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Benjamin Marquart

benjamin marquart
Lehrstuhl für Geschichte des Romanischen Westeuropa
Belfortstraße 20 - Doktorandenzimmer (2. OG)
79098 Freiburg
Tel.: 0761 203 97872


Dissertation Project:

National Crisis and Political Heroism in the Long 19th Century: Bonapartism in European Comparison.

In the long 19th century Napoleon Bonaparte set the standard for the political hero. Starting in the late 1790s the young, up-and-coming General Bonaparte had through propagandistic skill risen to become the military and national hero of revolutionary France and thereby laid the foundation for a heroic model. This model combined military and political heroism through referencing and constructing analogies to classical military heroes like Alexander and Caesar and through a strong self-stylisation as the republican hero. He utilized this dynamic combination of traditional and new types of heroes in 1799 and 1804 as a new strategy of political legitimisation and made the step from military hero to a monarchically ruling “héros des idées libérales.” The successive regimes of 19th century France – the July Monarchy and, of course, the Second Empire of Napoleon III – dealt with this Napoleonic system intensively and tried the mostly failing imitatio heroica.

In this context and in the sense of a comparative political history of discourses the dissertation project poses the question as to the significance of the heroic as a means of political and monarchical legitimisation in the course of changing politics in the long 19th century brought forth by the French Revolution. The far-reaching Bonapartist discourses and debates of the 19th century that have been held long after 1815 and far beyond France’s borders and that also manifested themselves in many different medias of growing public political mass markets serve as the basis of the analysis for the project. Accordingly the corpora of sources used must be just as wide in order to capture the contemporary social reach and effectiveness of the Bonaparte model. For French, British and German spaces between 1796 and 1870 monographs (especially biographies, autobiographies/memoirs and historiographical sources), encyclopaedias and dictionaries, selected newspapers, periodicals and journals, as well as pamphlets, broadsheets, caricatures and other selected visual sources will be analysed. Thereby the project also wants to make a contribution to a re-evaluation of Bonapartism in the 19th century, regarding it as a pan-European, meaningful communicative connection and no longer as just the myth bound to a singular person or the purely political program of usurping power – as has mostly been the case in the research community until now.