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Subject: Can Anyone Recommend Some Napoleonics Documentaries? rss

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Tom Russell
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When I want to learn about something, I usually start by borrowing some documentaries from my local library. I find that this gives me a broad outline of the topic; then, I use books and, in the case of military history, wargames to flesh it out (and correct the mistakes and troublesome simplifications that the documentaries will often impart).

Like many wargamers, I'm a big fan of the Napoleonic era. And lately I was thinking, you know, I'd like to know more about the Napoleonic wars; I'll go to the library to check out some documentaries. But all they've got is one on Waterloo. My library would be happy to order some documentaries on the subject, which brings me to the title of this post. Can anyone recommend some documentaries, or a documentary series, on the Napoleonic wars?
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Tom Willcockson
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This one is 6 episodes long used to play a lot on the history channel I think it was pretty well done although I'm certainly not an expert. You can watch the whole thing on Youtube & here is part 1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gkFkuqNmhc


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Richard Hecker
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I can almost help. I've been working on a geeklist of wargames and documentaries for some time now. http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/71470/wargames-and-his...

I've spent some time in checking Napoleonics but it is both a big topic and many smaller battle-focussed items. The big picture ones tend to be a bit popularist and the smaller can offer excruciating detail and a book would be better. I'll seek to cobble together what I've found over the Christmas break if you like.

Still, I would be interested in any Nap-fans have suggested recommendations for me to chase up.

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Martin Swift
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The Napoleon Podcast.... excellent history of Napoleon. On itunes free.
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Richard Hecker
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TomW731 wrote:
This one is 6 episodes long used to play a lot on the history channel I think it was pretty well done although I'm certainly not an expert. You can watch the whole thing on Youtube & here is part 1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gkFkuqNmhc




I've just watched the first episode of the six. This looks like a good overview. Nice mix of narrative and talking heads. Will see if it goes into campaign details that wargamers seem to like, but at this early stage it is certainly one of the best Nap docs I've seen.
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Kurt Weihs
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Punk Reaper wrote:
The Napoleon Podcast.... excellent history of Napoleon. On itunes free.


Another strong recommendation for this one. The podcast features Cameron Reilly and David Markham, President of the International Napoleonic Society and author of Napoleon for Dummies (among others). It started off as a Podcast series that was limited in nature that has gone far beyond its initial goals. They aren't as prolific with shows as they were in the beginning, but they are still producing from time to time. Both Reilly and Markham are die-hard (self-admittedly) Bonapartist's, but this bias doesn't harm the show as long as you are aware of it. I would be very interested to see what they could do with video, but sadly they are limited to podcast only at this point.
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olivier R
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It was hard not to just hit stop and close the window when after three minutes they compared him in passing to Darth Vader. *cringes*

Also artillery, the most prestigious branch of the military? I don't think so.

But the rest isn't too bad. Thanks for the link.

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Richard Hecker
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pepe le moko wrote:
It was hard not to just hit stop and close the window when after three minutes they compared him in passing to Darth Vader. *cringes*

Also artillery, the most prestigious branch of the military? I don't think so.

But the rest isn't too bad. Thanks for the link.



The comparisons to 'the little corporal' used later is clearly designed to highlight similarities to Hitler. Yet so many of the talking heads clearly admire the man greatly.

To understand the Nap wars without understanding the man himself - motivations, drivers, quirks - misses the point. He so dominated the campaigns and politics it seems to me. A documentary that 'spins' the personality one way or the other could create a very different history.

With no evidence whatsoever, I suspect French-language documentaries are in the main more positive about N and his drivers. Is that so? And are there any French documentaries in English translation that you know of?
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M@tthijs
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TomW731 wrote:
This one is 6 episodes long used to play a lot on the history channel I think it was pretty well done although I'm certainly not an expert. You can watch the whole thing on Youtube & here is part 1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gkFkuqNmhc
Thanks for that one.

I like the History Channel content. I just hate the channel. Their website over here was never updated, so you never knew what they would air when. They sort-of 'lost me as a customer'
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olivier R
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Hamster007 wrote:

I suspect French-language documentaries are in the main more positive about N and his drivers. Is that so?

To be honest what I have seen of the documentary so far is fairly balanced. And while I am no Napoleon expert, my understanding is that modern French historians can also be fairly critical in their assesment of the period. A good example is the recent controversy about his stance on slavery.

The main difference is that historians here tend of course not to portray him as an aggressor so much. Instead they put the emphasis on the fact that all of Europe was against us after the revolution. All the crowned heads in other countries wanted nothing more than seeing it fail to bring back the old regime and the monarchy which were loathed here. Obviously they saw the French experiment as a threat to their own grip on power and they did all they could to undermine it. Therefore he is often portrayed as a bullwark against the enemies of the revolution and so a force for progress, sowing the seeds of modernity in Europe if not directly at least indirectly.

I realize this last part is of course a bit overplayed. France was in shambles though after the revolution, and he certainly did plenty to reorganize it. His heritage can be felt today with the civil code for instance that he enacted and is pretty much still in use today as well as the prefects system, among other things like urbanism or education etc. But yes before I started reading books in english about him, I sure as hell had never heard of him being compared to an ogre or even less to Hitler.

Hamster007 wrote:

And are there any French documentaries in English translation that you know of?

Not that I am aware of sorry.
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David Nichol
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The BBC series "Wellington - The Iron Duke" by Richard Holmes is very good indeed. The first episode deals mostly with India if memory serves but the 2 following ones cover The Peninsular War and Waterloo (and beyond). For some strange reason however, the BBC seem unwilling or unable to release any of Richard Holmes excellent documentaries on dvd. Youtube usually has them covered though.
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Tom Willcockson
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_Kael_ wrote:
I like the History Channel content. I just hate the channel.


Yes that channel has really gone downhill in the last five years or so, before we chucked the TV entirely we were watching it less and less. Actually I think the Napoleon series was run on the History International channel which tended to be a bit better. Not an expert on the period but I thought the program was an excellent overview although the occasional clips with the little kid in the oversize Napoleonic uniform were sort of odd. Also the actor whose face appears in the opening credits doesn't look a thing like Napoleon, but those are minor nits.
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