Adriaan Duiveman, Lotte Jensen, Johan Oosterman - Photo Ramon Tjan
Adriaan Duiveman, Lotte Jensen, Johan Oosterman - Photo Ramon Tjan

Napoleon: can one man define history? | Film and conversation with cultural historian and philosopher Lotte Jensen

This programme was in Dutch, please visit the Dutch page for the complete recap and review.

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Monday 27 November 2023 | 19:30 – 22.45 uur | LUX, Nijmegen | Radboud Reflects en LUX. View announcement.

Adriaan Duiveman - Photo Ramon Tjan
Adriaan duiveman - Photo Ramon Tjan
Adriaan Duiveman en Johan Oosterman - Foto Ramon Tjan
Adriaan Duiveman en Johan Oosterman - Foto Ramon Tjan
Adriaan Duiveman en Lotte Jensen - Foto Ramon Tjan
Adriaan Duiveman en Lotte Jensen - Foto Ramon Tjan


If one man defined history, it was Napoleon. Right? His bronze equestrian statue stands in many French squares and now he also commands from the moviescreen in Ridley Scott's latest film. Come hear cultural historian and Napoleon researcher Lotte Jensen talk about the legacy of and myths surrounding the French emperor, see original Napoleon relics owned by Radboud University and watch the film Napoleon.

Watch the trailer of Napoleon:

Big-man history

Can one man define history? Georg Hegel thought so. In 1806, he watched Napoleon ride out of Jena. The German philosopher was enraptured by the general's majestic stance and resolute gaze, Hegel wrote to a friend. What Hegel had seen with his own eyes was nothing less than the Weltseele - the world soul - on horseback.

Academic historians no longer do this big-man history. They focus on cultural movements, economic shifts or just the small lives of normal people. Powerful people, however interesting, no longer define history. But while academic historians have left the great men and women behind, Hollywood is producing one historical biopic after another with powerful main characters. Think Oppenheimer, RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsburg) and now Napoleon.

Why do we remain so fascinated by these great figures? Have we been too quick to declare big-man history passé? Or are we eager to be able to make history ourselves?

Napoleon Relics

Radboud University owns a special set of "Napoleon relics", part of the so-called Stuit Collection. For instance, the university has a piece of wallpaper from Saint Helena, a branch from Napoleon's tomb and even a few letters with his signature. How did these objects end up in Nijmegen? And what does the collection say about the fascination with Napoleon?

Before the film, Lotte Jensen talks to historian and programme maker Adriaan Duiveman. Dutch historian Johan Oosterman, director of Radboud Erfgoed, shows some special Napoleon-related objects on stage. After a short break, the film begins. The language of the discussion part in Dutch. The film is in English with Dutch subtitles.

About the speakers

Lotte Jensen is professor of Dutch cultural and literary history and philosopher. She wrote the book 'Verzet tegen Napoleon' on Dutch writers who rebelled against French rule. She also published on Napoleon's legacy in the Netherlands and the hero worship that arose around the emperor.

Johan Oosterman director of Radboud Heritage. He will bring original letters from Napoleon and talk about them briefly.


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Organizational unit
Radboud Reflects
Philosophy, History, Art & Culture