Home > Summer School > Summer School 2022 > HISTORY, HERITAGE, LEGACY & LAW > Napoleon: the long view from Longwood


Chris Danziger, lecturer

2021 marked the bicentenary of Napoleon’s death at Longwood on the island of St Helena. What are we to make of this multi-talented, charismatic, self-absorbed and dangerous figure? Three times as many books have been written about him as about any other historical character. At first Napoleon seemed a clean break from the repressive world of hereditary monarchies and feudal privilege. He was as much admired outside his own country as within it. But he illustrates the adage that all power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. He was ultimately defeated in battle and died in humiliating exile. In almost all cases that would have been the end of the story. However, in exile he began, and his followers completed, a heroic interpretation of his life which has largely been accepted by posterity today. He emerges from it larger than life, a symbol as much as a human being.


Lecture titles

1.  Napoleon the revolutionary: a conservative unleashed

2.  Napoleon the soldier: overwhelming or over-rated?

3.  Napoleon the legislator: executing or dictating the popular will?

4.  Napoleon the Emperor: all power corrupts

5.  Napoleon the immortal: defeat and rehabilitation


Recommended reading

Cronin, V. 1995. Napoleon. Harper Collins.

Forrest, A. 2011. Napoleon. Quercus.

Johnson, P. 2006. Napoleon. Penguin.

Zamoyski, A. 2019. Napoleon. William Collins.





DATE: Monday 17–Friday 21 January
TIME: 9.15 am
COURSE FEES: R375 (online)/R550 (in person)