History Lessons | The faces of power

ALBERTO MARIO BANTI. Napoleon, the power of ideas

It is with him that the first “democratic” dictatorship is affirmed, formally ratified by a popular plebiscite; it is he who makes the unprecedented gesture of crowning himself “Emperor” alone; it is always he who, distributing power to his family, seems to reconfirm the hereditary value of blood. All this from the same man who, before every battle, for years had charged his soldiers with enthusiasm and infinite trust, relying on valor universal of the egalitarian ideas of the Revolution.

Alberto Mario Banti teaches Contemporary History at the University of Pisa.


Power is ambivalent. It has associated or divided men, married with justice or manifested himself in the most brutal way. In the most diverse forms it has crossed history, incarnating itself in a small number of people who have become symbols destined to be projected over the centuries. In the past as today, power is not personified only in the actions of cunning simulators, draggers of crowds, ferocious dictators: there are many faces and tools to exercise it. Four great historians tell us what has happened over the centuries.

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