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Andrew Roberts: we'd be better off if Napoleon had won

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Re: Andrew Roberts: we'd be better off if Napoleon had won

Postby DaveH » July 18th, 2015, 7:50 pm

I would agree with jf42 about Roberts and in fact, poor work does that side of the debate no favours as it is so easy to knock down - viz this fallacious argument about who declared war. Indeed, the FN edition of the Correspondance is a great project, but it does lack the context (for obvious reasons) that we see in earlier versions, which include some of the incoming letters. Just chopping bits out of that is not "new research" or even the basis of new ideas, precisely because that context is missing.

Roberts is just a populist historian, who has written books to be "controversial" and often to appeal to whichever side hasn't been getting so much coverage recently. To understand what he has done means having a decent grasp of the period, which obviously limits those, who can examine the book properly, and allows much praise to be heaped by those, whose grasp of the period is not so good. It has succeeded in garnering support amongst the pro-N camp, simply because it is sycophantic and ignores the inconvenient issues., but as I said, that means it doesn't actually help that side. By ignoring the context of the Code Napoleon, Roberts just shows his lack of knowledge of the period and consequently, what Napoleon was seeking to do with it - everyone was doing it, except the UK, which had done it long before. Well, good for Napoleon, but there is a big gap between doing the sensible thing and it being portrayed as some kind of unique event, which makes him "great".

Then we come to "bias", which is loaded with lots of baggage. There is bound to be a bias in any book, because no author can read all the related material and has only 300 pages to cover the subject. That's understandable, but that is a world away from
missing the key works and issues by focusing on trivia and just accessible material. There is also a tendency from the more ardent fans to describe a book they don't wish to read as "biased" simply to undermine it and that is not helpful, because that is a misuse of 'bias'.

In debate terms, there are opinions and there are facts - did he win at Austerlitz? Fact, he did. Was he "great"? there being no objective test, that can only be a matter of opinion. However, that does mean in some discussions that some claims are knocked down as downright wrong and only by sifting that material can we establish whether an opinion is really any good. The problem arises often that a claim is shown to be wrong and so, its promoter then has to adjust his opinion - which he may be less inclined to do. Fundamentally, that will often bring he response: So, what is your evidence for that claim? That is how we should proceed to find the facts or at least likelihoods, on which anyone can base their own opinions.
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Re: Andrew Roberts: we'd be better off if Napoleon had won

Postby Kev » July 18th, 2015, 8:01 pm

"To understand what he has done means having a decent grasp of the period, which obviously limits those, who can examine the book properly, and allows much praise to be heaped by those, whose grasp of the period is not so good."

Dave, in effect what you are saying is that if you support Roberts arguments you have no grasp of the events of the period, but if you are against his stance you have a good grasp of the events of the period because you have been able to challenge the mans arguments. :D

This clearly means that you are totally correct about everything! :D :lol:
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Re: Andrew Roberts: we'd be better off if Napoleon had won

Postby DaveH » July 18th, 2015, 8:28 pm

No, I am not saying that at all. If we take Roberts on 1799, it all looks great - there was N in a few letters and proclamations looking for peace and those horrible old Austrians kept the war going. In fact, the correspondence between Paris and Vienna (conducted largely by Talleyrand at N's direction) went on almost up to Marengo. Austria was quite happy to see a new strongman and could cope with regime change, simply because Napoleon had put a stop to the mayhem that Austria feared. If Roberts had bothered to read that correspondence and written a couple of pages about it, he could tell us something about Napoleon. Instead, he didn't bother and wrote a lot of nonsense - I knew that because I have looked at the correspondence, but you don't, because you haven't. To you, Roberts thus looks credible - were you to read the correspondence, your view would be different. We might not agree on the conclusion, but both of us would know the evidence.
This is the problem with the focus on the FN edition of the Correspondance - it lacks context and so, you cannot pick a few sentences out and say it demonstrates anything, but that is precisely what he does and unless you know the correspondence, you might find his argument has validity.
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Re: Andrew Roberts: we'd be better off if Napoleon had won

Postby Kev » July 18th, 2015, 8:43 pm

Dave, apologies, but you have no comprehension about what I have / have not read. I would imagine that we have both read things that the other has not. To that end, you have stifled any further discussion from me, as I can't be fussed with point scoring. Have a good weekend, that's me done, I am out of here. :lol:
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Re: Andrew Roberts: we'd be better off if Napoleon had won

Postby janner » July 19th, 2015, 5:51 am

I hope that everything is okay with you, Kev. As it appears as if you are looking to be offended by Dave :?
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Re: Andrew Roberts: we'd be better off if Napoleon had won

Postby jf42 » July 19th, 2015, 8:39 am

DaveH wrote:

Roberts is just a populist historian, who has written books to be "controversial" and often to appeal to whichever side hasn't been getting so much coverage recently....

Then we come to "bias", which is loaded with lots of baggage. There is bound to be a bias in any book, because no author can read all the related material and has only 300 pages to cover the subject...

In debate terms, there are opinions and there are facts -



Bias isn't simply a matter of differing bibliography but the preconceptions with which one reads sources, and then writes one's conclusions.

I feel we should always be wary of saying anyone- or anything- is 'just' anything. And, of course, that Roberts has written his books simply to be controversial and to appeal to "whichever side hasn't been getting so much coverage recently"- can only be your opinion.
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Re: Andrew Roberts: we'd be better off if Napoleon had won

Postby Senarmont198 » July 19th, 2015, 9:01 am

Agree-well said.

And as a minor point in support of your posting, Roberts' biography of Napoleon is over 800 pages, not 300...
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Re: Andrew Roberts: we'd be better off if Napoleon had won

Postby DaveH » July 19th, 2015, 10:38 am

That is the problem with "bias": there is an objective test of what the author has read and been able to cover, which is fine, but there is also a subjective test, which relates to preconceptions and other things we cannot assess.

The latter is the problem, because we cannot "know" and so, the claim of "bias" is thrown by readers, who simply do not wish to read what has been written. I have been accused of bias over Marengo - yet with Terry Crowdy's help, I examined some 60 sources (most of them French) instead of the six usually used by authors. Those, who accused me of bias were not using the objective test of sourcing, but their own problem with the end result to make accusations, which by their subjective nature cannot be tested. If you like, they were reflecting their own subjective bias and ignoring the only objective test.

I see Roberts is described as credible and reliable etc. - how can he be, when clearly from his bibliography alone, he has no grasp of the literature nor even the context to the FN Correspondance.
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