History Prizes 2018
Fondation Napoléon 2018 History Prize – First Empire
Natalia Griffon de Pleineville, La première invasion du Portugal par l’armée napoléonienne (1807-1808), Économica
From the start, Junot (who had become the Duc d’Abrantès) tried to get his subjects to like him and undertook a vast programme of reforms. Nothing, however, went according to plan. French domination, with its concomitant taxation and other exactions, exasperated the the locals and they rose up against the invaders. Shortly afterwards, British troops landed and led a victorious campaign against French troops bogged down by numberless difficulties. After the battle of Roliça, in which general Delaborde used tactics that his opponent, the future Duke of Wellington, would employ to great success in future years, the British won a great victory at Vimeiro, but without being able to use it to it greatest advantage. General Kellermann ‘s diplomatic abilities won for the French an advantageous peace treaty (against all expectations), thereby sparing Junot the Emperor’s ire, but the end result had damaged the Duc d’Abrantès’s chances of becoming a marshal.
As the first of a long series of campaigns in the Iberian peninsula, the expedition of 1807-1808 is worth a closer look. It is less well-known, compared to those led by Napoleon himself in central Europe, but it is in itself an important link in the history of the military campaigns of the First Empire.
Fondation Napoléon 2018 History Prize – Second Empire
Thibault Gandouly, Paul de Cassagnac, l’enfant terrible du bonapartisme, Via Romana
Fondation Napoléon 2018 Jury Prize
Jean Mendelson, Sainte-Hélène 2015, Portaparole
Ambassador Jean Mendelson, who had been set two years earlier to sign an agreement between the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the local government regarding the French Domains on St Helena, here recounts this final mission by sea, which coincided with the bicentenary of the arrival of Napoleon, imagining at the same time the life of the prisoner and situating the Emperor in contemporary political debates.
There is an emotion inspired by places charged with history, and Mendelson allows himself, via the island’s very isolation, to be set free and to be borne aloft on a Victor-Hugo-driven wave that recounts the legendary Napoleon. And beyond the legend and preconceptions, he examines the reasons for the liveliness of the debates on the Revolution and the Empire from which sprang many aspects of contemporary France. Are not Robespierre and Napoleon, as much for their brilliance as for their faults – and indeed occasionally their crimes -, still two hundred years on, the most divisive figures in French history, still exciting hate or adulation, systematic criticism or boundless admiration?
The atmosphere is moving but also troubling. The two small campaign beds set in the prisoner’s study and in the salon where he received his guests (and where he died) create almost a paralysis – in fact, the originals are at the Invalides and at Bois-Préau, but who cares? In his final days, the patient was carried into the salon, the room in which there was the most light, and it was here, on 5 May 1821 that “at eleven minutes to six in the evening, in the midst of wind, rain and the thunder of the waves, Bonaparte rendered up to God the mightiest breath of life that ever animated human clay”, as Chateaubriand was to put it in his Mémoires d’Outre-Tombe. The following day, his body was dressed in the Guard Colonel’s uniform and placed in his study where the population of St Helena, a large majority of which had never seen him, filed past the body, both British civilian officials and military figures, not mention the allied commissioners.