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History on Horseback: Napoleon Bonaparte
Napoleon, starring Joaquin Phoenix. Alamy

History on Horseback: Napoleon Bonaparte

The French emperor and military commander played a pivotal role in an epochal transformation.

· 16 min read

A review of Ridley Scott’s Napoleon (2023).   

 “I saw the emperor—this world-soul—riding out of the city on reconnaissance. It is indeed a wonderful sensation to see such an individual, who, concentrated here at a single point, astride a horse, reaches out over the world and masters it … this extraordinary man, whom it is impossible not to admire.” 

 These are the words a young Georg Hegel wrote to his friend Friedrich Niethammer on 14 October 1806, after witnessing Napoleon Bonaparte riding through Jena to give battle to the Prussian army. The French forces were beginning their occupation of Germany just as Hegel was putting the finishing touches to the manuscript of his magnum opus, The Phenomenology of Spirit.   

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