History Lessons: The Case of Napoleon Bonaparte Reflections on the Bicentenary of his Death

44 Pages Posted: 4 May 2021 Last revised: 28 May 2021

See all articles by Ludo Van der Heyden

Ludo Van der Heyden

INSEAD - Technology and Operations Management

Date Written: April 28, 2021


In this article we reassess the myth of Napoleon Bonaparte, not so much from the standpoint of battles and conquests, but more from the point of view of justice, particularly procedural justice. This approach allows us to define the righteous leader as one who applies procedural justice.
Using this concept, we aim to demonstrate that General Bonaparte could be considered as a just leader, although, in the guise of Emperor, he will be qualified here as the antithesis of that. The inevitable conclusion is that the Empire came to an end as a predictable consequence of Emperor Napoleon's unjust leadership.
We recognize that the revolutionary aspirations of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité were in themselves noble, but that they required for their implementation a system of procedural justice central to the resolution of the inevitable tensions and contradictions that these precepts would generate.
We conclude by highlighting and examining how the notion of procedural justice is vital to the proper functioning of the modern European Union. In contrast, the difficulties presented by Brexit, or the Trump presidency, can be seen as the tragic, but also predictable consequences of an unjust leadership.
We revisit the urgent need for fair management and debate; debate that can only take place when guided by righteous leaders. The imperial failure was a consequence of the drift towards injustice in the management of Empire. The violation of the three fundamental principles of the Republic was not the primary cause of the Empire's demise, but the consequence of a leadership and rule that had become unjust.

Keywords: Napoleon, Bonaparte, 1st Empire, Procedurial Justice, Fair Leadership

Suggested Citation

van der Heyden, Ludo, History Lessons: The Case of Napoleon Bonaparte Reflections on the Bicentenary of his Death (April 28, 2021). INSEAD Working Paper No. 2021/18/TOM, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3835675 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3835675

Ludo Van der Heyden (Contact Author)

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