- An ideological tradition of nineteenth-century France based on the perpetuation of the ideas and the mythical national status of Napoleon I. Bonapartism attempted simultaneously to represent national glory, preserve the achievements of the Revolution, and to affirm the principle of authority. Influenced by the memory of the murderous anarchy of the Terror, it nonetheless sought to square democracy with order by offering leadership to appeal to the whole nation, as opposed to political parties and parliamentary factions who sought power for their own benefit. Bonapartists therefore often advocated the abolition of class and privilege, whether or not they meant it, and promoted a social order based on the equality of all men and social mobility open to talent and ambition.The Bonapartist ideal was of a charismatic leader capable of unifying the nation by force of personality. Because such leadership was in short supply, Bonapartists adapted to party politics. They became synonymous in the eyes of their opponents with populist authoritarianism, hatred of the Bourbon restoration, the corruption and deceit of Louis Napoleon, and the mischievous use of plebiscites in reactionary causes.FURTHER READING:Fisher, H.A.L. Bonapartism Oxford: Clarendon 1908;Hazareesingh, Sudhir. The Legend of Napoleon. London: Granta, 2004;Zeldin, Theordore. France 1848-1945: Politics and Anger. New York: Oxford University Press, 1979.CARL CAVANAGH HODGE
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.