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John Simkin

Teaching Napoleon

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A black French historian, Claude Ribbe, has just published a book called Napoleon’s Crime. He argues that school history teachers have been presenting the wrong image of Napoleon. Instead of stressing that he was a military genius and the founder of modern France, he should be remembered as a genocidal dictator and inspiration for Hitler.

Ribbe points out that Napoleon ordered the massacre of more than a 100,000 Caribbean slaves during a revolt in Haiti and Guadeloupe. Napoleon’s strategy was to exterminate every black on the islands over 12 and replace them with docile imports from Africa. Yet this event rarely appears in French textbooks.

This seems to be an important point. What would we say if the Germans did not teach in their schools the crimes of Hitler?

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A very interesting point. Is this book easily available in English? I would guess that this was connected to the revolts led by Toussaint L'Ouverture - would that be right John?

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Doesn't the fact that Napoleon was unable to carry out this heinous crime make it less offensive than the Holocaust. It would be like condemning Hitler and Germany for the Holocaust if Hitler wrote Mein Kampf but had to serve a life sentence for treason and never was able to gain an office in Germany.

I'm sure you know the answer here, but Napoleon was thwarted in his attempt to regain control of Haiti was he not? And L'Overture was able to keep Haiti free?

Any depiction of Napoleon as a role model for politicians is not the best message to convey to school children.

We do not need to convict Napoleon of genocide of thought to get that point across in the classroom.

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