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British soldiers and the legend of Napoleon

Daly, G ORCID: 0000-0003-4122-7810 2017 , 'British soldiers and the legend of Napoleon' , Historical Journal , pp. 1-23 , doi: 10.1017/S0018246X16000479.

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Abstract

Investigating the letters, diaries, and memoirs of British officers and enlisted men from the Napoleonic Wars, this article explores the hitherto neglected subject of British soldiers’ perceptions of Napoleon. Soldiers often formed mixed and ambivalent views on Napoleon. At one level, this corresponds with a range of attitudes within Britain, highlighting the important connections between soldiers and domestic culture. Yet these views also reveal what soldiers as a distinct cohort prioritized about Napoleon, and how these perceptions evolved over time. They also reveal tensions and divisions within the army itself, and shed light on British soldiers and patriotism. And finally, they add to our understanding of soldiers’ writing practices, especially their cultural context and the differences between wartime writing and memoirs. A diverse and shifting set of cultural frameworks and lived experiences shaped soldiers’ writings on Napoleon – from the Black Legend and Napoleonic Legend, to the Enlightenment and Romanticism; and from Spain and its battlefields to Restoration Paris and post-Waterloo Britain. Tracing the evolution of British soldiers’ perceptions of Napoleon from the outbreak of the Peninsular War in 1808 to the mid-nineteenth century reveals a growing admiration of Napoleon and the increasing hold of the Napoleonic Legend.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Daly, G
Keywords: Napoleon, British army, Napoleonic legend
Journal or Publication Title: Historical Journal
Publisher: Cambridge Univ Press
ISSN: 0018-246X
DOI / ID Number: 10.1017/S0018246X16000479
Copyright Information:

© Cambridge University Press 2017

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