Having followed the recent thread on the Theory of the Great Men in History – I was interested to read in “What If? 2” at the conclusion of the chapter on Martin Luther the author’s suggestion that Martin Luther represented a very strong argument for that theory since the era of the Reformation and rise of Protestantism would have left Europe a very different place if Martin Luther had NOT been there and involved as such a central figure.
So, I wondered, is it possible to say something similar about our Napoleonic period? I
think it might be possible and compiled my following list of candidate great men.
Napoleon Bonaparte – it is almost impossible to consider the Napoleonic Era to have been possible without Napoleon. I have never in any of my readings or in discussions in this forum and others ever been satisfied that any other “man on horseback” in the France of this era would have had the same impact and effect that Napoleon did.
Tsar Alexander – while Russia seems always to be Russia, its in this period had a direct and very personal impact on how Russia interacted with the rest of the world and its great figures. I find it hard to think that Russia with any other plausible candidate as Tsar would have acted as did Alexander’s Russia.
Horatio Nelson – The Royal Navy saw a good many great naval heros and daring captains during this period, but I would have to argue that it had only one Nelson. Without Nelson, Britain would probably still have dominated the seas and eventually overcome France and its other ocassional enemies. But I put it to you that without Nelson, three major battles may well have either not taken placer or would have had less dramatic results: Copenhagen, the Nile, and Trafalgar.
So having set the ball rolling for this game – I look forward to others comments (brickbats) and nominations!
Robert A. Mosher