Why Napoleon merits the title ‘the Great’

Instead of making specious comparisons with Hitler, we ought to celebrate the Corsican's astonishing achievements as a general and a ruler, according to Andrew Roberts...

A portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte

This article was first published in the November 2014 issue of BBC History Magazine

What are the criteria that win a ruler that most coveted of soubriquets: ‘the Great’? Alexander, Alfred, Charles, Peter, Frederick and Catherine were all huge figures who decisively influenced the history of their times. Yet it’s not difficult to think of others who were equally influential, and indeed often rather better human beings (at least by modern standards) who haven’t made the cut. Frederick Barbarossa, Henry V, Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, Queen Elizabeth I, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, ‘the Sun King’ Louis XIV, and so on, probably deserved it too. I believe that foremost among them is Napoleon Bonaparte.

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