Robert Morrissey, The Economy of Glory: From Ancien Régime France to the Fall of Napoleon. Translated by Teresa Lavender Fagan. Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 2014. 272 pp. References, index, illustrations. $45.00 (cl). ISBN 978-0-226-92458-8 (cloth)
Review by Doina Pasca Harsanyi, Central Michigan University
"The Economy of Glory is a gift to all readers interested in the endlessly fascinating Napoleonic saga, an erudite though never pedantic journey through the French past, seeking to uncover the lineage of glory, that quintessential Napoleonic attribute. The book is built around the thesis that the Napoleonic moment, for all its aura of new beginning, encouraged the French to reconnect with key elements of their history, overcoming in this way the revolutionary fracture. Brandishing glory as its foundational value, the Napoleonic regime was the culmination of a long historical process....The discussion of the shrewdly calibrated Napoleonic political vision is the most captivating section of the book. In celebrating Napoleon’s glory, contemporaries extolled Napoleon’s greatest feat, that of bringing closure to a traumatized, disoriented nation. Napoleon achieved this by expertly handling the dynamics of forgetfulness (of most of the recent revolutionary past) and remembrance (of heroes going as far back as Charlemagne)....It speaks to Napoleon’s long shadow that Madame de Stael, the object of Napoleon’s scorn, spent so much intellectual energy to redefine glory, which prompted her to revisit the quarrel between the Ancients and the Moderns. And it was not just writers like Madame de Stael and Chateaubriand who succumbed, almost in spite of themselves, to the sublime promises of Napoleonic glory. The discourse of glory became as ubiquitous as the air the French breathed, for it was everywhere, from scholarly treatises to memoirs, newspapers, popular entertainment shows, and even private letters sent from battlefields. This was the supreme accomplishment of the Napoleonic politics of fusion."