictator and conqueror of Europe. Napoleon did not vault into the imperial throne but moved toward dictatorship gradually; each assertion of new power came gilded with a veneer of legality and a rhetoric of commitment to the ideals of 1789. In this fashion Napoleon not only gained the upper hand over his partners of Brumaire but also retained their loyalty and services going forward. Far from shunting aside those collaborators, he put them to use in ways that satisfied their most emphatic needs: political security, material self-interest, social status, and the opportunity for high-level public service.

Author Notes

Isser Woloch is professor of history at Columbia University and the author of The New Regime, winner of the American Historical Association Leo Gershoy Award, as well as other works in modern French and European history

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Napoleon is most frequently studied and lauded for his military genius, but his skill in the art of the politics of personal advancement is often neglected. Woloch, a professor of history at Columbia University and a specialist in French history, has written an engrossing chronicle of political manipulation and intrigue, with the dictatorship of revolutionary France as the prize. At the center, of course, is Napoleon. This is not a particularly flattering portrait of "the little Corsican." His ambition is all consuming and his ruthlessness is chilling. Yet one must admire his intuitive understanding of people and how to manipulate them while maintaining their loyalty. In an age when political propaganda emerged as a factor influencing the masses, Napoleon proved a master at cloaking his power grabs with an aura of legality. This is an important book that sheds light on a murky but critical aspect of European history. --Jay Freeman

Publisher's Weekly Review

The principal contention of this work by Columbia University historian Woloch (The New Regime) is that the nature of Napoleon's regime can best be seen by examining the careers of the men who supported him in his seizure and consolidation of power, and the author makes a good case in this interesting and informative book. The reader who tackles it, though, would be well advised to know a little something about the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era before beginning. Many have long held that the role of Napoleon and his empire in the revolution was to consolidate its gains and make impossible a return to the status quo of prerevolutionary France. The author shows in support of this idea that the men who backed the young Corsican general were by and large moderate revolutionaries who favored the ideals of 1789, but rejected the extreme democracy and the disorder of the Jacobin phase of the revolution. On the other hand, this book is full of fascinating details of just how the seizure of power and the resultant corruption of revolutionary ideals were accomplished. The supporters of Napoleon's coup found themselves in a moral dilemma, which the author explores through an analogous example of the men who supported the American war in Vietnam. In both cases, he believes, these men gave to their leader the loyalty that more properly was owed to their nation. (Feb.) Forecast: This title may see a boost in sales if displayed with Robert Asprey's Rise of Napoleon (Forecasts, Nov. 27, 2000). (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

This distinguished scholar of Revolutionary and Napoleonic France has produced another valuable monograph, based on an impressive amount of archival research. Woloch's eight thematic chapters cover the background of the Brumaire coup, which he regards as a "joint venture," to the end of the Empire. He examines in depth the interaction between Bonaparte and his coup associates and the attitudes and activities of these civilian collaborators, all of whom possessed substantial liberal revolutionary credentials and hoped to preserve many of the revolutionary benefits during the Napoleon years. While the more celebrated Sieyes, Talleyrand, and Fouche receive some attention, Woloch is primarily concerned with lesser servitors like Cambaceres and Thibaudeau and the more obscure Boulay, Berlier, and Regnaud. As the years passed, these officials were forced to confront the reality that they were no match for Bonaparte, the man of order, whose appreciation of liberal values was shallow at best. Even after it became obvious that the Corsican was using his associates, most of them, although frustrated because their opinions no longer counted, continued to participate in his dictatorial regime for reasons of self-interest. Upper-division undergraduate students and above. T. M. Keefe Saint Joseph's University

Table of Contents

Prefacep. xi
I. Seizing Power: The Joint Venture of Brumairep. 3
II. Organizing Powerp. 36
III. Early Warning Signsp. 66
IV. From Consulate to Empirep. 90
V. The Second Most Important Man in Napoleonic Francep. 120
VI. In the Service of the Emperorp. 156
VII. Living with the Erosion of Libertyp. 186
VIII. The Limits of Loyaltyp. 214
Acknowledgmentsp. 245
A Note on Sourcesp. 247
Notesp. 251
Indexp. 273